ATBOWATON embraces NIWA’s new operating guidelines, but passengers bear increase in fare



File Photo from OnepageAfrica Archives
The new operating guidelines for boat and jetty operations as given by the National Inland Waterways Authority(NIWA) has been well received to ensure public health safety of passengers using water transportation.

Speaking on the development on Thursday, the President of the Association  of Tourist Boat Operators and Water Transporters of Nigeria (ATBOWATON), Alh. Tarzan Balogun, said in an interview that the memo from NIWA sensitized the operators on the need for safety consciousness and responsibility to be taken by all.

 “What NIWA is saying is that we should give more attention to efforts for safety at this time of the COVID-19. That we should also ensure that passengers adhere to the protocols, and we have disseminated the message to all our chapters.

“According to the new guidelines, we have reduced the number of passengers from 20 to 12, that is, 60 % of the boat capacity. 

“We have also instructed for the provision of soap and water and ensuring that all operators and passengers put on their nose masks before entering the ticketing area.  We have had to keep insisting that passengers would not enter the boat unless they have their nose mask on.

“It has not been easy, but we have been doing it.  It only meant engaging more hands on the job, getting somebody to be at the entrance to ensure people do the hand washing and use sanitizer.

“The wearing of the mask is very important because not wearing a mask is the fastest way of transmitting the virus. It looks difficult to comply initially, but we are insisting on everybody wearing their mask, even in Epe zone where there were some challenges earlier,” Balogun said.

On the issue of the fare, the ATBOWATON President said a hike was inevitable if they had to continue operations, considering that they buy same amount of fuel to ferry lesser than the capacity they used to.

He said: “At this time, passengers have to pay a little more, because it is same quantity of fuel you use to carry 12 passengers as 20. So, we had to increase the fares.

“Fares from Ikorodu to Victoria Island/ Ikoyi has increased from N1000 to N1500. But the passenger understand what is going on. But, if we have fuel supply from government, then we can talk of a reduction in fare. There has to be a balance, because we will have to pay our staff.”

Recall that in the wake of the gradual easing of the lockdown occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic, NIWA issued new operation guidelines including for boat operators to carry only 60 % of their boat capacity.

The Authority also instructed that jetty fees be reduced to serve as palliative, while government-owned jetties are to waive charges for the period.