By BENJAMIN OMOIKE
Commuters using Lagos State’s water transport services are in for a fresh safety experience, with the activation of modern monitoring gadgets and infrastructure to enhance security across the state’s waterways transportation network.
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, on Friday, commissioned the newly-installed Waterways Monitoring and Data Management Centre (WMDMC), at the Five Cowrie Terminal – the headquarters of the Lagos State Waterways Authority (LASWA), in Falomo, Ikoyi.
The Data Management Centre, which is first of its kind in the country, is a centralised monitoring base for all activities on the Lagos waterway. By the technology, LASWA is now empowered to generate real-time information, enhance safety and gather data for continuous improvement of the inland waterways.
The Governor also unveiled advanced DJI Aerial Drone for surface surveillance and BlueEye Pro drone for underwater search and rescue operations. He handed over units of automatic U-SAFE rescuing gadgets for emergency evacuation.
Sanwo-Olu, at the event well attended by private operators, inaugurated LASWA Search and Rescue Unit (SAR), which will be responsible for patrolling and enforcing the State’s waterways rules and regulation.
The Governor said the development further demonstrated his administration’s commitment towards improving mobility through multimodal transportation system and create affordable transit options for the residents.
Sanwo-Olu maintained that Traffic Management and Transportation remained the key component of his Government’s economic development plan, stressing that waterways transport had enjoyed special attention in the last three years because of the need to link it with existing rail and road transportation networks.
He said: “In the last three and half years, our administration has invested massively in waterways infrastructure and assets to deliberately encourage and promote water transportation in Lagos. Our gathering today is to further deepen our commitment to have a safe and secure ferry operation on our waterways. We are commissioning a big command and control centre specifically established to monitor and protect our waterways.
“We are inaugurating the newly created Search and Rescue Unit that will be patrolling and enforcing our waterways rules and regulation. We are handing over two additional patrol boats and safety enhancements. We are also launching advanced D.J.I. Aerial Drone, BlueEye Pro drone for underwater searches, and U-SAFE rescuing gadgets.
“These gadgets are acquired and installed to consolidate our efforts in making our waterways safer for its users and making monitoring activities seamless. It also demonstrates our unparalleled commitment to providing a viable alternative transport solution that will complement other modes. This is the investment we will continue to make, in addition to building additional jetties. In the coming weeks, we will be commissioning eight newly built jetties out of the 15 we are currently building.”
Sanwo-Olu said Lagos had not only been a responsible regulator in the waterways transportation sector, he said the State had been the leading player in ferry operations across established routes to raise interest of passengers and make the mode of transportation viable for investors.
With over 20 units of high and medium-capacity boats in its fleet, the Governor disclosed that Lagos State Ferry Services (LAGFERRY) transported over 1.1 million passengers since February 2020 when it commenced commercial operations with recording accident.
All passengers on board of the LAGFERRY boats are placed on life insurance coverage throughout the length of their journey.
Sanwo-Olu said: “We have invested so much in LASWA that today, we are beginning to see the effects. Over the past three years, daily commuter ridership has increased to 43,000 passengers and over 1.4 million passengers yearly. There has also been a visible reduction in boat mishaps achieved through our massive intervention in safety equipment and donations of free lifejackets across the 15 Local Government Areas accessible by water.”
Commissioner for Transportation, Dr. Frederic Oladehinde, said the installed technology was deployed with the objective to solve economic issues associated with mobility delays and improve reliability on water transportation.
He said study showed waterways transportation remained the safest if necessary safety measures were in place. He encouraged Lagosians to use the waterways for improved mobility and decongestion of road traffic.
LASWA General Manager, Damilola Emmanuel, said digitising the inland waterways operations through the setting up of the command centre would enable the regulatory agency to have intelligent vessel tracking and monitoring along operating routes.
He said: “This is another milestone delivered through the administration’s T.H.E.M.E.S. agenda. The WMDMC has a multi-sensor, multi-layer continuous surveillance with fully integrated fusion. It can detect and track any vessel of any size. It can identify all boats, automatically monitor vessel activities and send alerts on any illegal or suspicious behaviour.
“The centre can generate digitised information files available on any vessel containing the entire history, ownership, and licensing. It is equipped with an integrated and automated system integrated with alerts to enable efficient operator handling of events. It also allows field operators to check and verify vessel identities and pass to external parties.”
Executive Assistant to the Governor on Maritime Matters, Prince Yomi Sopitan, who is the brain behind the Data Management Centre, said the innovation had raised surveillance capability of the State on waterways and addressed safety concerns.
Sopitan said Sanwo-Olu became the first Governor to undertake a complete study, survey and marking of the State’s inland waterways, which led to the removal of impediments on the established routes.
“Prior to installation of advanced technology gadgets, private boat operators in Lagos used to record an average of 19 water accidents yearly. The State recorded only two major water accidents in the year, testifying to improvements we have achieved in the last two years,” Sopitan said.