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… . . Uncommon Transformation of Water Transportation in 1000 Days of LAGFERRY’s Operations | Akeem Odusina

Between February 10, 2020 when the commercial operations of Lagos Ferry Services was launched by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu at Badore Terminal, Ajah Eti-Osa and March 19, 2024; it has been an eventful journey of one thousandth (1000th) day of commuting Lagosians and businesses of Lagos on the inland waterways.

Despite months of lockdown occasioned by the global outbreak of Corona Virus and the destructive #EndSars protest, the state-owned commercial ferry operator – LAGFERRY was able to navigate the murky water, positively changed the narratives, berthed technology-driven safe & efficient water transportation model and practically translate the vision of Governor Sanwo-Olu to create a smart-city with functional multi-modal transportation system by optimizing the socio-economic potentials of the natural water bodies in Lagos State, as part of the robust initiatives contained in the Strategic Transportation Master Plan (STMP) marshalled by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, former Governor of Lagos state and current President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Lagos State, the economic hub of Nigeria, faces numerous challenges in its transportation sector. The ever-increasing population, congested roads, and inadequate public transport infrastructure have made it crucial to explore alternative modes of transportation. In recent years, the Government of Lagos State, under the leadership of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has embarked on an ambitious plan to revolutionize water transportation in the state which has emerged one of the key focus areas for the Lagos State Government. With a vision of enhancing mobility, reducing traffic congestion, and boosting the blue economy, the Government has implemented various initiatives and developments to transform water transportation in Lagos State.

Water transportation has deep historical roots in Lagos State. In the past, the waterways played a crucial role in trade and commerce, connecting various parts of the State and facilitating the movement of goods and people. Traditional watercraft such as canoes and fishing boats were commonly used for transportation, especially in the riverine communities. However, with the rapid urbanization and population growth experienced in Lagos over the years, water transportation took a backseat as road networks expanded to accommodate the increasing demand but with the introduction and contributions of Lagos State Ferry Services (LAGFERRY) to the development of the water transportation sector, significant improvement has been recorded.

The origin of water transportation in Lagos State can be traced to
the 1970s when Lagos was still the federal capital of Nigeria. Then the Federal Inland
Revenue Service (FIRS) operated ferry services to Apapa, CMS, Ebute-Ero and other locations. Later, the state government under the Lateef Jakande administration also came up
with its ferry service when it purchased its ferry boats “Baba Kekere” and “Ita Faji” and operated from Mile 2 to Apapa, CMS, Elegbata (Ebute-Ero).
Gov Babatunde Fashola Commissioned and operated ferry services from the following Terminals Ebute Ojo Terminal (Now Sifax Terminal), Ipakodo Ferry Terminal (Ikorodu), Badore Ferry Terminal and Osborne Ferry Terminal With 2units of 54pax Aluminium boats while Gov Ambode Commissioned Ilaje Bariga Waterfront Terminal with 4 Units Catamaran Boat with 1 Car Barge (Adimu Orisa)

Today, under the Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s administration, the re-invigorated  Lagos Ferry Services (LAGFERRY) is running water transport in 24 routes from 16 terminals/jetties with 19 commercial boats, While government is rehahibilitating and constructing 15 new terminals/jetties across the state, dredging of routes, channelisation removal of wreckages and water hyacinths etc.

The primary objective of LAGFERRY is to provide safe, efficient, and reliable water transportation services to the people of Lagos. The vision is to be the go-to model and alpha solution provider in the business of water transportation which is in consonance with the Lagos State T.H.E.M.E.S PLUS Agenda of the Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s administration, aim at enabling intermodal movement options and promotion of commerce and tourism, through the provision of safe efficient and technologically-driven ferry services manned by competent workforce to ensure environmental sustainability.

Hence Mr. Governor’s vision for water transportation in Lagos State is to create an efficient, reliable, and sustainable mode of transportation that meets the needs of the growing population. By completing strategic projects and leveraging technological innovations, the aim is to make water transportation an attractive option for commuters and optimize the blue economy potential of Lagos’ waterways. Lagos State blessed with vast water bodies, including the Atlantic Ocean, lagoons, and creeks, the State Government prioritized the development and utilization of these waterways, leading to a significant increase in the availability of routes for water transportation.

Governor Sanwo-Olu’s passion for improving water transportation is evident in his commitment to creating an integrated multi-modal transport system that seamlessly connects road, rail, and water transportation as encapsulated in the THEMES PLUS agenda. By promoting water transportation as a viable alternative to road transport, he aims to ease traffic congestion and significantly reduce travel time for commuters. Under his leadership, the Lagos State Government has demonstrated unwavering commitment to transforming water transportation by allocating substantial resources and implementing comprehensive policies and projects. This commitment is driven by the belief that efficient and sustainable water transportation is vital for the economic growth and development of Lagos State hence which LAGFERRY has proven to be the key driver of this vision.

To achieve the vision of transforming water transportation, Governor Sanwo-Olu has assembled a team of experienced and dedicated professionals. These individuals, including experts in maritime affairs, transport, and urban planning, work together to comprehensively assess the existing infrastructure and bottlenecks as well as collaborated with various stakeholders to identify the key challenges and develop strategies for improvement. This process involved consultations with experts, public hearings, and a detailed feasibility study to
execute the government’s plans effectively and efficiently thus paving the way for the blue economy.

Lagos State is the most populous State in Nigeria, with a population of over 20 million. It covers an approximate landmass of 3,577 square kilometers and is blessed with a vast network of water bodies, including the Lagos Lagoon, Majidun River, Five Cowries Creek, Macgregor Canal and Ologe River etc making it an ideal location to develop a robust water transportation system. The transformation initiative identified key routes within the state, connecting various parts of Lagos to alleviate the pressure on road transportation. The routes were strategically selected based on factors such as population density, potential passenger demand, and existing infrastructure. These routes include popular destinations such as Ikorodu, CMS-Marina, Ebute-Ero, Falomo, Apapa, Ijegun-Egba, Ojo, Badagry, Badore, Victoria Island, Liverpool, Epe, etc.

To facilitate seamless water transportation, Lagos State has invested in the establishment and renovation of terminals, landings, (floating) jetty(ies) along various waterways. These terminals serve as key transit points, enabling commuters to board and disembark from boats and ferries comfortably and safely. Furthermore, Water transportation in Lagos State caters to a diverse range of passengers with different backgrounds. From daily commuters to tourists and business travelers, the water transport system offers a convenient and efficient mode of travel. The inclusive approach of the initiative has ensured that the needs and preferences of all passengers are taken into consideration.

The transformation of water transportation in Lagos State has not been without challenges. These include issues such as inadequate infrastructure, encroachment on waterways, insufficient public awareness, insufficient boats/ferries and the need for increased security and safety measures. However, the Government remains committed to addressing these challenges through sustained efforts and collaborations with relevant stakeholders (LASWA, NIWA, MARINE POLICE AND NAVY). This collaboration has ensured adequate security, swift and prompt emergency response on the waterways.

The development of water transportation in Lagos State goes hand in hand with the optimization of the blue economy. By harnessing the potential of the waterways, the state is creating employment opportunities and economic growth in industries such as fishing, aquaculture, tourism, and maritime activities. In addition to the infrastructure improvements and technological advancements, the Government has also encouraged creative initiatives to promote water transportation. These include cultural events like Lagos Water Regatta, weddings, tourism campaigns, and educational programs that highlight the historical and environmental significance of Lagos’ waterways. By fostering community engagement, these initiatives aim to increase public appreciation for water transportation.

The transformation of this sector in the State has significant implications for the economy. The increased use of waterways reduces the pressure on road infrastructure, leading to cost savings and improved efficiency. Moreover, the growth of the blue economy further contributes to the state’s GDP, attracting investment and promoting economic diversification.

A crucial aspect of the water transportation transformation is the integration of multiple transport modes. This integration allows for seamless connectivity between roads, rails, and waterways, providing commuters with convenient and efficient travel options. By developing an integrated multi-modal transport system, the Government aims to reduce reliance on private vehicles and alleviate traffic congestion in Lagos State. With the commencement of operations of the blue and red line rails, commuters has been given transport movement options to their respective destinations.

To enhance the overall water transportation experience, Lagos State government has embraced technological innovations. These include the implementation of modern ticketing systems, real-time tracking and monitoring of vessels, and the development of user-friendly mobile applications for trip planning and information dissemination. These innovations make water transportation more accessible, reliable, and appealing to commuters.

Additionally, Under the capable hands of the Managing Director, Lagos Ferry Services, Hon. Abdoulbaq Ladi Balogun, significant efforts have been made to improve and develop the water transportation sector in the state through a motivated workforce and competent professional. LAGFERRY to date has ferried over 1million passengers since its relaunched on February 6, 2020, enabled innovative logistics solutions for industries and corporate Lagos through cargo barge operation, recently constructed and completed a state-of-the-art, modern floating pontoon at CMS-Marina to provide a convenient berthing point and interconnectivity movement of the blue rail and bus rapid transport system for commuting residents and visitors alike . it also constructed a well-equipped E-Fleet Surveillance systems with modern technology to monitor boat arrival and take off on the waterways. The Government has made strategic investments in ensuring the availability of amenities like well-equipped and furnished as well as state-of-the-art terminals, jetties, ticketing booths, waiting areas and security measures to improve the overall passenger experience. Furthermore, efforts have been made to improve last-mile connectivity by providing connectivity between waterways and other modes of transportation, such as buses and motorcycles.

The Standard Model of Water Transportation:
Governor Sanwo-Olu’s administration has worked towards developing a standard model for water transportation in Lagos State. This involves defining regulations, safety protocols, and quality standards to ensure a reliable and secure commuting experience for all passengers. Hence LAGFERRY becomes a benchmark for other boat and ferry operators within the State and Lagos State Waterways Authority is the regulatory body. This enables the Government attracts more private sector investment and create a competitive market for water transportation services.

The overhaul of water transportation in Lagos State has set a standard for other states in Nigeria and beyond. The effective implementation of modern technology, infrastructure development, and operational efficiency has become a benchmark for other regions looking to improve their water transportation systems. Lagos State’s success has proven that water transportation can be a viable and sustainable solution to urban congestion challenges.

With any mode of transportation, risks and insurance play a crucial role in ensuring safety and security. The Government of Lagos State has implemented strict regulations and safety measures to mitigate risks associated with water transportation. Additionally, insurance policies have been introduced to protect both passengers and operators. LAGFERRY has had its fare share of operating risk, recording two incidences last year with no life lost, insurance policies put in place however ensured adequate cover.

One of the primary objectives of transforming water transportation is to alleviate the traffic density experienced on Lagos roads. By shifting a significant portion of commuter traffic to the waterways, the government aims to improve road network efficiency, reduce travel time, and enhance the overall quality of life for residents.

With Governor Sanwo-Olu’s leadership and vision, water transportation in Lagos State has experienced an uncommon transformation. Through strategic investments, technological innovations, adopting chest practices and a commitment to the blue economy, the Government has successfully created an integrated multi-modal transport system that provides a reliable, sustainable, and efficient alternative to road-based commuting. It has revolutionized commuting patterns.The future of water transportation in Lagos State is promising, with continued efforts aimed at optimizing the vast potential of the waterways for economic growth, reduced traffic congestion, and enhanced quality of life for residents. Lagos State has become a leader in water transportation not only in Nigeria but also in Africa.

Hence the success achieved by Governor Sanwo-Olu and his Sailors serves as an inspiration for other States and countries grappling with transportation challenges.

Akeem Odusina
Director of Public Affairs

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