Buoys are navigational aids on inland and coastal water that marks and indicate where safe water lies and where vessels should navigate safely within a channel.
Buoys guide and warn mariners as well as identify where potential hazards or submerged objects may be, or to moor vessels in lieu of anchoring.
Maritime experts liken buoys to traffic lights and signs guide to drivers on the roads saying buoys, beacons and navigation lights do the same on the water.
Recall that the managing director, National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), Dr. George Moghalu had raised the alarm that buoys are being stolen on the nation’s waterways by riverine communities.
He said the stealing is posing navigational danger for boat and barge operators operating in the nation’s seaports.
His words, “We provide these navigational aids and vandals will go and remove them; they vandalise the buoys as well so that there can only be effective time in the afternoon and not at night. Most of these vandals are from riverine communities because anyone who can’t swim can’t remove the lighting on the buoys.”
He, however, appealed to leaders in the riverine communities to advise vandals on the consequences of vandalising buoys on waterways.
Also, maritime stakeholders bemoaned the vandalism and theft of buoys lighting saying it portends danger to safe navigation of vessels, boats and badges on the nation’s inland and coastal water.
Speaking to NATIONAL ECONOMY, the former president, Nigerian Shipowners Association (NISA), Aminu Umar said his company has procured buoys that are stolen on the waterways in two weeks.
According to him, the absence of buoys is a disaster in the waiting for vessels navigating Nigerian waters as they are navigating blindly.
He said, “Absence of buoys is very dangerous for safe navigation because the buoys are what give direction to where ships will navigate through and, if there are no buoys, it is like a driver driving and closing his eyes on the express. There is no way he won’t have an accident so, our major issue is that as it stands today, it’s true and even some of the shipowners like me particularly have instances where we have to buy buoys on the waterways to have safe navigation but, we discover that after two weeks, it’s all gone.”
Umar further disclosed that navigational buoys at the Lagos pilotage district have all been vandalised and stolen by criminals saying identifying wrecks on the district have been an issue.
“Majority of our navigational channels have no buoys; there are very few places in the Lagos pilotage district that you can see buoys existing, especially where there are wrecks that need indication on where to follow have been removed and sold; it’s really an unfortunate situation.’
“So, what the NIWA MD said is true and it’s a very dangerous trend that I think there should be a way to stop to make our waterway safe and it is in the interest of everyone, including the immediate community to safeguard the buoys because without the buoys there is no way a vessel can do safe navigation in the channels.
“Also, questions we should be asking are ‘who are buying the buoys, who are the readymade buyers? Because if no one is buying, no one will vandalise it; so the government should look for those buying the buoys from the vandals because it is really very hazardous vandalising those critical safety equipment.”
“NIWA’s buoys and barges are for ferry movement to know where to follow since they are for inland waters. This is also to help barges know where to follow because the problem is that the water doesn’t have equal depth everywhere so there are areas you need to change direction and you know only from these buoys to do that; you should move at a certain speed, from these buoys.
“You need to reduce your speed to take a turn; unfortunately, all those things have gone, they are not there anymore. But few are there.”
The president, Shipowners Association of Nigerian (SOAN), Mcgreg Oyung corroborated his NISA counterpart saying stealing and vandalising buoys is a recipe for disaster.
Oyung, however, urged the government to ensure strict surveillance of the waterways to end vandalisation of buoys.
According to him, waterways without buoys are like driving without road signs, no traffic lights and they are like artificial traffic wardens; every buoy has definition and significance. So, vandalisation means danger for the sector and vessels.
“Vandalisation of buoys shows a dangerous signal. With the way it’s going, very soon, they will remove the control tower and this means things have gotten so bad that people are taking desperate action to steal those things that they don’t know how useful they are. It’s like going into a maternity ward and stealing an incubator that is supposed to be for premature babies. For me, it’s a dangerous trend and we have to thank God we have a deep blue project for security on the waterways.
“We have to end vandalisation of buoys and create an enabling environment for people to survive legitimately. However, the buoys are very essential because vessels cannot stop like a car if you see a wreck and an obstacle; you have to stop 100 meters before you arrive there and if there are no buoys it’s very dangerous and I think something drastic should be done about this trend.
“Water without buoys is like driving without road signs, no traffic lights. Buoys are artificial traffic wardens, with different definitions and significance. So, it dangerous if they are missing; the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) that says we should have it as a guide are not stupid. So, they should be replaced and secured for safe navigation,” he stressed.