By Sade Williams
The Lagos State government has began clearing water hyacinth from waterways in a bid to ease the system and assist the operators who had hitherto lamented menace of the of the situation on their operations.
The State government to this end, donated one hyacinth harvester/craft and one boat to the Association of Tourist Boats Operators and Water Transportation of Nigeria (ATBOWATON), to clear the hyacinth from the boat paths even as the association says more of those machines are still needed in other jetties.
At both Jetties, The Travel Port observed that the hyacinth covered some parts of the waters even as they cluster and decay under it, making it difficult for boats to operate smoothly.
A visit to the Ebute and Sea Coach ferry terminal in Ikorodu on Monday, shows that the operators had began enjoying the impact of the operations of the harvester as it clears the weeds from waterways.
However, the unwanted weeds easily find their ways back to the sea as they clear them vigorously.
Ayomikun Aworetan, chairman of ATBOWATON, explained that they have over the years, encountered difficulty in boat operations as the hyacinth, which cluster on the sea, poses a lot menace to their boats.
He said the weeds often damage boat engines, gear box or any other part that of the equipment once they get in into them, adding that boats also consume more fuel when they encounter the hyacinth.
“When there is water hyacinth, there is no business, for instance, we spent over N500,000,000 to construct that demarcation over there just to prevent them from the boat paths and that is what we do annually, the wort par of it is when the hyacinth get clustered or decay, it’s a lot of dangers to the boats’ engines.
“The business actually involves a lot of risks, for instance, without water hyacinth, we use 30-35 litres of fuel but with hyacinth, the boat can consume over 45 liters, an engine is about N2 million, a new gear box is around N300,000,000, sometimes, the hyacinth damages any part or the engine and may demand outright change, the cost of operations is expensive.
“We are grateful for this gesture from the state government but there has not been any government support but from private, we need more assistance in the form of more hyacinth harvesters and other facilities, we need to pay salaries, pay some fees to LASTMA and other agencies”, he said.
Also speaking, Bolaji Alaska, who operates executive boats at the Sea Coach ferry terminal, said many expensive boats have broken down as a result of water hyacinth which clustered into their engines or propellers.
He said the terminal recorded two incidents involving engines overnight due to hyacinth, adding that sometimes the hyacinth harbours a lot of clogs and unknown to the operator, it gets into the engines.
“The propeller can be damaged, it is fair, if it is a single double boat but if it is single, the boat may not work for day once the weeds get in and so we spent millions every year in demarcating the waterways from hyacinth. More of the harvesters are still needed even at other jetties”, he said.
He said it will be difficult to transfer the cost of operations on the passengers adding that they need to be attracted and won’t be able to pay heavy fares.
Tume Igwolawor, a captain of one the boats, said although the hyacinth harvester is a relief as it has started clearing the weeds, many of their boats have been damaged as a result of the menace, especially during the season when the hyacinth covers the sea.