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We are building fuel economy ferryboat locally –Enenmoh

We understand you’ve been into transportation of tiles and possibly other goods through the River Niger, can you give us an insight into that?We have…

We understand you’ve been into transportation of tiles and possibly other goods through the River Niger, can you give us an insight into that?
We have done transportation of tiles and we’ve done transportation of granite. The granite market is more consistent but slows down a bit during the rainy season and tiles are also good. But we’ve faced some funding challenges, given the fact that to make economic movement, you need to push a certain tonnage above at least 1,000 tonnes for you to make economic movement properly. We have not been able to do that because we’ve not been able to build the right kind of equipment. We are taking steps in that direction now and we believe that by this year, with the right equipment, we should be profitable and growing at a steady pace. So, we are building a boat that can fit into the River Niger operation.
 What type of boat are you using and what’s the capacity?
We have top boat currently, it is called Anji, and it is in Onitsha presently. It’s about 375 horse powers each dual engine, making about 800 horse power, and it’s a V12 engine. The problem we face with V12 engines is that it consumes huge amount of fuel. We have been subsidizing some of our operations just to keep our customer base. So what we told our customers is that we cannot continue to do that, we need to actually build a boat that can do what we want at the price we want without disturbing anybody, and that is what we are trying to do.  We have our top boat and our barge in Onitsha but we don’t want to operate now because should we operate, we’ll be making a loss and these are the issues we discussed with the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) managements past and present, about what it takes to move profitably because of the fuel consumption of these main engines.
Part of the problems people are speculating is that after the dredging of River Niger, the 2012 flood has caused serious siltation of the channel thereby making navigation near impossible. When you complete the construction of the new boat, can you operate it successfully?
I am very sure that what we are going to see actually is dry season movement. Of course, just like when you build a road, when you have a channel, you will definitely have a problem. We complained about the channel and what we said was that the channel is not deep. The problems we have with the river channel are the several avoidable curves. That means you need a lot of skills to move your boat because of the several curves along the channel. Let us remember that boat is not a car that you can easily manipulate. Yes, it is good that they have a channel that is about three metres deep but why must I have to constantly make 60 degrees turn at every one kilometer? It means that if you are looking at 200 killometres on a map, you may end up clocking 240 or 250 kilometers. So, what we tried to tell NIWA both past and present is to see how to shorten the channels so that it can help us move more effectively. About maintenance dredging, I know that the current management of NIWA is looking into a continuous system of maintenance dredging but you see, it’s always hard to convince government until they see people using it. So, if they see us using it, we will now be the ones to complain to NIWA and NIWA can take that to government and say look, these people are complaining. These are the matters that we are complaining about because we live in a funny system here where if NIWA goes to complain like that to government, the minister or someone there will say they have released enough funds to NIWA so they should manage what they have. So, those are the challenges that NIWA has been facing.
What brought about the curves in the channel?
I wouldn’t know, I was not part of the system that handled the dredging and I have not seen the contract papers. I think they tried to make use of the money they were given to do what they could, that is just my speculation not even a guess. I’m sure they should be able to say why there are so many curves, I wouldn’t know.
Now you are constructing a new boat, what will be the significant difference between this one and the one you have been using?
It is fuel consumption. The new one consumes less fuel. This boat will be stronger and it has a bigger engine capacity. It is actually a four-engine boat. Four engines, four propellers, four shafts, two power generators. It is more comfortable. When your crew members are comfortable, it gives maximum productivity because this is a business where you live and die by fuel but your boat lives and dies by the care of the crew members. They are the ones who will tell you if there is something wrong, they are the one who will tell you that the fuel consumption has gone up or gone down. So, the top boat is designed like a house; a house must be comfortable. We are talking of luxury of the highest order but what we are saying is that let the fans and air conditioner work, water flow, let them be able to eat good food, and you will see the necessary output coming from them. You wouldn’t have problems with them. But when they are not comfortable, which was another main reason why we switched to this top boat. The heights of this top boat in every single floor, is 8 feet and I know that even people that are very tall, can be comfortable in there. Each floor has a height of 8 feet. It is designed such that even if you are tall you can always get up and stands stretch yourself. It is a home away from home and it has the capacity to house 9 people comfortably. Those are the two things but I must tell you, as a business man and an owner, fuel consumption is very much in my mind.
For how long have you been on this project?
We’ve been in this project for about four and a half years, but we have been building this top boat for about seven and a half months. Everything we do is informed by our experience. The first year we had our top boat, and we leased the barge, we did brisk business. Then, the second year, we built a barge and did some brisk business as well, now the third year, we have a barge. We now want to build our own boat according to the specification of this river, according to the specification of our culture here in Kogi State. We know there are certain things that Nigerians like; certain spaces and all these designs and amendments are informed by feedback from our crew and customers.

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