Traffic is gridlocked on the streets of Lagos during rush hour. In a bid to offer much-needed relief to weary commuters in the metropolis on the Gulf of Guinea, the authorities are turning to the waterways. Millions of Lagos commuters spend hours in traffic jams both before and after work. Most make the daily trip from the mainland to the island city across the three connecting bridges. At peak commuter times, three hour journeys are not unusual.
Designer Luck Jacob is going to escape the traffic by taking the shuttle boat from Victoria Island to Ikorodu. He’ll be back home in 45 minutes instead of spending three hours on the road. “I can only afford the shuttle twice a week,” he says. A single fare on the shuttle costs around three Euros ($3.32), a bus trip one third of that amount. “It is far more expensive to maintain a boat than to keep a car on the road,” says Bolaji Alaka when asked to justify the high shuttle fares. His company “Sea Coach Boat” has one of the most modern fleet of vessels in the city and operates on three routes.
The Lagos Lagoon is full of waste and for small boats this can be disastrous. When plastic waste gets caught in the propeller, the boat’s engine comes to a halt. All Sea Coach Boat vessels are twin-engine craft. Bolaji Alaka can therefore be sure that his boats can still reach their destination if one engine fails. Repair work is done on land. Not all boats have two engines. Water-borne transport services have a poor reputation in Nigeria because of a lack of safety precautions. The boats are too small, too old and overcrowded. Accidents are frequent. One passenger was killed and 27 were injured in one recent incident in May.
The city of Lagos wants to make the waterways safer and more efficient so it engaged a private company to inspect all water taxi and shuttle operators. It found that all seven state-run ferry boats should be replaced because they were below standard. A revolutionary new transport system won’t arrive in Lagos overnight, partly because many of the waterways aren’t deep enough for big ferries. Huge sums need to be spent on infrastructure before commuters can be tempted off the roads and on to the waterways. For most Lagos residents, there’s no alternative to the daily chaos on the roads…Read more