CITIZENS COMPASS —The Lagos State Waterways Authority (LASWA) amd the Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) have collaborated with the Nigerian Navy, Western Naval Command, Marine Police, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), Lagos State Fire Service (LSFS), Lagos State Ambulance Service (LASAMBUS), and other emergency responders to conduct a comprehensive Joint Marine Search and Rescue Simulation Exercise.
The initiative, the first of its kind in the State, aims to reassure members of the public of a safer and more secure environment along Lagos Inland Waterways.
Also, it will validate the readiness of the emergency responders in the maritime sector.
The joint exercise was held on Thursday, December 21, 2023, at 11a. m, at the Waterfront of 14 Oyinkan Abayomi Drive, Ikoyi, Lagos.
Collaboration is necessary
Speaking at the event, Lagos State Governor, Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu assured Lagosians that safety on the waterways would not be handled with kid gloves.
Represented by Lagos State Commissioner for Transportation, Mr Oluwaseun Osiyemi, the Governor called for seamless operations among orgarnisations and communities in Lagos State.
According to him, ““As we embark on this collaborative endeavour, we recognise that emergencies and disasters know no boundaries, and a unified, well-coordinated response is paramount.
“In a world where global challenges demand global solutions, the importance of joint efforts in search and rescue operations cannot be overstated. Our interconnectedness and shared vulnerabilities underscore the need for seamless cooperation among our organizations and communities,” said the Governor.
He spoke about the significance of the gathering saying, “Today’s joint simulation marks a crucial step in fostering the unity and interoperability required to face the unpredictable challenges on our inland waterways.
“This exercise is a testament to our commitment to preparedness, response, and recovery. By bringing together diverse expertise, resources, and perspectives, we strengthen our capabilities and create a formidable force capable of tackling the most complex and demanding scenarios we will face.,” said the Governor.
“Collaboration is not just an option but a necessity in search and rescue. The joint simulation allows us to simulate scenarios that mirror the reality of cross-border emergencies, requiring us to navigate language barriers, cultural differences, and logistical challenges.
“Through this process, we identify areas for improvement and build a foundation of trust and understanding that transcends our diversity and functions.
“As we engage in this joint simulation, let us embrace the opportunity to learn from one another, share best practices, and forge lasting partnerships. Together, we can ensure that our response efforts are effective, swift, and harmonized, leaving no room for vulnerabilities for exploitation.”
In his welcome address, LASWA General Manager, Oluwadamilola Emmanuel, extended appreciation to the collaborators while also recognising their efforts, “I appreciate and recognize the Nigerian Navy (Western Naval Command), Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, Marine Police, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, Lagos State Fire Services, Lagos State Ambulance Services, and other emergency responders.
“I am honored to stand before you today to underscore the paramount importance of search and rescue simulation exercises.
“In a world where unforeseen emergencies and disasters can strike at any moment, the ability to respond swiftly and effectively is not just a capability but a necessity. Search and rescue simulations serve as invaluable tools in preparing our emergency responders for the unpredictable challenges they may face in the field.
“These exercises provide a controlled environment where teams can hone their skills, test their strategies, and refine their coordination, ultimately ensuring a more proficient and coordinated response when real crises unfold.
“The significance of well-executed search and rescue simulations cannot be overstated as we navigate an era of increasing complexity and diversity in potential emergencies, from natural disasters to industrial accidents.
“These exercises not only enhance the technical expertise of our first responders but also foster a culture of collaboration and adaptability, two qualities crucial for success in dynamic and high-pressure situations.
“Today, as we delve into the world of simulated rescue scenarios, let us remain mindful of the lives that depend on the effectiveness of our response efforts.
“Through meticulous preparation and strategic training, we can truly make a difference in safeguarding our communities and mitigating the impact of disasters.
“Please approach this simulation exercise with dedication, enthusiasm, and a commitment to continuous improvement. Let us reaffirm our collective responsibility to ensure the safety and well-being of those we serve.”
LASWA Head of Operation, Mr ibrahim Famuyiwa, attributed 80% of waterways accident in the outgoing year to human errors while the remaining are environmental and mechanical. “Our analysis about the cause of waterways accidents in 2023 is 80% associated with human errors, while the remaining are environmental and mechanical.
“In order to achieve a zero reported case of accidents and improve responses on the inland waterways, a collaborative effort is key and will be more responsive. “ He said.
While giving a clue about the exercise, he said, “you will be witnessing a life simulation with two main scenarios: the first is an accident between two common types of boats that operate within the Lagos Inland Waterways, one is a passenger boat and two are fishing boats,
“The simulation exercise further portrays two common scenarios which is coalition, and explosion in one of the boats, the passenger – boat would be approaching from the East of the scene while the fishing boat is stationary with its operations midstream; commonly, the fishing boat usually wave down incoming boats frantically to persuade them from running into their fishing gane or disrupting fishing operations in general.
“In a moment of miscommunication, the passenger-boat will be colliding with the fishing boat which would resolve into man-overboard, passenger – overboard and engine explosion.
“An eyewitness would make a call to 121 (Lagos State emergency number) which would be routed to LASWA, which inturn puts emergency agencies on standby.”
Speaking with journalists shortly after the event, The Director General, NIMASA, Dr Bashir Jamoh, who was represented by Director Deep Blue of NIMASA, Mr Otonye Obom said, “The collaboration was a very strong initiative of NIMASA Director General, who thought that ensuring safety and security on our waterways will make real economy to thrive and that was how the initiative began in collaboration with the Nigerian Navy, and a joint committee was formed between NIMASA and the Nigerian Navy to work out modalities on how they can perfect this initiative.”
In his Vote of Thanks, Commodore Kolawole Olumide Oguntuga, said the exercise was a way to assure waterways users about the level of preparedness of safety on water calling on everyone to fasten their belts.