The Ministry of Transport has received a two-million-dollar grant from the World Bank to procure pontoon engines to facilitate and enhance lake transportation.
Mike Hammah, Sector Minister who disclosed this on Monday, said the Ministry had ordered the importation of eight brand new pontoon engines and was also building two ferries to augment those that plied the Volta Lake.
The Minister was speaking at a durbar on safety on the Volta Lake at Yeji in the Pru District of the Brong-Ahafo Region.
He explained that under the National Transport Policy, the government envisaged a multi-model system, which identified Volta Lake transportation as an important mode that complemented the road linkages to the hinterlands and to the port terminals.
He said in addition, the rail network when eventually put in good shape and extended, could interface with the lake to provide essential transport services especially in the movements of goods and people from Tema to Akosombo and from Buipe to the rest of the North, as well as landlocked Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, using the Volta Lake as an intermediary mode of transport.
Mr Hammah said the main channel of the lake would be dredged to increase the depth to enable bigger vessels to use it so that "we can reap the benefits associated with economies of scale".
To this end, the sector minister said the Ministry was trying to revamp the Volta Lake Transport Company so that it could benefit from the intended developments, stating that the Ministry intended to acquire new cross-lake ferries to help the company to refurbish their existing fleet of vessels which had become old.
He said the ministry considered boat operators as very important in the country's transportation system and that the government was to implement a number of projects to facilitate and enhanced the operations of local commercial boat operators.
He said the Ministry was to undertake a feasibility study to identify the transport needs of the Volta Lake.
"Such a study would enable the government to plan the infrastructural development of the transportation system on the lake", he added.
"For safe boat operations on the lake, we need to identify the routes used by boats from various villages dotted along the lake, have tree stumps and other obstructions removed from the routes and have the fairways marked", Mr Hammah said.
He underscored the need to have aids to navigate at strategic locations along the Volta Lake so that in case of accident or emergency, other boats and ships on the lake as well as rescue centres ashore could quickly initiate search and rescue activities.
In this connection, he said, search and rescue coordination centres would be established which would include boat owners and operators as well as fishermen, so that in the event of an emergency quick and prompt action could be taken to prevent the loss of life and property.
Hammah said since the establishment of the Ghana Maritime Authority (GMA) in 2007, it had undertaken several measures aimed at improving safety on the lake and arresting hitherto rampant spate of fatal boat accidents.
These measures, he said, included the intensification of boat inspection and survey, stationing of Naval Task Forces at boat stations, training of boat operators and outboard motor mechanics s well as the running of educational programmes to inform boat operators and the traveling public about the dos and don'ts of boat transportation.
Also in the pipeline are the promulgation of an up-to-date law on inland water transportation and the establishment of VTMIS for electronic surveillance on boat operators for safety purposes, he said.
Hammah noted with concern that boats without safety equipment and life-saving appliances had also been recognized as a serious problem and major cause of loss of life during accidents.
Mr Hammah indicated that at the moment, more than 70 per cent of the boats at the waterfront did not have life jackets.
The Transport Minister said even though the government was trying to assist with infrastructural development, boat operators should endeavour to provide personal flotation devices such as life jackets, life cushions and fire extinguishers.
Mr Issaka Peter Azuma, Director of the GMA, said preliminary investigations had indicated that human error was the contributory factor to accidents in lake transportation.
He said the Authority had stationed more members of the Naval Task Force at five additional boat stations along the Volta Lake and two at Jewi Wharf and Newtown Wharf on the Abbey Lagoon in half Assini.
Mr Azuma said the additional boat stations served with naval task force were Dzemeni, Kete Krachi, Dambai, Tapa Abotoase and Kpando Torkor.
He said the work of the task force was to check the loading of boats to ensure that they were not overloaded, check unruly behaviour among boat operators and help to maintain environmental cleanliness at the waterfront.
Mr Azuma said in 2008, the GMA signed an agreement with the Regional Maritime University to run training courses for boat operators and outboard mechanics.
The initial programme, he said, covered six boat centres of which more than 690 people were trained and warned that when the new law on inland water transportation was passed, only operators who had been trained and possessed certificates of competency would be permitted to operate boats.
Mr Azuma noted with concern that existing laws and regulations on inland waterways transportation were out of date and mentioned LI 862 of 1974, which made the Volta River Authority responsible for lake transportation, as an example.
He said with the passage of the GMA Act, 2002 (Act 360) the Authority was in charge of all inland water transportation including the Volta lake and stressed the need to change the old regulations to give the Authority the needed legal teeth for more effective performance.
Mr Kwadwo Nyamekye-Marfo Regional Minister, appealed to the Ministry of Transport to provide patrol boats to serve as quick response on the Volta Lake during emergency.
He advised boat operators and owners to strictly adhere to the rules and regulations of the GMA to help reduce accidents on the Volta Lake.