Stories by Isaac Anumihe
Director General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr Dakuku Peterside, recently disclosed the Federal Government’s plans to have a floating dock to repair vessels locally.
But no sooner than he said it when Nigerians doubted the realisation of the project, citing such projects that are either not in operation or not optimally utilized.
They include, Starzs Marine and Engineering Limited (Starzs Shipyard), Onne; Niger Dock, Lagos; West Atlantic Shipyard, Onne; Naval Dockyard, Lagos; Continental Shipyard, Lagos; Technitrade, Warri; West African Dockyard, Onne; Shipside Dry dock, Port Harcourt; Niger Benue Transport Company Limited, Warri; Naval Shipyard, Port Harcourt.
They reason that given Nigeria’s high potentials and opportunities it should have been constructing ships by now.
According to the publisher of a maritime magazine, The Journal, Mr Ismail Aniemu, the ship building sector is a huge untapped area that can generate millions of direct and indirect jobs given Nigeria’s maritime space and its large cargo throughput.
“Nigeria is overdue for ship-building and ship repairs. First, I want you to know that we are already building boat in Nigeria. We have boatyards where they are already building boats in Nigeria. For ship-building we are overdue because we are the largest maritime country in Africa. Our maritime space is the largest. Our cargo throughput is the largest. And building ships in Nigeria is long over after the privatization of Niger Dock which was Nigeria’s foremost dry dock facility.
“There is nothing wrong in partnering with other ship-building companies across the world to establish yards in Nigeria where they can be building ships, where they can be building small crafts like boats. It will save us a lot of foreign exchange. Over 90 per cent of boats on our waters are imported. These are very critical maritime infrastructure that are required for fishing, transport, chandelling and other activities” he said.
Another maritime stakeholder stated that the project will attract over 50,000 direct jobs and millions of indirect jobs.
“Talking about the benefits, the fishing sector alone will not give you less than 50,000 direct jobs. I am talking about direct jobs for those in trawler activities not to talk of millions of persons that benefit from trading in fishing. We cannot have a maritime country as large and as endowed as Nigeria and you don’t have ship building, ship repairs and dry dock facility as part of our comparative advantage with other maritime countries.
It is sad that countries with lesser maritime endowments target Nigeria for their market; target Nigeria for their boat to be bought and used on their waters whereas Nigeria is not making efforts to have these boats and ships built here. Even if we have it now, there is nothing to celebrate because we were overdue as far back as 30 years ago. If we are building it now it is an achievement but we shouldn’t be celebrating it. It is like you woke up in the evening whereas you are supposed to wake up in the morning” he posited.
Adebisi Olowu, Head, Maritime Centre of Excellence (MCOE), (a subsidiary of Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas) Bonny, Rivers State, a captain and an engineer, explained the processes of building a ship.
“Building a ship is by writing an outline of the type of ship you want to build in terms of length, draft of vessels and other requirements. For ship building, the basic skill is marine engineering and naval architecture. These are the disciplines that you need. But the process for building a ship is by writing an outline specification. That is a statement of what you want. For example, if you want to build a 19,000 container-ship, you tell them ok I want a vessel that can carry 19,000 containership, and the vessel must be able to berth at Apapa Port or Onne Port.
“So, automatically, when you give that requirement, that will determine the draft of the vessel. So, the ship-builders will build it to be able to go into those rivers. Again, that will determine the length of the vessel. Some ports can only handle ship of particular length. You can tell them you want anti-piracy equipment on board. So, they will need some additional hardening of the accommodation. They can put bullet-proof for you. They can make sure that they put barbed-wires that you can use to defend yourself. You can tell them you want a specified speed. You can tell them you want your ship to travel for 19 months because you want to be able to go from Lagos to London.
“So, you put a statement of all your requirements down. Then they will come back to you and tell you that based on what you have said, this is the specification. These are the things we believe you need. So, it is now your duty as a technical support to go through all the things they said that they are going to do and verify whether they meet your requirement.
When that has been clarified, you now sign an agreement with them. You sign a ship-building contract. As the builder, you will also have a team of personnel who will sit with those people to monitor every aspect of the construction from the beginning to the end.
There are still lots of things involved such as the kind of preparation, the thickness of each one of the plate, the alignment of your engines and your shaft to make sure the engines will not vibrate. You can also consider the quality of your cables,” he said.