EXCLUSIVE: Why Most Nigerian Owned Vessels are “Rust Buckets”

…Surveyor Says Nigerian Shipowners Bad Ship Managers

By DAPO OLAWUNI

Even though Nigerian shipowners have consistently cited lack of financial capacity and insecurity as the bane of Nigerian owned shipping companies, fresh indications have emerged that many Nigerian shipowners are actually bad ship managers without any prior experience before going into the vessel-owning business.

This has led to a situation whereby Nigerian owned vessels are mostly old “rust buckets” and many of them are constantly going for scrapping because they can no longer be sustained in business.

In an exclusive chat with DAILY TREND NEWS in Lagos last week, a Master Mariner and Chief Marine Surveyor with Phoenix Register of Shipping, Eng Emmanuel Emesiri said that the general response and attention to shipping business in Nigeria is so lackadaisical.

Two months ago, specifically, February 2021, Nigerian shipowners gathered for the 70th birthday of the Chairman, Starzs Investment Company and Starzs Marine and Engineering Company, Engr. Greg Ogbeifun.

They took turns to lament the various challenges confronting Nigerian shipowners.

Chairman, Shipowners Forum, Mrs. Margret Orakwusi, said no Nigerian vessel was listed among a total of 500 vessels that visited the Nigerian ports in the first quarter of 2015.

”No Nigerian flagged ship plied the international route. That means no value addition to the huge annual tonnage generated by way of earnings in freight, which translates into billions of USD loss to Nigeria.

“Even the coastal trade reserved for indigenous operators; they are dominated by foreign operators and the common reason for this is due to lack of capacity of the indigenous operators in the provision of seaworthy ships,” Orakwusi lamented.

Former President, Nigerian Shipowners Association (NISA), Aminu Umar, identified lack of finance as one of the major challenges facing Nigerian shipowners.

He added that insecurity on the waterways as well as deploying poorly trained seafarers as crew also pose challenges for indigenous operators.

But, speaking with DAILY TREND NEWS, Eng Emesiri said that most Nigerian shipowners have no prior knowledge before investing in buying of ships, an that they usually take away all the profits, without ploughing it back into the investment.

“The mentality of most Nigerian ship owners from what I noticed, is that, when they get N100 as proceeds from engaging the ship, you would be surprised that they would take N90 for their own personal purpose instead of putting back money into the business”

“So, when you go to some of these ships, the state of the ship would make you wonder why they don’t re-invest profits into the business, they would start giving you different excuses”

“If you look at the state of vessels in Nigeria, there is inability of the vessel owners to properly maintain it, maintenance of a vessel determines the life of it”

“The owners of the vessels are not really conversant with the business.

“The person that advised him to buy the vessel is not even a marine person, the people he employs to man the company are not marine people, there is a case we have at hand now, the company has a ship, but the people managing the ship at the office have no knowledge that is maritime related, what do you expect?

“You will find such a ship in a bad shape and things would be going wrong because they cannot defend or see the importance of enforcing certain things on the vessel.
The point is typical of Nigerian mentality, they have this “take” and “dont give back” mindset”

“In my personal experience, there was a company I was superintending, I advised the shipowner that, for every profit you get, take away 25% of it and keep it aside for the vessel maintenance, this includes salaries, dry docking, bunkers and other things that may come up, but he never listened”

“Eventually, the ship propeller broke, we had to order propeller from Japan, I took the vessel to Nigerdock, I had actually told him to keep a N100million to do this job, but he thought I wanted to spend his money, he spent N300million to play politics and he didn’t win”

“Eventually, the vessel was sold as a scrap”

“The mentality of most Nigerian ship owners is that, they are in the business not because they are interested, or they did visibility studies on it, but because they were told that there is a lot of money in the business and that is how they find their way in. Eventually most of them get stuck” Eng Emesiri stated

Eng Emesiri also noted that there is an increase in the number of vessels being scrapped at various scrap yards dotting the Kirikiri axis of Lagos.

“Do you know that, if you go to Kirikiri area of Lagos, they are scrapping more vessels these days, because when the owners can no longer update the business, so they would be forced to scrap it”

He warned that a time would come in Nigeria that, if care is not taken, there may not be any Nigerian owned vessels anymore.

He cited a situation that took place years ago at the Lagos breakwaters when a vessel had issues, but it was abandoned until it broke into two.

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