By DAPO OLAWUNI
Shipowners, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) as well as a cross section of maritime bigwigs have commended the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) for flagging off the National Wreck Removal exercise, saying that this would further open up Nigeria for more investment opportunities.
DAILY TREND NEWS learnt that there are about 200 wrecks on the Lagos waterways alone, with each of them weighing not less than 5,000 tons, making about 200,000tons of iron and steel lying at the bottom of the waterways with value of about N30billion.
Speaking at the official flagging off ceremony in Lagos on Friday, Minister of Transportation, Hon Rotimi Amaechi commended the Director General of NIMASA, Dr Bashir Jamoh for taking the lead in the sector.
Speaking, he said “I am just the supervising minister, but the DG NIMASA has taken the lead by addressing security on the waterways with the Deep Blue Project, and now he is addressing safety of navigation on our waterways with the wreck removal”
“Wherever there is no safe navigation, commercial vessels would not want to go there because it would damage their vessels”
Amaechi assured that the wreck removal exercise would equally be extended to other port cities of the country, adding that it is not about Lagos alone.
“At the end of the day, we would look at a broader picture of Nigerian waterways so that it would not be about Lagos alone”
“I have assured the NIMASA DG that we would go back to cabinet to seek funds for the removal of wrecks in the other parts of the country.
“The government is ready to pursue a case in court with owners of abandoned vessels, it is either they remove the wrecks or we would auction it, we cannot be removing wrecks because somebody is trying to be irresponsible” he stated
Also speaking, President of Ship Owners Association of Nigeria (SOAN) Dr McGeorge Onyong urged the Minister of Transportation to pay more attention to the maritime sector, after focusing so much attention on the rail sector.
According to him, eleven giant international shipping companies in the first two quarters of 2021 alone have made not less than $50billion from freight collection, and Nigeria cannot afford to be an onlooker.
He commended NIMASA for flagging off the wreck removal exercise, adding that it would open up the country to more freights and investments.
“As much as we bury the wrecks, we know that many ships when they die, there are no graves to bury them, now that we are finding graves for wrecked ships, we want to see an opportunity to also take a deliberate opportunity for us getting new ships and getting the industry to meet with what is going on in the world” he said
On his part, the Acting Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) Muhammed Bello Koko assured that his agency is in full support of the wreck removal by NIMASA.
“It is a welcome development to us at NPA, however, let me advise that NIMASA should identify critical wrecks that are most likely getting into the channel as soon as possible.
“So, a wreck that is about one kilometer away, because of nature could get into the channel in the next few months”
“There are lots of vessels abandoned on the Nigerian waterways, and the vessel abandoned today could be the wreck tommorow, so, there should be a data of all the abandoned vessels. Notice should be given to owners of the vessels to either take them away, or there should be a legal framework that would allow us to auction them”
“One of the issues in recent times is that the owners of the vessels always go to court when these notices are issued.
This is an opportunity for a value chain in this industry, it means that there could be a lot of recycling plants, and there are nations that have depended on ship cutting, this would provide a lot of job opportunities” he said
On his part, an investor in ship recycling, Mr Adbdulnasir Raji, the Managing Director of Raji Industries expressed readiness to buy the wrecks from NIMASA and use them for raw materials for building infrastructures.
“We buy wrecks and old ships and we recycle them and use them to construct other infrastructures like iron doors, pipes which are used in building constructions”
“There are about 200 wrecks on the Lagos waterways, each of them is about 5,000 tons, making about 200,000tons of iron and steel lying at the bottom of the waterways with value of about N30billion”
“If Nigeria would allow, we would like to buy some of the wrecks to recycle and use it internally for Nigerian industries” he said
Earlier in his welcome address, the DG of NIMASA Dr Bashir Jamoh said the successful removal of the wrecks and derelicts would restore confidence in Nigerian waters, and eliminate obstacles to smooth, safe, and profitable navigation. He thanked the Minister for pushing the wreck removal idea through the Federal Executive Council (FEC).
Jamoh said the commencement of the wreck removal exercise was another milestone in the incremental achievement of the Triple S strategy of the current Management of NIMASA, anchored on Maritime Safety, Maritime Security, and Shipping Development.
The Director General stated, “These wrecks inhibit the operation of shipping companies, which constantly strive to increase efficiency in order to remain in business. As a result, most of the shipping companies usually avoid operating or investing in areas where navigational hazards are identified due to high insurance premium charges.”
He said with the elimination or reduction of the costs associated with insurance, survey and charting of wrecks, the cost of shipping would drop, to the benefit of mariners and other stakeholders in the maritime industry.
Jamoh also discussed other benefits of the wreck removal exercise.
He said, “It is pertinent to state that the benefits that would be derived upon completion of the exercise extend to other areas of maritime core functions, such as search and rescue services, Cabotage monitoring, as well as prevention and mitigation of marine pollution.”
NIMASA is charged with the responsibility of ensuring safety and security at sea as well as regulating the maritime industry in line with international laws and conventions, principally, the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO).
“In line with this mandate and in recognition of the importance of safety of navigation in Maritime Administration, the Agency has established the need for removal of critical wrecks along the Badagry Creek,” the Director General said.
The event was graced by Cross section of maritime stakeholders including shipowners; Eng Greg Ogbeifun, Capt Emmanuel Ihenacho, Capt Taiwo Akinpelumi, Alhaji Aminu Umar among others.
Also in attendance were; Chairperson of Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN) Princess Vicky Haastrup, former DG NIMASA, Dr Ade Dosunmu, former Chairman of Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) Tsanni Abubakar, Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) represented by Comrade Francis Bunu among others.