There is hope that Nigeria will earn N237.5billion ($500million) annually from the N50 billion Africa’s fifth largest floating dockyard when it finally becomes operational at the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA)’s Continental Shipyard, Apapa.
The shipyard had been abandoned for over a decade but was recently transferred to the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to enable its modular floating dock function.
It was learnt that some ship owners, who abandoned their vessels on Nigerian waters over inability to secure foreign exchange at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)’s official window to rehabilitate their ships would now have opportunity to do so at the dockyard.
Before the new development, NPA had indicated intention to auction the shipyard after the jointventure agreement between the authority and Dockyard Engineering Service of Geneva, Switzerland, that gave birth to Continental Shipyard Limited (CSL) finally expired in 2018.
It was learnt that the dockyard, which has not been working since 2010, has been abandoned, vandalised and rendered as scrap.
However, NIMASA‘s modular floating dockyard measuring 125 metres by 35 metres with three inbuilt cranes, transformers and a number of ancillary facilities built by Damen of Netherlands and their partners NIRDA had been asked to take over the dockyard.
Findings revealed that more than 1,200 vessels out of the 5,000 vessels that operate within Nigeria’s territorial waters are forced to go Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal, Cameroun, Namibia and South Africa to look for docking facilities.
Already, some ships have been grounded due to the inability of their owners to secure foreign exchange at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)’s official window for repairs.
Nigeria has only one ship building yard located in Onne in Rivers State, while there are other small yards, which could build barges and fiber glass small personnel.
According to a former President of Ship Owners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Engr Greg Ogbeifun, the country needs higher capacity ship repair yards to curb capital flight. He noted that ship building was relatively non-existent in the country. Ogbeifun noted that a lot of jobs were lost, when vessels leave the country to look for dry-docking facilities elsewhere.
He said: “These jobs would have been created in Nigeria, if there were operational ship repair yards in the country. Dry docking of vessels outside the country hinders the country’s opportunities for skill and technology transfer
The continuation of this practice means that Nigeria will never improve its capacity to repair vessels, which in turn diminishes the possibility of shipbuilding in the country.”
Ogbeifun, who is also the Chief Executive Officer, Starzs Shipyard Limited, lamented in Lagos that there was no shipyard in the country that could take a 30,000-ton oil tanker. He said: “80 per cent of the vessels leave the country to carry out their docking repairs.”
The president told New Telegraph that the sector ought to be making a substantial contribution to the country’s income; saying that the loss to the sector was estimated to be about $500 million per annum.
Ogbeifun explained that ship repairs was an expensive operation, stressing that most ship owners preferred to dry dock their vessels within the confines of the routes they operate.
He noted that if the potential of the ship repair sector is properly harnessed, the sector had the capacity to drive technology acquisition, training opportunities of specialised professionals and employment generation.
The former president challenged the government to develop and make the steel industry operational. He noted steel industry was critical to the establishment and growth of ship building in the country.
He added: “Government needs to take a holistic view of all these. Companies that have come to develop this sector in Nigeria have been discouraged owing to unfavorable fiscal policies which retards the growth of the industry.”