Available statistics indicate that, about 5,000 ships call at the Nigerian ports annually, there are about 400 coastal vessels and many fishing trawlers. These make the business of dry docking potentially lucrative, because there is an existing and sufficient demand.
Even though the crafts are there, there is no facility to meet the demand, hence, dry docking of vessels operating in Nigeria is usually done outside Nigeria. The foreign exchange component of dry docking outside Nigeria is in millions of dollars every year.
Experts have put what Nigeria loses to be in excess of $100Million, when such vessels are moved outside her shores for the statutory dry docking.
Experts say that, to ensure that a ship is seaworthy, it must be dry-docked twice in at least five years. Some ships may have dry docking postponed or the intermediate dry docking waived by performing an underwater Inspection in lieu of dry docking. All these costs huge revenue.
In an apparent bid to put an end to the huge cost of dry docking outside the country, NIMASA acquired the N50Billion floating dock.
The projection was that the agency will save the federal government about $100 million annually and about $1 billion in 10 years.
The plan to acquire the floating dock was actually that of the immediate past management of NIMASA under Dr Ziakede Akpobolokemi. It predates the current Director General of NIMASA, Dr Dakuku Peterside. Before his appointment as NIMASA boss, the previous management had already established a business case for a floating dry dock where owners of ship can dry dock their vessels from time to time.
Sadly, the idea has remained the exact opposite of what was contemplated in 2014 during the tenure of Dr Akpobolokemi.
There has been a lot of back and forth since 2014, and this continued when the craft came in to the country in 2018, exactly four years after its construction was commissioned.
Unlike the normal practice when such would be celebrated, the floating dock’s arrival in June 2018 was kept under wraps, it was only later disclosed through a terse statement from NIMASA.
And since then, the expensive craft has suffered diverse treatment; the worse being that NIMASA treats it like an unwanted child, unsure of what to do with it and where to locate it.
The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has painfully confirmed that the dock is currently ‘abandoned’ at the Naval Dockyard in Lagos, and that the craft consumes about $30000 daily.
The floating dock that was conceived as an income generator has been idle for about two years during which it would probably have yielded about $200Million.
And while answering a question on the state of the floating dock recently, the executive director in charge of operations at NIMASA, Mr. Rotimi Fashakin had explained that the initial plan was for the floating dock to berth at Okerenkoko in Delta state, but due to report of a survey advising to the contrary, the agency was forced to review all the reports and take a decision. And the decision was to leave the floating dock at the Naval dockyard in Lagos.
How does any agency of government justify the fate that has befallen the floating dock in that manner by simply explaining it away? Even if Okerenkoko was no longer ‘safe’, is there no other place where the dock can be safely anchored and put to commercial use?
We are of the opinion that NIMASA did not subject the acquisition of the floating dock to due diligence. If it did, the back and forth that is spewing from the agency should not be. The second reason may just be hatred for Okerenkoko!
NIMASA has enough time since 2018 when the floating dock arrived, enough time to determine its fate, rather it has been dilly-dallying over what to do.
We do not believe that Okerenkoko in Delta state, which was originally destined to host the floating dock is unsafe. We think the refusal to locate it at Okerenkoko is part of the opposition to the location of the controversial maritime university in that coastal town. The dock was to be in the same coastal town that hosts the University.
If there were surveys which advised against Okerenkoko, NIMASA will do well to make such public. We doubt if the previous management picked the coastal town of Okerenkoko out of purely primordial consideration.
Between the time it arrived in Nigeria and now, NIMASA had enough time to decide where to locate it, since it had already zeroed its mind against Okerenkoko.
As it is now, the craft is not generating any revenue, but it is costing about $30000 daily to keep it where it is and running.
Did NIMASA not know that, it is a regulator and not an operator, hence operating that dock is not an option. The only viable option is to concession the floating dock to earn money.
There are organisations that will eagerly take up the responsibility of putting the craft to use. The sooner this is done. Each day the floating dock stays idle, it gulps money, depreciates and rots way.