The acting Comptroller General of Customs(CGC), Adewale Adeniyi, has given a directive to the Portplus Ltd. consultant managing the two ocean-going vessels, Customs Pride and Group of Nine, to ensure that the vessels sail by November.
Comptroller Odaudu Salefu of the Western Marine Command of Customs said this in an interactive session with newsmen in Lagos on Monday.
The two ocean going vessels, Customs Pride and Group of Nine was procured in 2015 and had not been used.
Salefu was responding to a statement made by the Maritime Reporters Association of Nigeria (MARAN) regarding the state of the vessels.
He praised the association for their investigative report but urged them to always clarify and provide accurate information.
Salefu mentioned that in addition to addressing the issues with the two existing vessels, the CGC had acquired two ocean-going vessels from Singapore to combat smuggling at sea.
According to him, after assuming his position at the Western Marine Command on Jan. 26, he corresponded with the headquarters to assess the condition of the vessels.
“I visited the vessel site to get first hand information. And also, with the coming of the current Controller General of Customs, his first visit to Zone A was the two ocean going vessels.
“I told the CG that I met the vessel stationary and it was not in good condition. Also, the managing director of Portplus explained that the vessels were stationary because the raider control, general system, fender were not operating,” he said.
Salefu also said that the CGC inquired about the cost of repairing the vessels within 30 days, and later instructed that they should be ready to sail within 40 days.
Salefu stated that he had a meeting last week with the consultant responsible for the vessels who confirmed that the repairs had been commissioned.
“I want to state that there is nothing like the N180 billion for cost of maintenance as stated in the publication, but what we have received, as at year 2021, was N23. 7 million,” he said.
He explained that once the vessels are in operation, they would play a crucial role in preventing drug smuggling from neighbouring countries and curbing bunkering activities in Nigerian waters.
Salefu also said there was difficulty concerning spacing at the Naval Dockyard for dry docking, but noted that there was an alternative option with the Nigerdock.
He also mentioned that there was plan to approach the inland waterways management regarding berthing and searching for a suitable location with a 100-meter space.
According to him, the current space at the marina cannot accommodate four vessels, unless they can be placed side by side.
“The first two will berth, then the second will nose on it. But there is a danger of marina, incase of any disaster, there will be no escape route and this is something to save lives and rescue people in the water.
“We went to the managing director of the inland waterways and a committee will be set up to look for bulk water and we got a place close to Ladol. If customs had gotten a space, this issue will be a thing of the past,” he said.
He noted that to ensure the smooth operation of the vessels, the CGC hd sent personnel to Singapore for training to properly manage the vessels.
“As at today, I had gotten an order for training of officers. Portplus and the Navy are asked to liase with us to pick trained marine that were previously trained on floating and safety and assemble them for retraining.
“The CGC sent three personnel to Singapore in preparation for full taking over and receive the vesse and we are compiling another list of personnel for another training either to Singapore or South Korea.
“Ever since the CGC came on board, marine is receiving the highest attention in terms of training,” he said.
Salefu noted that it seems there was a communication gap during the entire period, which might explain the lack of action taken.
He added that what actually delayed the maintenance was the transition from one regime to another.
According to him, Portplus could not write about the outstanding money owed them, which they did not include it in their previous report.
“This has been lingering and the current CGC now want to intermarry the previous debt to the current reality on maintenance of the vessel and they have actually come to a compromise.
“Soon, you will see the better action of the western marine because without the vessel, we are using 40 horse power to go over 100 nautica mile inside water.
“You are all aware that recently, we caught over 120 sacks of hemp very far inside the Atlantic ocean and we have over 20 sacks arrested last week, and even tramadol seized and this were done manually through the brevity of my officers.
“If we can go to the ocean over 140 nautical mile, when we have the vessel, I can assure you we will go 300 nautical miles,” he said.
He also appreciated the effort and support of the Nigerian Navy Beecroft, pledging to complement the shortfalls.
“The naval marine engineering, safety officers, are part of the people that will oversee activities of the Portplus and the management of the vessels.