As it has variously done, again recently, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) raised hope about a new lease of life for its long abandoned modular floating dock.
In a widely publiciced statement, which raised the hope of many stakeholders, the agency not only revealed the identity of its long-awaited technical partners, the agency also disclosed that it had acquired a site and handed the leased site at the Continental Shipyard Limited (CSL) of the Nigerian Ports Authority, to the technical partners; Messrs Melsmore Limited.
The statement also quoted the NIMASA Director General; Dr Bashir Jamoh as saying that the technical partners would liaise with the management of the NPA to finalise details of the site management, including how to move the floating dock to site.
Perhaps, sure of its plans, NIMASA released further statement regarding the dry dock’s management. It clarified that its new partner would be responsible for ensuring that the floating dock gets to its new operational area at the NPA dockyard in Apapa.
In the statement, NIMASA clarified that Melsmore Marine Nigeria Limited is responsible for the relocation of the Modular Floating Dock owned by the agency from the Naval Dockyard to the waterfront of the Dolphine Jetty at the NPA Dockyard which used to be the Continental Shipyard.
The latest assurance makes the number of times such has been given, uncountable. As events are now revealing, NIMASA and specifically its current Director General; Dr Bashir Jamoh may be towing the path of his successors.
We recall that the plan to acquire the floating dock was actually that of the management of NIMASA under Dr Ziakede Akpobolokemi. The floating dock, which eventually arrived in Nigeria during the administration of Dr Dakuku Peterside, was expected to serve as maintenance facility for ships within and outside Nigeria.
At the stage of conceptualisation, the facility was (according to NIMASA)was to save about US$100m annually in capital flight; generate employment, and boost local capacity.
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 ships 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.
We recall that the incumbent NIMASA’s Director General had told journalists at one of his media briefings in 2021, that the floating dock would be operated through a Public Private Partnership (PPP).
Experts also 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 cost huge revenue.
The same experts have also cautioned that Nigerians should not expect much from the floating dock, because, according to them, its capacity is limited.
Sadly, there has been a lot of back and forth since the craft came in to the country some years ago. Since then, the expensive floating dock has suffered adverse treatment; the worse being that NIMASA treated it like an unwanted child, unsure of what to do with it and at a point, where to locate it.
How does any agency of government justify the fate that has befallen the floating dock in that manner?
We are of the opinion that NIMASA did not subject the acquisition of the floating dock to due diligence.
NIMASA has enough time since 2018 when the floating dock arrived, to determine its fate. Rather than do this, it has been dilly-dallying over what to do. As it is now, the facility is not generating any revenue. The worst is that it is diminishing in value and usefulness.
Did NIMASA not know that, it is a regulator and not an operator, hence operating that dock was not an option?
This newspaper had once advocated that, the only viable option is to concession the floating dock. This is because, each day the floating dock stays idle, it gulps money, depreciates and rots way.
We are as worried as all stakeholders that the floating dock has failed to achieve the purpose for which it was purchased.
We had been cautiously excited about the partnership with a technical partner to breathe life into the floating dock that has become an embarrassment to NIMASA and by extension the Federal Government. But revelation about the fate of the craft is shattering.
Apart from the fact that, the purported technical partners; Melsmore Marine Nigeria Limited has distanced itself from the deal, the expensive craft has been badly damaged by storm, so much that it cannot even be towed to the facilities that the NPA had ceded to NIMASA to accommodate it.
Sadly, in what emerged as a pack of lies from NIMASA concerning the whereabouts of the floating dock, a startling revelation have also emerged that the dock is currently being hidden from public glare somewhere around Snake Island in Apapa.
Spilling the beans on the suspicious movement of the craft, the Managing Director of Melsmore Marine; Mr Danny Fuchs, in an exclusive interview with Shipping Position Daily, said his company never moved the floating dock as it turned down the offer and that there was never a contract to manage the floating dock or relocate it after then.
With this revelation, NIMASA may have lost the last opportunity to redeem its image concerning the modular floating dock.
This is because, in the past, the current DG had disclosed that experts from the manufacturers of the Floating Dock were in Nigeria working on the nitty-gritty of deploying the craft. It was never deployed.
Dr Jamoh had given various excuse for why the dock could not be deployed, and the industry is tired of listening to these narratives.
Perhaps, it is apt at this point to point out that it is no longer so much about the imperative of putting this floating dock to use. It is now more about putting a stop to the unending yet unfulfilled promises. There had been promises in years past. And recently, first in 2021, later it was 2022, and sadly about one month ago. And just like we had predicted on this page, those promises remained what they were – mere promises!
Just like we challenged some time ago on this page, we will like to be proven wrong. But, it is on record and the Nigerian maritime industry will hold Dr Jamoh accountable for the many failed promises about the modular floating dock.