By Oluyinka Onigbinde and Joshua Yousouph
There is growing anxiety and mystery over the whereabouts of the N50 billion modular floating dock owned by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
Recall that previous reports had suggested plans to move the floating dock from the naval dockyard in Victoria Island to the Continental Ships yard in Apapa. However, there is a contradiction in this claim as a company that was contracted by NIMASA to relocate the dock; Melsmore Marine Nigeria Limited denied any contractual involvement, contradicting NIMASA’s claims.
Despite conflicting statements, NIMASA has remained tight-lipped about the current whereabouts of the floating dock.
In September, this newspaper had reported exclusively that the floating dock is tucked away from public glare somewhere around Snake Island in Apapa.
This discovery came about nine months after the Federal Government approved the concessioning of the floating dock to a company known as J. Marine Logistics Limited.
Several efforts made to get the reaction of NIMASA regarding the status of the floating dock and its exact location were futile as the Assistant Director, Public Relations NIMASA; Mr Edward Osagie refused to give answers to the multiple text messages requesting for the whereabouts of the floating dock, more than 72 hours before press time.
However, in a chat with our correspondent; a Master Mariner; Capt Tajudeen Alao, disclosed that the dock is at Nigerdock, confirming an earlier report by Shipping Position Daily that the floating dock was towed to Nigerdock after the N50 billion floating dock was damaged by storm.
Alao emphasized the bureaucratic challenges in transactional processes involving government assets.
At the stage of conceptualisation, the facility was planned 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.
Sadly, there has been a lot of back and forth since the craft came into the country years ago. Since then, the expensive floating dock has suffered diverse treatment; the worst being that NIMASA treated it like an unwanted child, unsure of what to do with it and at a point, where to locate it.
Obviously, NIMASA did not subject the acquisition of the floating dock to due diligence. It has been enough time since 2018 when the floating dock arrived in Nigeria, enough time 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.
Speaking also, Capt Matthew Alalade former National President, Nigeria Merchant Navy Officers & Water Transport Senior Staff Association, expressed uncertainty about the floating dock’s location, indicating a lack of clarity from NIMASA.
Similarly, Captain Williams Ogunsakin, South West Director of Merchant Seafarers Association of Nigeria (MESAN) confirmed that the floating dock is currently located behind Nigerdock at Badagry Creek, even as he expressed disappointment at what has befallen the multibillion Naira asse..
Stakeholders, including Capt Ogunsakin and marine engineer Engr. Josiah Was, criticized NIMASA’s handling of the floating dock. Ogunsakin emphasized the impracticality of the dock and called for better preparedness in Nigeria’s maritime sector.
Engr. Wasa on his part accused NIMASA of disregarding expert advice and prioritizing tax collection over industry growth.
Wasa underscored NIMASA’s blunder by not seeking tenders or expressions of interest from technical companies to manage the dock. He criticized the agency’s focus on a floating dry dock instead of supporting Nigerian shipowners’ vessel upgrades. This, he argued, reflected a lack of interest in ship development.
They questioned NIMASA’s decision-making process and questioned its transparency and accountability.
They also called for clarification from NIMASA on the dock’s current location and its plans for this significant government asset.