By Stephen Ubanna
The last may not have been heard about the N50 billion floating dock acquired by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency , NIMASA idling away at the Nigerian Navy Dock Yard facility at Victoria island Lagos.
Patrick akpobolokemi, a former Director General of the Maritime Regulatory Agency had a vision before seeking the ministerial approval for the building of the floating Dock in the European countries of Norway and Romania ship Building and Repair Yard but was removed from office before the completion and delivery of the vessel in 2018.
Going by the original conception and design of the floating dock as ,approved by the former NIMASA Management led by Akpobolokemi , popular , Akpos. it was meant to be taken to Maritime university , Okerenkoko, Delta state , which was designed as its permanent location in order to operate.
In placing the order for the acquisition f of the floating boat, NIMASA , under the close watch of Akpobolokemi the , then Director General, believe that it would help boost the country’s ship repair capacity , generate wealth and create employment for Nigerians.
kpobolokemi vision about the floating dock may have died with him following his his replacement with Dakuku Peterside , a former member of House of Representatives, representatives from Rivers state on the recommendation of of Rotimi Amaechi, a former governor of Rivers state and minister of Transportation by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Many had expected Peterside, the current Director General of the agency , to follow the original design plan of the floating dock by ensuring that it was taken to Okrenko Maritime University on delivery by the Norway and Romania Ship Building and Repair Yard that handled the design and Construction of the facility.
Peterside and his allies may have introduced politics into a basically Commercial venture by refusing to allow the vessel sail to the Maritime University permanent site at Okerenkoko to berth on the excuse that there is high level of insecurity in the Niger Delta region, particular Delta state.
He may have won the heart of Amaechi, when he outlined the reasons why the facility should not be taken to Okerenkoko but to a more secured location in Lagos for now while the agency intensify the search for a permanent location for it.
Given his populist maritime policies aimed at winning the heart of the Industry operators they were said to have thrown their weight on him to take the floating dock to a different location other than Okerenkoko, where it could be easily accessed for ship repairs by shipping Companies without encountering any problem from Pirates. They had their way.
It was not surprising why the vessel was taken to the Nigeria Navy Dock Yard, at Victorian Island, Lagos on delivery on June 11, 2018, by the Norway and Romania Ship Building and Repair Yard where it had berthed.
At the initial stage, NIMASA officials were optimistic that the floating dock would not be at the Naval Dock Yard beyond a year before it could be taken to a permanent location where it would be operated. Peterside, may have had the problem of giving approval for the floating dock to sail to Okerenkoko, Delta state, because some other states, including some private operators were said to have declared interest on the facility the facility .
Maritime watchers believe that Okerenkoko may have been out of the question to use as a permanenet to berth the vessel because of the shallow draught. He was said to have made it clear to those care to listen that the floating dock would only be taken to a facility with a 12 meter drought . This means that for the vessel to be taken to Okerenkoko, originally designed as the permanent location, it must have to be dredged to a 12 meter drought, an extra expenditure the agency may not be ready to accommodate.
Maritime analysts believe that Peterside, the NIMASA Director General and his Management Team may have taken the decision to jettison taking the floating to Okerenkoko Maritime University on the claim of insecurity and shallow draught to avoid having any link with the Bayelsa state politician and the agency former helmsman, Akobolokemi, described as a political ally of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
It was not surprising why the facility was taken to the Victoria Island Naval Dock Yard, Lagos, which actually met the 12 meter drought e specification. The agency was said to have reached an agreement with the Nigeria Navy registered Company, Naval Holdings Limited in order to take over the daily maintenance of the vessel to keep it in good working shape to carry out its repair works.
The rumour making the rounds at the onset was that the agency had agreed to pay a daily maintenance fee of N3.6 million or N100 million monthly including demurrage to the Naval registered Company in order to do their work without complaints .The NIMASA boss may have taken advantage of the recent media parley in Lagos to throw more light on the floating dock allegedly abandoned at the Nigeria Navy Victoria Island Dock Yard.
He had confirmed that the agency coughs out $30,000 or N10.8 million daily, going by the current official exchange rate of N360.00 to the dollar to service the vessel, a figure was higher than what the media had earlier speculated was what was daily paid to the Naval Holdings Limited.
This is an indication that between l June 11, 2018 and January 11, 2020 , the agency had spent close to $16,200 million or N5.843 billion on the maintenance of the vessel as it has to be powered daily including demurrage. There are fears in both official and unofficial circles that if the floating dock should remain at the Naval Dock Yard for another year, the cost of maintaining at the Naval Dock Yard would hit the $32.400 million or N11.64 billion mark or more.
The agency may not had problem in raising the money to pay the Naval Holdings Limited to maintain the facility because of the digital billing system on ocean going vessels calling at the nation’s ports which has put to rest the issues of double billing , over or under billings. The system ,according to the NIMASA Director General, ‘’ensures appropriate closure on vessels transactions within a period of two weeks after departure’’.
Recall that Peterside had told the Katsina state born Nigeria President on the day of inauguration of the floating dock that it would save $1 billion for the country, which is currently lost to the West African country of Ghana and the Central African country of Cameroon which have functional dockyards that could repair and service vessels
. The NIMASA boss was optimistic that with the hundreds of vessel which call at the nation’s sea ports and the International Maritime Organisation, IMO, law, that ocean going vessels must go for Turn Around Maintenance,TAM, every three years, the agency would the billion dollars for the country.
The NIMASA boss has every reason to think so. This is because the country’s indigenous fleet have grown over the last four years.
According to him over 200 vessels have been registered by the agency under Coastal and Inland Shipping Cabotage Policy which are wholly owned by Nigerians. His optimism of saving the billion dollars for the country on the repair of vessels was informed by the fact that the Cabot age vessel owners would patronise the floating dock. These should gladden the heart of Nigerians if the floating dock could be taken to a permanent location in order to start doing Commercial jobs.