NIMASA:Hopes Brightens For Investment In Shipwrecks Removal And Recycling In Nigerian Waters As Jamoh Woes Local And Foreign Investors

By Stephen Ubanna

For years, people of the Coastal Communities in Lagos, Bayelsa, Cross river,  and Rivers state, had looked forward to the Federal  government coming  to remove the  shipwrecks in their waterfront  which was giving them trouble.

 Take for instance, the waterfront in the Alpha Beach   in the south west state of Lagos,  where a large barge   had washed up over a decade ago in the area forcing the people to cry out to Nigerian Maritime Adminstration and Safetety Agency, NIMASA, for their intervention to remove the wreck.  Former President Goodluck Jonathan was said to have visited the Community  to see things himself . Eyewitness said he was shocked at the erosion caused  by the wreck in the Community  that one Oniru, was said to  have been Contracted to remove the  wreck that requires a huge c Capital outlay to do but succeeded in  doing nothing. The Alpha Beach wreck may  have informed why  Patrick Agpobolokemi, a one-time Director General of NIMASA, directed  officials  of the agency  to carry out an inventory  of the number  of ship wrecks in the nation’s Coastal line. He had said that   most of these ships  that are abandoned  in Nigerian waters  are owned by foreign shipping companies, who have flouted the agency laws.  

Shipwrecks In Nigeria Waters

Investigations by The Value News shows that there  are over 3,000 shipwrecks  littering  the nation’s Coastline. Informed sources told the Magazine  that the shipwrecks are too many in the country’s Coastline because  the government   has no strong   legislation or enforcement of existing  legislations  that would force the ship owners remove the wrecks. This may have informed why many  of these foreign shipping Companies both within and outside the country  had found Nigeria as  a dumping ground  for their ships which are no longer in use, making the country ‘’the world ship wreck graveyard’’.

Note that  each wreck  takes up to six months  to be fully dismantled  and the conditions are said to be very  difficult and dangerous. The situation of of the wrecks in Nigerian waters  was so bad that Dakuku Peterside, a Rivers state born former Director General  of the agency, was forced  to give a matching order  to all  the owners of the abandoned  ships  in Nigerian waters  to remove them  before April 28, 2017 or risk sanctions ranging from forfeiture  or removal by the agency at the  owners expense.

 He was said to have made it clear to the foreign  ship owners  that  all the abandoned vessels  would be declared as wrecks , stressing that the agency would do everything within its powers to ensure that the wrecks are removed   to facilitate safe Navigation  in Nigerian waters. According to him  the directive  was in line  with the mandate of the agency  on the protection  of the nation’s marine Environment  and Safety  of Navigation  within the Nigerian waters and  as the receiver of ship wrecks but that was  how far he could go.

It is instructive to note that Nigeria  is a signatory  to the International Maritime Organisation, IMO,  2007, Nairobi, Kenya, International  Convention  on the Removal  of Wrecks. The purpose of the Convention, a NIMASA,  source said is to ensure the prompt   and effective removal of shipwrecks   located in the parties territorial waters including Nigeria.

In 2020, Bashir Jamoh, president, Chartered Institute of Transport Administration of Nigeria, CIoTAN and NIMASA Director General,  had said   that the agency is thinking of  spending N10 billion  to remove all the shipwrecks, described as  a national asset’’ across the nation’s territorial waters. The  Jamoh led NIMASA, Management Team may no longer be thinking along that line of action for now. 

jAMOH And Port Of Atwerp International Officials At A Meeting In Lagos

He may have used the opportunity of a meeting with the officials of the Port of Atwerp International, a subsidiary  of Port of Atwerp, Belgium and Europe ‘s second largest  port, after the port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands,to speak out  about ‘’the huge opportunities  for investment  in shipwreck removal  and recycling in Nigeria’’.

 The meeting was said to have been organised by the Belgium- Nigerian Chambers of Commerce in Lagos, the nation’s Commercial nerve  centre. Jamoh may have gladdened  the heart of the Port of Atwerp International  officials when he revealed that the Katsina state born Nigerian born President   ‘’is planning  a Coordinated  wreck removal policy to drive investment  in the area’’.

The maritime Regulatory Agency boss, who never missed any  opportunity of exposing the huge  investment opportunities in the nation’s maritime sector may have won the heart of the Atwerp Port  international  officials  going by a Statement by  Kistof Watershoot, a Director at the Atwerp Port Internatonal.  Watershoot, who could not hide his feelings had said to the hearing of the NIMASA officials at the meeting that their mission in Nigeria  was ‘’to discuss  projects of interest  including inland  ports and to strengthen  the relationship between the Port of Atwerp international and NIMASA,   in the areas of training, technical support and Cooperation’’.

 Mario Lievens, another top official of the Atwerp Port International , who was said to have also  spoken at the meeting had laid   emphasis  on training.  Hear him: we are  in Nigeria  to promote  new partnership opportunities  with NIMASA, especially in the area of training.

Maritime stakeholders believe that the drafting of a National Maritime Transport Policy for Nigeria, may be of interest  for the officials of the Port of Atwerp International  because of the windows of opportunities  it has opened for both local and foreign investors. It is not surprisisng  why Watershoot  had said , we  believe  in Nigeria’’. He noted that ‘’the ‘’business climate in Nigeria could be difficult  but there is hardly any country in the world   without its peculiar difficulties’’.

Although the National Maritime Transport  Policy, described as part of the efforts of the Buhari Administration  to develop the  nation’s maritime infrastructure and diversify the  oil-dependent  economy  is  still in the works, Ms. Gbemisola Saraki, a one-time Senator of Federal Republic of Nigeria and minister of State, Transportation, overseeing the nation’s maritime sector, is optimistic that the draft  Policy when Completed and  approved by the governemnent  would lead  ‘’to improved  Foreign Direct Investment, FID, capital inflow  into the country and  enhance the ability of the nation’s maritime sector to compete  at the International level’’.

There is no gain saying the fact that Nigeria and Belgium have a long-standing Diplomatic, economic  and business relationship. This may encourage the Belgium business Community to come into the nation’s maritime  sector in full swing to invest in ship wreck removal, recycling and other maritime projects, that would create job opportunities in the country.

Philip Kaynet, a Deputy Director, Corporate Communications in NIMASA,   who had issued a Statement after the business meeting between the Port of Atwerp International  and NIMASA officials had stated that  the  nation’s maritime  sector  has been ‘’consciously being opened  up  for investment  by local  and foreign investors to build a sustainable blue economy’’.

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