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NIMASA : The Politics Of A 50 million Naira Abandoned Floating Dock Abandoned At Victoria Island Naval Dock Yard

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.

Dakuku Peterside: DG, NIMASA

 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.

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