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Attracting bigger vessels to Nigerian ports through efficient channel management

By Sulaimon Salau
06 September 2017   |   2:11 am
The need for efficient dredging of the Nigerian channels cannot be overemphasised as the nation continues to pursue its agenda of becoming the maritime hub of the West African sub-region.


The need for efficient dredging of the Nigerian channels cannot be overemphasised as the nation continues to pursue its agenda of becoming the maritime hub of the West African sub-region.

Having deeper channels will place Nigeria in a position of becoming an international standard maritime destination, such that huge vessels like the Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCC), and the Ultra Large Crude Carriers (ULCC), will have the opportunity to sail smoothly through the nation’s channels.

The global shipping world has shifted attention to economies of scale, thereby focusing on building bigger vessels. This will ultimately require dredging of channels, strengthening quays and introducing larger cranes for efficient delivery of cargoes. Nigeria must not be left out of these developments.

Poised to ensure an efficient channel management of the Nigerian waterways, the Federal Government through the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), has existing arrangements to deepen the Lagos, and Onne, Port Harcourt seaports’ draught.

The NPA in partnership with private sector investors established the Lagos Channel Management Company (LCM), and the Bonny Channel Company (BCC).The Bonny Channel Company is designed to create and maintain a safe navigational passage for all marine users to and in the Eastern Ports of Bonny Island, Onne, Okrika, and Port-Harcourt. The Lagos Channel Management core operations on the other hand, are centred on the management and dredging of Lagos channels.
Given that the companies have managed the channels for about 12 years, analysts believe they should be given more responsibility of making the channels deeper and navigable for bigger vessels.

“Nigeria really need to look at dredging of its ports very sincerely because the dynamics in the shipping world today are in the direction of bigger tonnages,” the Group General Manager, Eco Marine International, Balogun Moruf Adedayo, said.

“The global shipping industry is now in an era where we can do 7,000-14,000 TEU capacity vessels. Nigeria will need to have deeper channels to be able to accommodate these bigger vessels (bigger tonnages) because shipping is about economics of size.”

The Lagos Channel Management said three of the NPA dredgers – River Chalawa, Gumel, and Sea Lion are on bare-boat charter to the company to be used exclusively for dredging the Lagos ports. The Sea Lion and Gumel are Trailing Suction Hopper Dredgers (TSHD) used for the deepening and maintaining the channels, while River Chalawa is used to maintain depths alongside the quays.

The Managing Director, LCM, Danny Fuchs, said: “In order to achieve the required depths and channel dimension within Lagos, we needed DEPASA to charter three addition dredgers to increase production.

“Two of these: ‘Poseidon and Astra’ are brought to Lagos for specific projects, as and when required. Poseidon is a large heavy duty TSHD capable of dredging hard material in most weather condition, whereas Astra, being a lot smaller, is perfect for shallow or restricted waters,” he said.

According to him, the company ensured that the Lagos port buoyage system remains intact and efficient since inception, while all buoys are refurbished every two years and any damage is repaired within 24 hours.

“LCM has also strove to improve Aids to Navigation, including the re-instatement of shore beacons and the upgrading of the entrance channel buoys with active AIS transporter,” Fuchs said.

“While LCM is now relatively well established, our continued belief is that with the co-operation of the concessionaires and private jetty operators, we will not only achieve the stated objectives for which we were created, but also surpass them. Already, dredging done in the last 12 years exceeds what had previously been done in the last 40 years, and our goal is to continue on that note, and put Lagos on a par with other major hub ports throughout the world,” he added.

The BCC on its part said the joint venture has complemented the technical capacity of NPA with regards to the maintenance and capital dredging of the channels. The company’s dredging of the Bonny Channel has made it possible to maintain draught at 14.3m.

In 2009, the BCC dredged the Bonny Channel from fairway buoy to KP27.5 to a depth of 13.8m, which enabled the Nigeria LNG limited (NLNG), to operate round the clock, seven days a week with no tidal restrictions. Then in 2011, the BCC deepened the channel even further to accommodate larger vessels

The Chief Executive, BCC, Kristian Faber, said: “The work has been carried out in a cost-effective way based on the fact that competitive rates charged to NPA are more or less within the same range with that of third party jobs carried out by the BCC as per transfer pricing preliminary works done by PricewaterhouseCoopers on transfer pricing documents,”

As a result of the Company’s Dredging operations, Faber said the WAFMAX vesselin 2013, was able to enter the Onne Port, and since then has continued to enter the Port. In order to accommodate the WAFMAX vessel, (the biggest vessel to date to enter the Port), technical studies were required as well as dredging the approach channel and parts of Onne Port.

The company is reported to have removed 14,000,000m3 of materials by capital dredging, 61,000,000m3 of material by maintenance dredging, installed and monitored 83 buoys, removed 45 wrecks and invested over 6,000 hours in training and knowledge transfer.

According to Faber, BCC has strived to ensure safe navigation at the required depth and this has led to an increase in maritime traffic. This has also transformed into more revenue for the NPA.

The company has also pledged to support the NPA in establishing the Port Training Institute. With the provision of 50 per cent of the fund required for the purchase and installation of the simulator for the centre.

The NPA Managing Director, Ms. Hadiza Bala Usman, had confirmed to a team from the Oxford Business Group, United Kingdom that Nigerian ports needed to improve on their operational efficiencies.

She stated: “We need to be sure that the infrastructure we have is able to address the needs of the vessels that come into the country. We have noted some errors about our channel management that we need to expand on. We have channel designs in the Lagos pilotage area that we are looking at expanding to ensure that the drafts are deep enough to accommodate big vessels, and the berth locations are strong enough in terms of infrastructure to take such large vessels in.”

She also acknowledged that the LCM had removed about 100 critical wrecks in the Lagos Channels since the Authority’s partnership with it began years ago.“This is indeed a milestone in the efforts to improve Port efficiency, safety of navigation and in order to boost the good fortune of the organization and the community at large. The partnership with the LCM has helped to bring the depth of the channels to more than 13.5 metres,” she pointed out, stressing that “the biggest of the WAFMAX series of vessels would soon be calling, regularly at the Lagos Ports.”