Nigeria sees opportunity in waterways wreck removal
The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, has said the removal of wrecks worth billions of naira from the country’s waterways would attract more investment opportunities to the maritime sector.
Amaechi stated this at the flag-off of the national wreck removal exercise along Badagry creek in Lagos by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
The minister said the creative venture of clearing the nation’s waters of wrecks and derelicts, apart from guaranteeing better safety of navigation, offers business opportunities for many investors.
He added that this would help the Federal Government’s economic diversification drive and enhance Nigeria’s standing within the global maritime community.
“Wherever there is no safe navigation, commercial vessels would not want to go there because it would damage their vessels. I have assured the NIMASA Director-General that we would go back to the cabinet to seek funds for the removal of wrecks in the other parts of the country. At the end of the day, we would look at a broader picture of Nigerian waterways so that it would not be about Lagos alone,” the Minister said.
Speaking also, the NIMASA Director-General, Bashir Jamoh, said the successful removal of the wrecks would restore confidence in Nigerian waters and eliminate obstacles to smooth safe and profitable navigation.
Jamoh said the commencement of the wreck removal exercise was another milestone in the incremental achievement of the new strategy of the current management of NIMASA anchored on maritime safety, maritime security, and shipping development.
He said these wrecks inhibit the operation of shipping companies, which constantly strive to increase efficiency in order to remain in business, noting that most of the shipping companies usually avoid operating or investing in areas where navigational hazards are identified due to high insurance premium charges.
He said with the elimination or reduction of the costs associated with insurance, survey and charting of wrecks, as well as the cost of shipping would drop to the benefit of mariners and other stakeholders in the maritime industry.
On the benefits of the wreck removal exercise, Jamoh, said it would be derived upon completion of the exercise, which would be extended to other areas of maritime core functions, such as search and rescue services, Cabotage monitoring, as well as prevention and mitigation of marine pollution.
Jamoh further reiterated that the recycling of wrecks and derelicts that would be recovered during the wreck removal exercise would be done in partnership with the Bayelsa State Government and the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), which already has a Foundry in Lagos for wrecks recycling, with the ultimate aim of creating wealth from waste while providing jobs for Nigerians.
Speaking on turning waste to wealth, an investor in ship recycling, the Managing Director of Raji Industries, Abdulnasir Raji, expressed readiness to buy the wrecks from NIMASA and use them for raw materials for building infrastructures.
He said: “There are about 200 wrecks on the Lagos waterways, each of them is about 5,000 tons, making about 200,000tons of iron and steel lying at the bottom of the Lagos waterways with a value of over N30 billion. If Nigeria would allow it, we would like to buy some of the wrecks to recycle and use it internally for Nigerian industries.”
Speaking on the safety of navigation, the Acting Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) Muhammed Bello-Koko, assured that his agency is in full support of the wreck removal, urging NIMASA to identify critical wrecks that are most likely getting into the channel as soon as possible.
He lamented that one of the issues in recent times is that the owners of the abandoned vessels on the waters go to court when the notices to remove their vessels are issued.
He said: “There are lots of vessels abandoned on the Nigerian waterways, and the vessel abandoned today could be the wreck tomorrow, so, there should be data of all the abandoned vessels. Notice should be given to owners of the vessels to either take them away, or there should be a legal framework that would allow us to auction them.”
In his goodwill message, the President of the Ship Owners Association of Nigeria (SOAN) Dr. McGeorge Onyung, urged the Minister of Transportation to pay more attention to the maritime sector, especially as foreigners are making huge profits from the nation’s sector.
According to him, 11 giant international shipping companies, in the first two quarters of 2021 alone, have made a profit of not less than $50billion from freight collection, and Nigeria cannot afford to be an onlooker.