The nation’s waterways are filled with shipwrecks. In this report OLUWAKEMI DAUDA looks at efforts by the maritime agencies to clear the wrecks and scraps and how they could be turned into money spinning materials in the steel industry.
Worried by the huge number of wrecks and derelicts impeding navigation and economic loss on Nigerian Waterways, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) have agreed to allow the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) remove them from the water channels.
Shipwreck is the remains of a ship found either beached on land or sunken to the bottom of a body of water.
At least, no fewer than 120 ship wrecks and derelicts are impeding smooth navigation on the coastline and waterways. The United Nations (UN) has estimated that there are more than three million shipwrecks on the ocean floor globally.
NIMASA Director-General, Dr Bashir Jamoh, has warned local and international ship owners to stop abandoning their vessels or dumping wrecked ships or face sanctions.
Findings revealed that the wrecks had become haven for pirates, miscreants who attacked legitimate vessels and fishing trawlers sailing on the country’s water channels. The wrecks have been threatening maritime trade and investment worth of several billions of dollars.
The three maritime agencies have statutory power to remove wrecks on the water channels.
For instance, Section 32 of the NIMASA Act empowers it to remove wrecks from territorial waters, while NIWA Act Section 9 and the NPA Act, Section 7 give the two agencies powers too on wreck removal.
About 50 per cent of the wrecks and derelicts are said to be domiciled In Lagos alone, while the others are spread across Delta, Onne, Rivers and Calabar port channels.
Lagos State is one of the major water channels hosting some wrecks and derelicts in its seabed.
However, Jamoh said the three agencies have the powers to remove wrecks from the waterways.
At a meeting in Lagos, he said: “I and the managing director of the NPA agreed that NIMASA should go ahead and remove wrecks from our territorial waterways. We have made a presentation to the Federal Ministry of Transportation and I think by now, our approval should be with the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP). After a ‘no objection’ from the BPP, we will have to go to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) to get final approval for the wreck removal.
“You can see that the three Acts establishing NIWA, NPA and NIMASA give all of us the powers to remove wrecks. But neither the managing director of the NPA nor the managing director of NIWA is contesting over who should remove wrecks. They have allowed NIMASA to go ahead with these efforts in making our waterways safer for navigation.”
Jamoh stressed that the Ministerial Tenders Board had approved NIMASA’s request to remove wrecks, adding that the request was with BPP for a no objection nod.
An environmentalist, Prince David Omaghomi, also called for the enforcement of laws against dumping of wrecked ships on the Nigerian coastline.
Omaghomi, an Executive Director, Eco Restoration Foundation, an non-governmental organisation (NGO), which promotes the protection, restoration and conservation of coastal wetlands in Nigeria, said Nigeria had become a dumping ground for wrecked ships because people found it convenient to sink ships from other parts of the world on our coastal waters to avoid bearing the cost.
He said ship wrecks had caused problems, which impacted negatively on the environment, hence the need to improve the Navy’s capacity on protection of the coastlines.
“We have to save our coasts by implementation of policies, legislation and providing the Nigerian Navy with enough coastal awareness to enforce Nigeria’s territorial integrity, even from environmental hazards like ship wrecks.
“Some people take insurance from insurance companies abroad, they dump the ships on the coasts of Nigeria because they are supposed to spend money on decommissioning the ship.
“When a ship has served its life time, you are supposed to take it to a dockyard and dismember it, recycle the metals, but they avoid such expenses, make money from insurance and they dump it in Nigeria where nobody cares,” he said.
To free the water channels of wrecks, NIMASA may resolve to implement Nairobi Convention on ship wrecks.
The Nairobi Convention on wreck removal of 2007, which came into force on April 14, 2015, states that if a ship is declared wreck, the country’s maritime administration should publish information to that effect.
Under the convention, the owner of the wreck is expected to remove it within a certain period and if they don’t, it is declared a wreck and the maritime administration can now remove it and the owners would pay surcharge and pick up the wreck.
It was gathered that it cost not less than $1.8million to tow a wreck from the waters. Unfortunately, the country has no ship scrapping and recycling yard to dispose the vessels.
Because of this challenge, some ship owners were forced to tow their wrecks to Asia for recycling, while those who could not afford it abandoned them in the waterways.
This, according to President of Ship Owners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Greg Ogbeifun, had made Nigeria to lose huge revenue.
He noted that some ship owners had to go to China before their ships could be scrapped, noting that ship recycling allowed materials from the ship to be made into new products.
The president added that modern ships have a lifespan of between 25 and 30 years before refitting, repair, corrosion, metal fatigue.
He stressed that lack of spare parts had rendered some of them uneconomical to operate.
Ogbeifun also said the ship recycling yards could be a panacea to revamping Nigeria’s steel industry and that a vibrant ship recycling sector would drive industrialisation.
High number of ship wrecks
He stressed that the high number of ship wrecks and scraps in the waterways could feed the steel industry as well as offer huge financial projects to the shipping, manufacturing, agriculture and service industries.
Also, the National Chairman of Marine Engineering and Naval Architecture (MENA), Charles Otuonye, explained that a vibrant ship recycling sector could drive industrialisation and create jobs.
He added that the government could make ship recycling economically viable by supporting some shipyards to carry out ship breaking.
He said: “Ship wrecks could provide steel metal which could be processed to produce ingots and billets which act as feedstock to other steel plants such as Osborne Rolling Mills for the production of profile, rods, mild steel and high tensile ribbed bars from billets.”
Experts say number of accidents recorded on the waters in recent times is huge because of the number of wrecks and derelicts on the waterways. Their removal would, therefore, lead to save navigation and reduce accident.