• Friday, September 29, 2023
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How Shipside Drydock plans to end losses to capital flight in vessel repair

How Shipside Drydock plans to end losses to capital flight in vessel repair

Nigeria’s maritime industry holds many opportunities that are largely untapped. This has partly been due to a lack of capacity to drive shipping development.

Experiences have shown that no country can participate and derive full economic benefits from the maritime sector without a strong footing in shipbuilding and ship repair. On that note, pundits said that to be called a maritime nation, the country in question must have viable ship repair and shipbuilding facilities.

Sadly, despite controlling about 70 percent of shipping and international trade in West and Central Africa, Nigeria lacks viable dry dock facilities, which is costing the country billions of naira in capital flight.

This was why Bashir Jamoh, director-general of Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) recently said that shipping development is a major determinant of a country’s strength in the maritime sector.

With the International Maritime Organization (IMO) stating that every vessel must do dry-docking at least once every three years to enable them to retain their safety classification and insurance cover, and Nigerian ship owners affirming that it costs between $300,000 and $500,000 to dry-dock a vessel, it is simple to see how the economy is losing several billions of naira due to the shortage of dry-docking facilities to dry dock the over 6000 vessels sailing into and within the country.

Dry-docking is a term used for repairs or when a ship is taken out of water for repairs or servicing. During dry-docking, the ship is brought to dry land so that the submerged portions of the hull can be cleaned, inspected, or repaired as might be required.

Aside from the amount paid to dry dock, it costs between $500,000 to $1.8 million, depending on the size of the vessel to tow a vessel to Singapore or other destinations for dry docking, all adding to the amount lost by shipping companies that are doing business in Nigeria.

Aside from the capital flight, Drydocking of vessels outside the country hinders the country’s opportunities for skill and technology transfer and the continuation of this practice means that Nigeria will never improve its capacity to repair vessels, which in turn diminishes the possibility of shipbuilding in the country.

According to Greg Ogbeifun, former president of Ship Owners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), if the potential of the ship repair sector were properly harnessed, the sector could drive technology acquisition, training opportunities for specialized professionals, and employment generation.

“Dry docking facilities being an integral part of the shipping business are established in-county to conserve foreign exchange, build indigenous capacity as well as promote technological advancement,” Ogbeifun said.

Read also: Shipside Drydock overhauls over 400 vessels in seven years

This was the situation that Shipside Drydock, a subsidiary of the Nestoil Group came to mitigate when it opened its doors and started operations in August 2015 with its state-of-the-art workshop, a 5,000-ton capacity floating dock, measuring 110 meters in length, with external and internal beams of 32 and 26 meters respectively.

Situated at the Okirika Creek, Port Harcourt, the facility has been positioned to not only be a leader in the maritime sector in Nigeria but to be a hub for ship repairs and maintenance in the West African sub region.

Sunday Esezobor, deputy managing director, Shipside Drydock Limited (Shipside), said in a recent virtual interview with newsmen that it intended to change the narrative in Nigeria’s maritime industry with its quality and prompt delivery of projects and also play its role in contributing to the nation’s economy.

He added that the floating dockyard has been a cost-saver for ship owners by reducing the rate at which they tow their vessels abroad for repairs, as Shipside Drydock has serviced over 400 vessels since it began operations.

According to him, having a committed and dedicated workforce whose welfare is made a priority, enables the company to give ship owners a continued quality service, which will grow the industry and also save scarce foreign exchange (FX) for the country.

“Our growth is also attributed to the vision of our founder and chairman, Ernest Azudialu-Obiejesi, who took steps to reduce the nightmares ship owners go through by investing heavily into the eight different workshops at our ultra-modern repair facility in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, where we repair and maintain vessels for different clients.”

Recall that Jamoh, the director-general said: “Maritime is one sector that has the potential to become the country’s cash cow. Again, a fully developed and vibrant shipping industry can reduce the queue in the country’s labour market because of the hundreds of thousands of jobs it can create. All that is required to kick start the drive to make the maritime sector realise its full potential is adequate funding of activities in the sector.”

Confirming this, Esezobor said the ship repair and maintenance sector has the potential to create more jobs if spare parts are made available in the country, and if the Original Equipment Manufacturers are encouraged to set up shop in the country.

This, he said, will reduce capital flights as the ship owners will stop going abroad for maintenance and repairs of their vessels.

Looking toward the future, he said Shipside is poised to be the leading dry-docking hub in West Africa with its exceptional service delivery and skilled workforce. To him, this will be of great economic advantage to the country as more revenue will be earned.

With over 6,000 ships calling at the Nigerian ports annually, over 400 active coastal vessels, and several fishing trawlers, the demand for ship repair and maintenance facilities can only be on the rise. This is a goldmine that should be tapped which is what Shipside Drydock aims to do.