• Sunday, June 16, 2024
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Safeguarding the wealth of the oceans for prosperity

Safeguarding the wealth of the oceans for prosperity

The ocean covers over 70 percent of the earth’s surface, and it acts as a huge storage facility for minerals, oil and other sources of food. As the world population grows, the land shrinks and becomes more crowded, mineral resources are depleted, environmental pollution rises and food-producing capacity is increasingly strained, it’s reasonable that humans will look towards the sea as a new frontier to explore and conquer.

But the wealth of the oceans has to be protected as it represents humanity’s last chance for survival at a time when there is a shortfall in revenues. Perhaps, It is against this backdrop that the Nigerian Navy organized a maritime discourse centred on man, machine and processes in order to appraise its fleet readiness for national prosperity.

The maritime discourse was at the recently concluded Presidential Fleet Review themed “Fleet Readiness For National Prosperity” which showcased their capability to perform diplomatic, policing and military roles.

The 2023 Presidential Fleet Review had new ships and helicopters on display in the harbour and also featured the participation of naval ships from friendly navies. I was not surprised with the participation of foreign ships because partnership is key to global maritime security as no single nation can protect the wealth of the oceans. Remarkably, the Nigerian Airforce exhibited its competence in the maritime air domain through impressive aerial displays of some aircraft in its fleet.

The 5-day Presidential Fleet Review was a hive of activity. On the first day, there was a maritime discourse for almost three hours on topical issues covering training, logistics, fleet maintenance and naval doctrine. I had the honour of participating as one of the key discussants to analyze the perspective on “fleet maintenance and prosperity.” Fleet maintenance is a crucial matter in naval operations and it was a rare privilege to lend my voice to contemporary issues on the theme.

The number of naval ships in the Nigerian Navy has increased and it’s remarkable to witness the tremendous progress made in the fleet renewal and shipbuilding program of the Nigerian Navy. In naval warfare, a number of ships count but they must be “mission capable.”

The decision to undertake shipbuilding projects and renew the fleet in the Nigerian Navy was made about 15 years ago. In 2007 and 2010 to be precise. In 2007, the first indigenously built Seaward Defence Boat, NNS ANDONI was conceptualized and planned. In 2010, a large-scale fleet audit was conducted to determine the gaps in the Nigerian Navy’s Fleet.

This year’s celebration is a testament to the unwavering commitment to consistent ship acquisition and fleet renewal programs coupled with exceptional leadership in the Navy. It would be remiss not to acknowledge the Federal Government and the people of Nigeria for their unwavering support to the Navy, which has contributed to the success of this worthy cause.

The efforts of the Nigerian Navy over the years are worthy of commendation as they are undoubtedly a naval force to be reckoned with in sub-Saharan Africa. The Navy’s responsibility to safeguard the wealth of the ocean is crucial in guaranteeing national prosperity. Hence, the Navy’s fleet must be ever-ready to ensure national security and aid economic growth.

When it comes to naval prowess, readiness and maintenance capacity go hand in hand. We cannot ignore fine-tuning our logistics capabilities and training of our officers and ratings. It is crucial that our naval ships are “mission capable,” with the ability to float, move and fight. I eagerly anticipate the day when the Nigerian Navy’s fleet renewal and shipbuilding program will further ignite industrial growth and multiply economic opportunities in the country.

Maintenance capacity encompasses a range of factors, including the quality and quantity of naval engineering staff, the establishment of a dedicated engineering outfit for ship maintenance, and the modernization of maintenance facilities among others.

Though capital intensive, modernization and expansion of maintenance facilities from shipyards, to dockyards, to fleet support groups’ slipways are achievable through a phased and prioritized ten-year program, which includes an audit of maintenance facilities and resources to ensure vessel readiness. Training schools should also be a focus, with a curriculum, facilities, and instructors of the highest calibre.

The will of leadership and staff is vital, as success in any endeavour is directly related to capability. Sustained Research and Development (R&D) efforts are crucial, and we must not be deterred by costs, risks, or uncertainties associated with the endeavour.

We must avoid what a former Chief of the Naval Staff of the Nigerian Navy, Admiral P.S Koshoni, of blessed memory referred to as a “logistics logjam” because everything in naval warfare is hinged on logistics! logistics! and logistics!

There are economic benefits and burdens of fleet maintenance. Time, cost and safety are critical factors that are at play here. If the timing is right in the maintenance of a ship, cost is reduced and safety of the ship and crews is guaranteed. Then we will have economic benefits of fleet maintenance.

Conversely, if maintenance of ships is delayed, timing is lost, cost implication is high and safety of ships and crews may not be guaranteed. Thus, fleet maintenance will be an economic burden. A ship must not breakdown before repairs because of high cost implications and it takes longer time to repair.

Assessing the economic implications of fleet maintenance involves weighing the cost of maintaining equipment before and after it fails. While preventive maintenance is crucial, we must begin to shift our focus to predictive maintenance to reap economic benefits and prevent catastrophic losses.

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To shift from preventive to predictive maintenance, operational and maintenance-related data become the lifeblood. Such data can include crucial information on ship engine performance, generator and auxiliary systems, fuel and lubricant usage, environmental conditions like sea temperature and weather patterns, performance of shipboard navigation and communication devices, as well as data on crew management and training. Without access to such vital data, predictive maintenance would be an unattainable goal.

By having access to critical data about the ship’s performance, we can anticipate potential issues before they occur, allowing us to take preemptive action and minimize costly downtime. Today, the Navy may not be where it ought to be with fleet maintenance and readiness, but there is always room for improvement.

I am convinced beyond measure that our officers and ratings have the capacity to perform brilliantly well when motivated. It’s on this score that I say Kudos to the Nigerian Navy. Wishing you all fair wind and following sea. Onward together! Thank you.