By Kenneth Jukpor
As the Federal Government flagged-off the removal of wrecks nationwide, experts have posited that the metal wastes in the nation’s waterways could produce over 200,000 tonnes of steel worth over N30billion.
The Minister of Transportation, Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, who presided over the commissioning of the project in Lagos today, stated that the activity buttresses the government’s commitment to safe navigation and hitch-free shipping activities.
Noting that legal issues may ensue with ship-owners who have abandoned their vessels on the nation’s waterways, the Transport Minister stressed that the courts would have to mandate such operators to remove such rust buckets or have them evacuated by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
Speaking at the event, the Director General of NIMASA, Dr. Bashir Jamoh thanked the Federal Executive Council (FEC) and the Transport Minister for the approval for the wreck removal, even as he expressed
Jamoh commended the Minister for the notable accomplishments in the nation’s maritime sector in recent times, stressing that the recent favourable rating of the Nigerian maritime domain and the entire Gulf of Guinea (GOG) by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) as a reflection of his efforts with the Deep Blue Project and other initiatives.
His words: “The Deep Blue Project and this current flag-off of wreck removal are just some of the numerous achievements of the sector under the Minister. For several years, wrecks have become a major impediment in the maritime sector and I thank the FEC and the Minister of Transportation for the drive which led to this milestone.”
While assuring the shipping industry that NIMASA would remain committed to its obligations on safety and serene shipping environment, the NIMASA boss enjoined industry stakeholders to all play a role in ensuring safety and safer waters.
“Safety is an obligation that we owe all operators within the nation’s maritime sector. Safety is also at the core of our international obligations at the International Maritime Organization (IMO). Nevertheless, safety is a business of every shipping stakeholder. Look around and you would find ship scraps scattered around. We shouldn’t leave these ships floating around and posing dangers to navigation. Hoodlums could also hide there and attack ship operators and seafarers,” he added.
The NIMASA boss also urged ship owners to stop acquiring ships that have almost outlived their lifespan, stating that such crafts would end up as derelicts sinking in the waterways and posing navigational and security challenges.
“We must stop acquiring defective vessels that end up sinking in our waters. The impending disbursement of the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund (CVFF) would also help in the acquisition of new functional vessels that wouldn’t end up as wrecks on Nigerian waters,” he said.
According to him, some littoral state governments like Bayelsa State has reached an agreement with the agency to provide counterpart funding, while the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) has provided its foundry even as NIMASA has reached an agreement with a private company from South Africa to process the waste into useful items.
Meanwhile, the acting Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Mr. Mohammed Bello-Koko opined that wreck removal should commence with critical wrecks that are within 1km from the nation’s ports.
He, however, stressed that abandoned vessels today become wrecks in the near future and noted the need for a legal provision to enable NIMASA to auction such abandoned water crafts.
Bello-Koko expressed delight at the agency’s strategy to explore the value-chain with the wrecks via recycling, adding that it would create job opportunities for Nigeria’s teeming youths.
Earlier, the Managing Director of Raji Industries, Mr. Nasir Malik had revealed that Nigerian waterways currently house wrecks capable of producing over 200,000 tonnes of steel estimated to be worth about N30billion.
Malik said that his company which specializes in making steel doors and other companies of similar profiles would explore the opportunity to access wrecks as raw materials for their production.