THE nation's apex maritime regulatory body, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and the Nigeria Naval authority may soon sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that would lead to the commercialisation of the Naval dockyard in Lagos.
The pact, when perfected, would throw open the dockyard for use by both maritime operators in the private and public sector without the usual hindrances which hitherto has made it to lie fallow.
"An authoritative source said in Lagos at the weekend that the move was in response to the challenge from the oil and gas sector, which is already looking up to the maritime sector for dry docking services for off-shore storage facilities and the numerous gas carriers in the sector.
Last week, the two organisations took the initial step towards the emergence of the MoU that would keep the Naval dockyard busy and for the sector to provide the necessary service likely to be in high demand in the next few years.
The Navy and NIMASA had already set up a joint committee to work out modalities that would make the usage of the Naval dockyard by all, a reality. The committee was inaugurated recently by the Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, Barrister Temisan Omatseye.
To Omatseye, the move was a practical step towards addressing the challenge of critical maritime infrastructure needed for the realisation of the nation's potentials in the maritime sector.
The new initiative, he said, would give the private and public sectors the opportunity of partnership for the provision of commercial services as it is in Ghana and India.
He therefore restated NIMASA's commitment to the upgrading, expansion and modernisation of the Naval dockyard facilities and to provide competitive service to the shipping community on commercial basis.
Besides, he commended the Nigerian Navy for accepting to partner NIMASA and the private sector in the development of shipping in Nigeria, adding that the new development was a practical demonstration of the commitment of the Naval high command to the development of the maritime sector through purposeful collaboration.
"We are convinced that if we succeed in this project, the impact and outcome will have far reaching implications on Nigerian maritime fortune, especially in the realisation of the policy objectives of the cabotage.
The Navy Chief Planning Officer, Rear Admiral Syvester Umorsen, who was also in Lagos few days ago for the inauguration of the Joint Navy and NIMASA Committee on the dockyard said the Navy accepted a collaborative relationship over the dockyard in the interest of commercial shipping in Nigeria.
He said since the dockyard was established at decades ago, no major infrastructural development has taken place, adding that the under-utilised dockyard was bigger that the facilities at Snake Island.
According to him, the planned upgrading and commercialisation in collaboration with NIMASA and private sector has since been approved by the Ministry of Defence.
While describing the partnership as a move in the right direction, the Naval Chief Planning Officer said the Navy would be willing to allow its dockyard in Port Harcourt to be exposed to the same model, especially if the planned model for the Lagos dockyard was successful.
The government had in 2007 planned to use the Naval dockyard and other accredited dockyards in the country for its ships repair and maintenance scheme under which government was to bear 70 per cent cost of repair while ship owners were to produce only 30 per cent cost of dry-docking of their vessels at the accredited shipyards.
Then, the government said it would set aside parts of the cabotage vessels financing fund for the scheme meant to promote indigenous shipping capacity in the country.
Authoritative sources said then that government would like to use the Naval dockyard for the ship repair and maintenance programme.
To ensure a successful execution of the scheme, government then announced that only shipping companies duly accredited by Indigenous Ship Owners Association of Nigeria (ISAN) and Nigerian Shipping Companies Association (NSA) would benefit from the scheme. Besides accreditation, the government said the shipping companies would need to have proven track record of consistency in their operation as well as proof of engagement of Nigerian cadets on board their vessels.
The planned collaboration between NIMASA, the Navy and the private sector toward the realisation of the commercialisation of the Naval dockyard in Lagos has been described as a step in the right direction coming on the heels of the need to develop dockyards of international standards to meet the future demand for dry docking services.
Only few days ago, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Challenged the maritime sector for a standard ship yard to meet the impending growing demand for dry docking services from the oil and gas sector.
A General Executive Director with the corporation, Mr. Phillip Chukwu said at the launching of MV Osayame in Port Harcourt recently that the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas vessels, the Bonny Liquefied Natural Gas and the FPSO would soon turn to the nation's maritime sector for the dry-docking of their off-shore facilities.
"We have said repeatedly that the NLNG has a growing fleet of dozens of tankers and are being joined by NLNG, which is proposing to operate more than 12 tankers. Add to these is the fact that in a few years, our FPSOs will start plannng for dry-docking and it will become evident that we have a major challenge that must be addressed urgently because we cannot afford to sail these FPSOs back to Korea or Brazil for dry-docking. Neither can we expect to develop our own full potential if we allow our LNG tankers to be perpetually built and maintained overseas," he said.