NPA, NIMASA Collaborate On Wreck Removal, Spend N3.4bn On Project


The simmering cold war between the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency(NIMASA), may have ended with the current efforts of the two regulatory bodies to work together to clear the nation’s waterways of ship wrecks.

The long fight between the two agencies over who to assume the responsibility of wrecks removal was settled by the erstwhile Minister of Transport, Alhaji Yusuf Sulaiman, before his forced exit.

Prior to the dispute resolution, NPA and NIMASA have each laid claim on the statutory responsibility of removing the ship wrecks from the waterways. Both organisations were right in their claims as their respective extant laws from which they drew their life gave them the statutory powers on the subject.

This case of overlapping functions therefore greatly impeded the process of clearing the waterways of derelicts as the agencies were working at cross-purposes and to restore sanity to the uncoordinated efforts of the two warring government parastatals, the former minister ordered them to stop the exercise while he inaugurated a committee to harmonise the wreck removal exercise which has now become a lucrative business.

Before his exit, Sulaiman resolved the differences between the two agencies when he gave the wreck removal exercise to NPA and the custody of the recovered derelicts to NIMASA and as a result of the delineation of functions, the Federal Government approved N3.2 billion for the NPA to remove 31 critical wrecks discovered within the Lagos channel while it should hand over the recovered debris to NIMASA for warehousing.

Michael Ajayi, the General Manager, Public Affairs of the NPA, told P.M. NEWS that 70 per cent of the exercise has been done.

According to him, “Lagos Channel Company (LCC), was given the contract to remove the 31 critical wrecks considered dangerous to safe navigation in the Lagos channel. The contract duration is 500 days and the contractors have so far spent 300 days within which they achieved 70 per cent completion of the job. It is our fervent hope that the remaining 30 per cent would be achieved with the remaining 200 days.”

By implication, an estimated 22 of such critical wrecks have so far been removed, leaving nine which are expected to be recovered within the stipulated period of 200 days.

The NPA image maker further stated that the wreck removal exercise has enhanced safe navigation in the Lagos waters and further deepened its draft from initial 11.5 metres to 14 metres.

“The impact of this exercise, even though not yet completed, is enormous. The draft of the channel has been deepened which can now accommodate bigger vessels. Do not forget that the 4,500 Teu capacity WAFMAX container vessel owned by Merskline which called at the Lagos port not long ago was as a result of the improved depth of the channel,” Ajayi enthused.

Meanwhile, NIMASA is eagerly awaiting the reception of the recovered wrecks from NPA for disposal.

Hajia Lami Tumaka, Deputy Director, Public Relations of the agency told P.M. NEWS that in keeping with the mandate of the minister, NIMASA will take custody of the wrecks and dispose them accordingly.

However, the cost of disposing the recovered wrecks is yet to be determined, but it is expected to run into another  billions of naira.

Maritime experts observed that the huge cost of wreck removal and disposal was the factor which underpinned the scramble for the soul of the exercise between the two sister organisations.

“You can imagine if only one agency is allowed to remove and dispose the wrecks? The exercise is a cash cow, but the minister is wise enough to divide the task between the two agencies to bring the desired peace and focus to the exercise which is crucial to safe navigation,” a master mariner based in Lagos said.

Temisan Omatseye, the former Director-General of NIMASA, had once lamented the high frequency of abandoned vessels on the nation’s waters. He had fingered long dispute resolutions and adjudication among parties in shipping business as the major factor responsible for high incidence of abandonment of ships on the Nigerian waters, which invariably become decomposed and constitute menace to safe navigation.

Omatseye observed that if disputes arising out of shipping business are resolved quickly, there would be less incidence of ship abandonment and the huge money expended on removing them after they have become wrecks could be channelled towards other productive ventures.

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