Shipside Drydock: Boosting Nigeria’s maritime local content narrative

‘’The maritime industry is a goldmine. However, in Nigeria, it is a goldmine that has remained largely untapped because, to a large extent, an integral part of the industry – shipping development – has been dogged by challenges over a long time. No country can hope to participate and derive full economic benefits from the maritime sector without strong footing in shipping development. In fact, shipping development is a major determinant of a country’s strength in the maritime sector.’’- Bashir Jimoh, D-G, NIMASA

However, to be called a maritime nation, there must be the availability of a vibrant ship repair and shipbuilding activity. Despite controlling about 70 percent of shipping and international trade in West and Central Africa, Nigeria’s lack of viable dry docks is costing the country billions of naira.

With the International Maritime Organisations (IMO) stating that every vessel must do dry-docking as 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 in the country.

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

He said Dry docks being an integral part of the shipping business are established to conserve foreign exchange, build indigenous capacity as well as promote technological advancemen.

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 5000-ton capacity floating dock, gotten from Damen Shipyards, Holland, that has positioned it, not only to be a leader in the maritime sector of the Nigerian market but it is set to be the West African dry-docking hub for ship repairs and maintenance.

The indigenous dry dock company with 96 percent of its workforce being Nigerians in a boost to local content and the economic growth of the country, was said to have surveyed before investing millions of dollars into its facility after the report shows that 70 percent of the vessels plying West African coast are of 5,000-ton capacity, which further affirms that the market size for the ship repair yard was huge.

Shipside’s floating dock, at the Okirika Creek, Port Harcourt, measures 110 meters in length, with external and internal beams of 32 and 26 meters respectively, and a maximum lifting capacity of 5,000 tonnes. 

The Deputy Managing Director (DMD) and Business Lead, Shipside Drydock Limited, Sunday Esezobor stated at a recent virtual interview that it intended to change the narrative in Nigeria’s maritime industry with its quality and prompt delivery of projects, against the notion that Nigeria’s drydock sector is incapacitated by various challenges which has prevented it from contributing to the nation’s economy. 

Esezobor stated it wants to change the trajectory of local dockyard operators from being perceived to be operationally incapacitated, to rejig the sector to live up to its billings as a strong contributor to government coffers with its prompt offering, and on referrals from its army of satisfied clients, impressed by its quality and timely project delivery, which has propelled it to a market leadership position within its seven years of operation.

He said 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, thus helping to conserve the scarce foreign exchange.

According to him, with a committed and dedicated workforce whose welfare is made a priority and a vibrant stakeholder management practice in place, added to a company culture where the customer is king, more ship owners will continue to patronize Shipside Drydock, to not only grow the industry but also save scarce foreign exchange (FX) for the country.

He said, ‘’Our growth is also attributed to the vision of our founder and Chairman, Dr. Ernest Azudialu-Obiejesi who took steps to reduce the nightmares ship owners go through by investing millions of Dollars in the eight different workshops at our Ultra-Modern Repair Facility in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, the heart of the Niger Delta where we repair and maintain vessels for different clients.”

According to Bashir Jamoh, the Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), ‘’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’’.

Esezobor agrees as he 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 (OEM) are encouraged to set up shop in the country, a scenario he affirms will reduce capital flights as the Marine Ship Owners will stop going abroad for maintenance and repairs of their ships and vessels.

Like other players in the sector, he calls on the government to develop and make the steel industry operational, as the steel industry will be critical to the establishment and growth of shipbuilding in the country.

Looking towards the future, he said they are poised to be the leading dry docking hub in West Africa with their exceptional service delivery and skilled workforce. This, he asserted, 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.

About Shipside Dry dock Limited

Shipside Dry dock Limited is one of the subsidiaries of Obijackson Group, one of Sub-Saharan Africa’s fastest growing conglomerates and is located on the Okirika Creek in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria. Shipside Dry dock is a maintenance and repair facility that houses eight (8) state of the art workshops for total maintenance and repair of all types of Marine and Offshore Vessels.

Shipside Drydock Limited is managed by a team of seasoned professionals with a mix of expatriates and highly qualified Nigerians. The facility has grown to become a dependable resource in the West African maritime industry through service excellence.

Its repair and maintenance facilities are tailored towards ensuring safe working conditions, competitive prices, short lead times, high quality workmanship and overall reliability in the service to its clients.

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