There is an unprecedented lull in oil and gas activities at the Onne Oil and Gas Free Zone, resulting to a big downturn in shipping and maritime businesses.
At the Federal Lighter Terminal (FLT) and the Federal Ocean Terminal (FOT) of the Onne Free Zone in Rivers State, scores of vessels lay idle in the water with no jobs to do.
Also, a shipbuilder and ship repairer in the zone, West Atlantic Shipyard (WAS) is experiencing its worst time ever since the company debuted in the zone.
A free zone source said there are no jobs for the vessels.
“The recession is affecting everything maritime. Oil and gas output are currently very low and of course the activities of the Niger Delta militants are affecting oil and gas production,” the source said.
In the past, WAS had managed to build over 43 light vessels but the yard now lay largely empty, doing a few repairs on an accidented vessel.
“The problem is that people don’t find it attractive to build vessels in Nigeria because of duties paid on built vessels which do not operate in the free zone. Shipbuilders prefer to invest overseas to cut a lot of cost we face here,” said WAS’ marketing and public relations officer, Juliet Oji.
Meanwhile, the Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr Dakuku Peterside has expressed enthusiasm and willingness to support the shipbuilding industry, saying the agency will “roll out initiatives on how to support the shipbuilding businesses and ensure that FPSOs, FSOs and Rigs remain within the purview of the NIMASA’s responsibilities.
“I am happy to know that shipbuilding and dry docking are now in Onne. I am very excited about this. it is NIMASA’s mandate to protect the shipbuilding industry too and ensure that the business grows. In the days ahead, we will roll out initiatives on how to support the shipbuilding businesses and ensure that FPSOs, FSOs and Rigs remain within the purview of the NIMASA’s responsibilities and we cannot abdicate that responsibility,” Peterside said.
He further directed WAS to send the agency a proposal on how the government can be of help to the shipbuilders in the country in order to develop the industry.
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