Nigerian dredging summit criticize lack of training and skills acquisition.
Indigenous dredging stakeholders who gathered for this year’s Nigerian dredging summit bemoaned the lack of targeted training to raise skilled deckhands, engineers and dredgemasters in the industry. Prof Akintonwa Alade, managing director of Toxicology Research Laboratories at Ikeja in Lagos was the first to alert the audience about the dangerous lack of skilled professionals in the industry. He identified most of those now operating as those who worked with big multinational dredging or construction companies and hardly take time off to refresh their skills. Delivering a lecture on “Remediation and Eco-dredging as an emerging aspect of dredging in Nigeria”, Prof Alade urged a collaboration between the industry and the universities in the country towards fashioning a programme of training in various skills needed in the industry.
Engr Ben Efekarurhobo delivered two lectures over two days. The first was an overview of Nigeria’s dredging industry and how to manage operations in that industry. The second dwelt on how to safely and profitably operate dredging activities in the Niger Delta despite the intermittent flashes of communal disturbances. A retired navy officer, a surveyor by trade, Mr John Chukwu, drew much rapt attention when he taught the participants what to look out for in obtaining a sand search report. His counterpart in dredge maintenance, Engr Sunday Otuya, lectured on why dredge owners must not allow their equipment to work on end without adequate maintenance and overhaul. For Engr Akin Olaniyan, the chief executive officer of International Naval Survey Bureau, safety is an imperative even in the dredging industry. He pointed out that there was a high failure rate of Nigerian dredge owners when it comes to obtaining survey reports of their dredgers, noting that many do not even know that they ought to carry out class assessments of their dredgers when the time falls due. Mr Billy Ashogbon delivered a paper on why loan applications for dredger and allied dredging equipment fail and remedies for future transactions. He counseled all applicants to save up equity contributions of about 15% if they hoped to arouse considerable interest from the banks.
From Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) came a large delegation to this dredge summit. The company sponsored not less than 15 staff from five of their indigenous dredging contractors. The team was led by none other than the head of Shell’s dredging department, Mr Simbi Wabote. In his lecture, Mr Wabote took on the whole gamut of activities that the company engages in on the hydrocarbon fields and even topics like preparing tenders, the involvements and requirements by SPDC of applicant companies and what happens after a successful completion of an awarded job. It was an enlightening experience.
Overall, participants from the US came from dredge manufacturing and vending companies and the banking sector: Ellicott Dredges, Dredging Supply Company, Nationwide Equipment and Pioneer Equipment. From them came much information about dredgers and equipment now being put on the market for operators of Nigerian dredging industry. Ellicott confided in us that they had just modeled a range of new dredgers just for the Nigerian market and terrain. But although we urged Paul, Ellicott’s sales director, to reveal these models during his lecture time, he chose to do a general talk on the basic rudiments of dredging as a business – an approach that won him a round applause when Mr Temile of E A Temile & Sons praised him for doing this instead of promoting his company’s products! As usual in these kinds of gathering, finance is a key topic and a factor that could not be ignored. Ben Akuete from M&T Bank of Baltimore brought a lecture that threw much light on how to source funds from the US Exim Bank. He mentioned 17 Nigerian banks that are already pre-approved to handle EXIM Bank transactions. The Nigerian banks were represented at the event by only Access Bank and First Bank. While Access Bank sponsored the event through adverts and participation, First Bank registered an attendance and contributed to explaining all that takes place in the convoluted processes needed to secure funding for dredge and equipment purchases. Further, Access bank got the opportunity to inform the audience about how it is positioned to serve operators who desire to take out loans from their institution. To give operators more confidence in the system, Mr Dada Ganiyu brought in the angle of leveraging these loans via his company, Kofar International Company, which runs consultancy services for credit purchases from the USA. He came to the event in league with DSC and M&T Bank. All said, every participant praised the gathering as a timely intervention.
Suffice it to say that the four major US dealers on dredgers and dredge equipment manned booths at the summit. They had the opportunity to display their banners and give out flyers and memorabilia and got to take on questions, comments and discussions from all and sundry. It was a meeting of minds and as one commentator remarked, it was a unique opportunity to talk to US dredge manufacturers and vendors face to face, a feat that is not quite so successful by telephone and email. To assist their delivery, they all got an opportunity to do Powerpoint presentations that elevated the profile of imparted knowledge. The hue and cry however remained training and re-training at every level of the Nigerian industry.
Instead of much verbosity, we have chosen to capture the moments of this year’s dredge summit in pictures which can be found in the extensive picture gallery segment in this edition.