Nigerian Navy showcases local ship building ability

The Nigerian Navy recently deployed its second indigenously built Seaward Defence Boat (SDB) NNS KARADUWA to lead the contingent to Ghana. It was more than a solidarity visit. It was indeed, a test of the Navy’s warship building capability. Precious Igbonwelundu who was on the trip reports.

The joy of every country is not just to have a military that can defend her from external aggression but also one which drives innovations and inventions that in-turn create employment for the populace. But this has eluded Nigeria for several decades with her military not only incapacitated in terms of manufacturing own weapons and driving a virile defence industry; but also stock in the web of recycling, ordering outdated hardware from Excess Defence Article of the United States of America (US) and other first world countries with throat-cutting maintenance requirements.

Thus, it came as a pleasant surprise to many on June 7, 2012, when then President Goodluck Jonathan launched NNS ANDONI, the country’s first locally built warship- a 31m SDB with a speed of 25km, armament including 30mm main gun, two 12.7mm and two 40mm Automatic Grenade Launcher (AGL) as well as an embarked RHIB.

A sea going vessel that had since its enlistment into the fleet of the NN partook in various operations and exercises; NNS ANDONI, as the pride of the nation, could however, not perform one of the major functions of navies- Port Calls to other naval forces aimed at strengthening military and diplomatic ties- a dream the NN finally realised with the successful voyage to and from Ghana, of ANDONI’s sister vessel-NNS KARADUWA-deployed alongside a fast patrol boat NNS EKULU to the West African country in celebration of the Ghanaian Navy’s 60th anniversary.

An improvement from NNS ANDONI, KARADUWA is a 38.9 meter-long boat designated as SDB II which was commissioned in December 2016 by President Muhammadu Buhari. It has a draught of 4.1m, an overall breath of 7.5m, maximum speed of 22 knots and an endurance of 12 days at a cruising speed of 12 knots. KARADUWA has a crew capacity of 37 and is armed with a remote controlled 20mm gun, six 12.7 machine guns and one 40mm AGL.

It was therefore, not out of place the fanfare that greeted the successful journey of the warships captained by Commanders Kennedy Mallum and Andrew Zidon at Sekondi and Tema Ports in Ghana on July 22 – 24, as well as the NNS BEECROFT jetty where they were warmly received on their return by the Flag Officer Commanding (FOC) Western Naval Command (WNC) Rear Admiral Oladele Daji on July 29.

Applause for Nigerian Navy

At the International Maritime Defence Exhibition and Conference (IMDEC) held in Accra, Ghana, to commemorate the country’s Navy’s 60th anniversary, the Nigerian Navy was the toast of participants for exhibiting her capacity to build warships and patrol boats that have endurance, easy to maintain and are fit-for-purpose in tackling maritime challenges in Gulf of Guinea (GOG) region.

While in Ghana, the NN ships hosted a cocktail for visiting IMDEC participants including Commander, US Naval Forces Europe and Africa, Admiral James Foggo, Commander in Chief of the Brazilian Navy Fleet, Vice Admiral Jose Menezes; Chief of Ivorian Naval Staff as well as top brass of the GN and other visiting navies from Europe, America and Africa who lauded NN’s drive and commitment in strengthening maritime defence in the GOG.

The ships also received a delegation of Nigerians resident in Ghana led by the Nigerian High Commissioner, Ambassador Femi Abikoye, who praised the NN for making the country proud, noting that the visit would no doubt foster friendly ties between both countries.

A key take-away from the journey was the expression of interest by South African, Indian and Nigerian companies to partner the NN in building Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) and other warships in Nigeria, to serve the regional market.

Commenting on the strides of the NN in ship building, Superintendent, Naval Dockyard Limited (NDL) Commodore Levi Kohath, said the service has made commendable progress, noting that the country’s plan with the acquisition of the Naval Shipyard in Port Harcourt and Naval Dockyard in Lagos was for the development of indigenous capacity in ships maintenance.

“The Federal Government’s primary objective with these strategic acquisitions was the enhancement of Nigeria’s strategic self-reliance in the maintenance of naval and merchant vessels. Today, the Naval Shipyard in Port Harcourt and Naval Dockyard in Lagos are at the forefront of local shipbuilding efforts in the country.

“While the Naval Shipyard Limited has built barges, tugboats and ferries for the Nigerian Navy and other users in the maritime industry, the Naval Dockyard Limited has constructed SDBs, Glass Reinforced Plastic boats and a house boat for the NN,” he said.

Kohath said the NDL was well equipped to take up different engineering challenges and was opened to business with the public as a limited liability company. He said the dockyard has three graving docks, a slipway, many workshops that support shipbuilding and maintenance activities.

“These include the Heavy Engineering Workshop, Mechanical Workshop, Carpentry Workshop, Steel Workshop, Platters Workshop, Foundry, Engine Test Bay, Electrical Workshop, Effectors and Arsenal Workshop amongst others.

“These facilities make the Naval Dockyard Limited an all integrated engineering enterprise that is ready to take up different engineering challenges. Being a limited liability company, the dockyard is also open to business with the public.

“The first shipbuilding activity at the NDL was the construction of the Seaward Defence Boat I (SDB I). This engineering feat was followed by the construction of SDB II and currently SDB III with a 43m length.

“The efforts of the Chief of the Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas, to promote local content in naval vessels construction paid off with the approval of the President for the construction of SDB III. The keel of the vessel was laid by President Muhammadu Buhari himself.

“The ship is currently under construction in the Twin Dock of the Naval Dockyard. The hull shell plating and superstructure are being fabricated concurrently. On completion, the vessel will be outfitted before being subjected to sea trials.

“Apart from these ships, the dockyard had previously constructed boats and tugboats for Nigerian Navy operations including undertaking other vessel construction works,” he said.

Aside the above listed, the NDL recently designed and constructed a 25-man capacity combat houseboat built to support the Choke Point Management Regime, a strategy adopted to tackle illegal oil bunkering and crude oil theft at sea.

The houseboat which was commissioned on May 31, Kohath said, was first of its kind and solely a patent of the Naval Dockyard. “Furthermore, the Dockyard in partnership with HABTOB Engineering Services is currently constructing 2 x 500 Tons self-propelled barges for the Nigerian Navy. One of the barges is being built to supply Automotive Gas Oil to naval vessels at sea while the second barge will supply fresh water.” This is projected to act as a force multiplier for the NN in her bid to continually maintain presence at sea. It is worthy to also add that the dockyard collaborated with the Epenal Group to construct more than 70 GRP Riverine Patrol Boats (RPB) with outboard engines of various sizes.

“These vessels have since been deployed for patrols within Nigeria’s maritime domain. These engineering feats demonstrate that the nation is making steady progress in her indigenous shipbuilding efforts,” said the Commodore Superintendent.

The feats recorded notwithstanding, it is believed that challenges such as inactive steel sector, epileptic power supply, low industrial/technological base and dearth of skilled manpower were impeding the growth of the defence industry sector in the country, especially with regards to ship building.

According to Kohath, the NDL relies on importation of steel sheets- an essential component in vessel construction works- to be able to deliver on set task.

“This increases cost and time on task for construction works. The reactivation of the moribund Ajaokuta Steel rolling and milling company would enhance local shipbuilding efforts in Nigeria.

“The low industrial/technological base of the country is another challenge begging for attention. No dockyard can have all the skills or equipment required to build a vessel. To thrive as an industry and conserve the much needed foreign reserves, the local industrial/technological base must be enhanced to provide specialised services.

“Currently, most of the machineries and equipment that make up ships systems are sourced abroad. Skilled manpower is also required for precision jobs where the dockyard lacks those skills. These areas which ought to be provided locally to support local shipbuilding efforts are in short supply, hence, a heavy recourse to foreign companies.

“The challenges can be surmounted with the right national cohesion to implement policies that will guide the country towards technological self-reliance. There needs to be concerted training on skills that enhance shipbuilding and outfitting of vessels.

“The nation could also attract foreign companies that produce ship systems to set up plants in Nigeria with attached technological transfer clauses. Dockyards in Nigeria would need to pursue skills acquisition programmes and collaborations with reputable foreign dockyards to imbibe modern ways of construction.

“Shipbuilding is a capital intensive venture that would require the support of the government for sustenance. In this regard, there is need to sustain the local shipbuilding efforts of the Nigerian Navy in order to leverage on the experience garnered from the success stories. The government could award a contract for the Nigerian Navy to build 10 SDBs.

“This will enable procurement of necessary equipment for large scale construction and further enhance the capabilities of the Naval Dockyard Limited. Research and development would also need to be well funded in support of shipbuilding. It is pertinent to point out that shipbuilding if well-coordinated would impact on other areas of technological advancement and promote national development as a whole.”

(0 votes) 0/5
Article Tags:
Article Categories:
Articles · Latest News · Trending Topics

Leave a Comment