Offshore waste reception: Nigeria making progress on Clean Ocean and MARPOL implementation


Dr Dakuku Peterside, former DG, NIMASA


There is a growing appetite for marine environment protection in Nigeria, as the country seeks to benefit more from its vast maritime endowments. The country is taking a cue from the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL 73/78), which it is a party to.  

MARPOL is the main international convention covering prevention of pollution of the marine environment through ships from operational or accidental causes.

In an effort to implement the MARPOL Convention, the Nigerian government enacted the Merchant Shipping Act, 2007, and Merchant Shipping (Ship Generated Marine Waste Reception Facilities) Regulations, 2012. 

Crude oil being the mainstay of the Nigerian economy, sea and ocean contamination in the country occurs mainly from oil-related activities. Dirty and dangerous offshore drilling pollutes the ocean and coastal communities. Pollution from ships, drilling facilities hurts plants, animals, and people. It is estimated that more than half a billion barrels of waste fluids are generated annually in the course of oil and gas activities in Nigeria. 

To tackle such pollution generated at sea, the Federal Government, acting through the country’s maritime regulatory agency, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), recently signed a concession agreement with XPO Marine Services Limited for the provision of an Offshore Waste Reception Facility (OWRF) in Nigeria’s Eastern Zone. The zone stretches from Cross River State, through Akwa Ibom, Rivers to Bayelsa State. 

The contract, signed May 15, will be executed under a Design, Finance, Build, Operate, Maintain and Transfer (DFBOMT) public-private partnership (PPP) arrangement. It will be executed in four phases for an initial period of 10 years at a total cost of USD72.2 million.

The facility would handle inspections for verification of compliance and assessment of service requirements, collection/reception of ship generated waste, waste processing and safe recycling and disposal. 

The specialised vessels will also patrol the seas and ocean to protect it from pollution, and act as first responders

The Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC), which has regulatory guidance over the project, announced in December last year that the Federal Executive Council (FEC) had approved three PPP projects to be executed in NIMASA. ICRC said the projects were expected to generate over USD1, 110,384,387 for the Federal Government during the concession period.

The Eastern OWRF, Central/Western OWRF, and a Floating Dry Dock were approved by FEC following the issuance of Full Business Case Certificate of Compliance (FBC) by the PPP regulator, ICRC.

Director-General of ICRC, Michael Ohiani, said the approvals demonstrated the commitment of the administration of former President Muhammadu Buhari to the environmental wellbeing of coastal communities and offshore fisher folks.

ICRC said the OWRF projects would essentially help keep the seas and oceans clean. 

Ohiani stated, “The projected total revenue from Eastern OWRF for the entire concession period due to Federal Government based on revenue sharing ratios is USD279, 487,228.35.

“The projected total revenue for the entire concession period from the Central and Western zones due to Federal Government based on the revenue sharing ratios is USD765, 289,988.”

The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) recognises the provision of waste reception facilities as crucial for effective implementation of the MARPOL Convention. IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee also strongly encourages Member States, particularly parties to MARPOL as Port States, to fulfil their treaty obligations on provision of adequate waste reception facilities at ports and terminals. 

The offshore waste disposal facility would be of immense benefit to Nigeria.

It comes at a time of intense activity by the state and federal governments towards establishment of deep seaports, and revelations that about 70 per cent of cargo bound for West and Central Africa are destined for Nigeria. Besides, NIMASA is expected to commence soon the operation of its floating Dry Dock, which is of huge commercial benefit to the country in the area of ship dry-docking and repairs. All these are in pursuit of the objective of developing Nigeria as a regional and global maritime hub. 

The waste reception facility would be a significant effort to deal with the increased pollution accompanying the rise in maritime activities.     

The offshore waste collection facility has the capacity to receive various classifications of residues/wastes, in line with the demands of MARPOL I – VI, covering: oily waste; residues containing noxious liquid substances (NLS); sewage; garbage, including dry/bulk cargo residues and cargo-associated waste, such as dunnage and packaging; and ozone-depleting substances and exhaust gas cleaning residues.

The facility is in tandem with efforts to increase Nigeria’s infrastructure stock through PPPs, as captured in the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper (METF/FSP) 2020-2022.

The project will save the Nigerian government costs and losses incurred through unstructured waste collection arrangements. Such arrangements are estimated to have cost the Nigerian economy about USD149, 953,243.00 from trying to manage oil and gas by-products and other water pollutants in the last five years, while the Federal Government lost an estimated USD64, 265,675.00 in revenue within the same period.

OWRF puts in place a standard facility for use in Nigerian international waters in compliance with the MARPOL Convention.

The facility will raise revenue for the government and provide the country an innovative best-practice solution and infrastructure for offshore waste management. It will create employment opportunities for the host community and other Nigerians, with an estimated 1,200 direct jobs, and up to 2,000 indirect and ancillary jobs. It will give maritime students and scholars an opportunity to sharpen their knowledge through easy data collection, investigation, and analysis.

The waste collection project will stimulate greater economic activities in Nigeria’s maritime industry and attract investments. And all these at no cost to the government, as all incidental risks are transferred to the concessionaire. 

The DFBOMT PPP strategy also brings advantages to the government. It ensures that: from start to finish, government funds are not involved; government has the opportunity to share from the revenue; and government meets its obligations of compliance to the international maritime convention.

Above all, the asset will revert to the government upon expiration of the concession period. 

In trying to harness the potential of its maritime environment, Nigeria has invested a great deal of effort in ventures meant to guarantee long-term ecological health and improvement. This is a sign of the times, as globally, concerns are rising about the harmful effects of human activities on the environment.

The World Economic Forum (WEF), a Switzerland-based non-governmental and lobbying organisation, warned about a climate crisis in its 2022 Global Risks Report. It said the environment’s health remained the biggest long-term worry for humanity. 

The risks report is usually released before the meeting of world business and political leaders held in January every year in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos to address global economic issues. 

Things did not turn out better than forecasted over the course of 2022. 

WEF started the 2023 event with a warning that the world was on the verge of a perilous “polycrisis” – a tangled web of crises straddling global systems. Climate change was one of the major threats identified by the WEF.

The Nigerian maritime industry has seen a trend of innovative steps aimed at securing and preserving the environment for profitable investment. The country intends to develop an environment favourable to faster rollout of its blue economy potential.

The country made international headlines in September 2021, when it launched a wreck removal initiative, in deliberate effort to further open up the maritime sector for sustainable investment.

Then Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi, said at the launch of the wreck removal exercise on September 24, 2021 in Lagos, “This creative venture of clearing our waters of wrecks and derelicts, apart from guaranteeing better safety of navigation, opens up the prospects of many new investments in the maritime industry.”

On February 20, 2020, during the tenure of the former Director-General, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, NIMASA initiated the Maritime Action Plan on Marine Litter and Plastics, setting a national roadmap for tackling marine pollution.

IMO Secretary General, Kitack Lim, said a year later concerning the initiative, “Shipping must be balanced with the safety of life at sea, the long term health and diversity of oceans and the conservation of the marine environment. 

“Marine litters are a great concern and the discharge of garbage from ships has been prohibited since the 1980s by the MARPOL convention and additionally by the London convention.”

Governments the world over have adopted partnership with the private sector as an effective strategy for maintaining ocean and sea health. 

In the United Kingdom, which has over 600 ports and harbours, the ports employ licensed waste disposal contractors to serve the shipping community.

The approach is similar in the United States, where port/terminal operators employ firms for waste reception/removal services, and update the companies’ information with the United States Coast Guard (USCG) if changes occur.

The latest partnership with XPO Marine Services for an offshore waste reception facility is yet another attempt to secure the marine environment to support life and business. The company, which has provided integrated offshore marine support services to the oil and gas industry in West Africa for over a decade, says it is committed to delivering the project’s goal. 

Managing Director of XPO Marine Services Limited, Wellington Agharese, said, “XPO Marine is proud to be part of the execution of Nigeria’s critical treaty obligation under the MARPOL Convention.”

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