The global Maritime community sat with rapt attention today, as Nigeria inspired industry experts on why technology must seek more friendly engineering methods, in spite of the increasing pull of market forces, in the economic task of moving cargo.
Taking the centre stage as the only African body representative in the First Malta Maritime Summit in Valletta, the Chief Executive Officer of STARZS and Arrowhead of the Ship Owners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Engr. Greg Utomwen Ogbeifun also noted and lauded developments which have resulted in new vessels and the expanding frontiers of deadweight tonnage and speed.
“The net effect of market forces has been to challenge technology in the development of increasingly economic methods of moving cargo”, Ogbeifun observed, noting that it is in respect of this that “engineers have responded, by devising entirely new vessel types and expanding the frontiers of deadweight tonnage and speed.
“The result has been an ocean transportation system that is able to carry the vastly increased amount of cargo swiftly and safely”, he posited, taking a nostalgic peep into the development of Container ships, without missing a breadth in terms of what needed to be added.
“The pioneering container ships could carry only 59 containers, having a length of 35 feet and stacked two-high on deck. Once this seemingly radical idea of carrying boxes by Ship had been proven sufficiently in the coastwise trade, the first true container ships, having cellular holds into which containers were loaded by cranes came into being. There capacity was around 20 TEU – hence the designation “TEU” (for 20-foot equivalent Units), being the standard measures of capacity adopted by the industry”, he observed, before taking a harder look at ships design, the unfolding challenges and their future prospects.
“For several years, designs have been available for vessels with capacity of up to about 15 TEU. The design and construction of such vessels is well within the state of the art. In fact, a consensus among shipbuilders and ship operators is that a container ship able to load 20,000 TEU may well be a possibility. (The highest currently standing at about 18,270 TEU).
“For such a ship to become a viable reality may require a complete rethinking of the way containers are handled; to and from the Ship, as well as to and from; and within the Shoreline terminals. Of equal or greater importance, there must be shore side facilities to march it’s capacity.
“Today’s container ship is the linch – pin of cargo transportation, but it is only a part of the total system which includes sophisticated shoreline terminals, inter-modal extensions to inland points by rail and highway; and automated information systems that track a shipment throughout its journey”, Ogbeifun indicated further, citing innovations which include the Artic Shuttle tanker, a mega ship which incorporates an ice breaker and a shuttle tanker; innovative cruise ships etc; dropping a presentation which was not only appreciated, but further dissected and illuminated by a combined efforts of the President, Yildirim Holdings, Mr. Robert Yildirim; the Secretary General, Cruise Lines International Association and the Assistant Vice President, New Building Technical Projects, United Arab Shipping, Mohammed Zaitouni.
It would be recalled that Malta in particular, edged Nigeria out of the Category ‘C’ of the prestigious IMO Council seat in London, by a single vote. Nigeria is yet to inch near the Council seat, ever since!