The Nigerian Export-Import Bank (NEXIM) has requested collaboration with the Nigerian Navy towards expediting the regional Sealink Project, internal waterways operation and coastal trade.

The Navy Director of Information, Commodore Suleman Dahun, disclosed this in a statement on Sunday in Abuja.

Dahun said the Managing Director of NEXIM- Mr Abba Bello, solicited for the aforementioned during a visit to the Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas in Abuja.

He said Bello recognised the areas of support and cooperation to include engagement of the Navy Hydrography Department (NHD) in the proposed survey of the lower Rivers Niger and Benue with the submission of data collected to the NHD for chart publishing.

Dahun said other areas Bello identified were the provision of security support for safe navigation along with the trade routes/channels, the use of the Naval Dockyard Limited for servicing/repairs of Sealink vessels and design and construction of barges.

“The partnership would also include recruitment of retired naval personnel,” he said.

Ibas, in his response, emphasised the commitment of the Nigerian Navy to the security of the nation’s waterways following the establishment of Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) LUGARD at Lokoja and Naval Outposts at Onitsha and Idah.

The CNS also mentioned the prospects for the establishment of other Nigerian Navy outposts along the nation’s major inland waters, particularly at Oguta and Shagunu in Imo and Niger states respectively.

Ibas recalled the existing Nigerian Navy’s collaboration with other agencies of government.

They included the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).

He advocated the articulation of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Nigerian Navy and NEXIM/NIWA towards the proposed collaboration on the Regional Sealink Project.

The CNS expressed the expectation that an appropriate Environmental Impact Assessment of the Regional Sealink Project had been done considering the heavily silted waterways across the nation.

Ibas reassured Bello of Nigerian Navy’s capacity to support the project in the areas of production of appropriate navigational charts for the nation’s inland waterways and support in the dredging operations.

Other areas are in the provision of necessary security to cover the entire project and construction of barges for inland waterways movement at the Naval Dockyard Limited and Naval Shipyard Limited.

The Regional Sealink Project is an initiative by NEXIM on the prompting of Organised Private Sector (OPS) adding that Sealink is currently being officially promoted by NEXIM.

“The project is essentially designed to bridge the maritime transport infrastructure gap amongst ECOWAS and the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC) member states as well as promote inland waterways operations.

“The project will also facilitate intra-regional trade and reduction of non-tariff measures, regional integration/reduction in logistics cost and promotion of inland waterways.

“Also intra-coastal trade especially in facilitating the movement of bulk commodities, for example, solid minerals,” Dahun said.

Dahun said the Sealink Project had been endorsed and adopted by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission as one of its priority projects under the ECOWAS Community Development Programmes.

He said the Sealink Project was also co-opted into the Nigerian Fleet Implementation Committee. (NAN)

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