• Ekanem Ibokessien

Ritman University Brainstorms with Marine Experts in America

The Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers held its 21st Offshore Symposium in Houston, Texas, USA and Dr Cyril Ekong was there to represent Ritman University. Akwa Ibom State was in focus at that event for offering the world a shipbuilding and repair facility with its economic spin-offs.

Dr Ekong who heads Ritman University’s Chemical Sciences department is a specialist in Speciation and Modeling in Wetland Environment. He is also an Occupational health/safety Lead Auditor, Environmentalist and Sustainable Development Consultant. He was at the symposium in company of Dr MikeGeorge Onyung – a maritime businessman – where Dr Ikpoto Udoh, a Naval Architect at Houston Offshore Engineering was one of the guest lecturers. The trio has their roots in Akwa Ibom.

Though a relative new-comer in the academic stage, Ritman University, located in Ikot Ekpene, Akwa Ibom State is fast becoming a global player. It pools a crop of educationists and professionals trained in some of the world’s outstanding institutions. They brainstorm with the world’s best to develop homegrown but globally-acceptable solutions to national problems. Their efforts have recently gained international recognition with the West African Youth Parliament award of Best Private Educational Institution.

Dr Udoh presented a paper on Wind Turbulence Effects in Global Responses of a 5MW Wind Turbine Three-Column TLP, while an American shipbuilder, Herman Schellstede, spoke on International Shipbuilding and Repair Facility in Nigeria, West Africa (the Capricorn Shipbuilding and Repair Facility in Ibaka, Mbo LGA of Akwa Ibom State).

Dr Ikpoto Udoh is the Board of Trustees Chairman of this facility and will be working with Dr Cyril Ekong who doubles as Vice Dean, Natural and Applied Sciences at Ritman University to create jobs for Nigerians on this project.

At the symposium which held on 16th February 2016, Dr Ekong said he was privileged to meet Schellstede, a 76-year-old maritime specialist in New Iberia, Louisiana. The latter’s company, Capricorn Maritime Limited is building in Ibaka an extensive shipbuilding and repair centre which will serve West Africa and the rest of the world. Ekong would leverage on that connection and Ritman University’s entrepreneurial programme to create employment for a good number of Nigerians in the maritime sector.

Ekong who has been consulting for governments as well as multinational companies including Shell and Mobil, spoke to representatives of multinational companies at the symposium, discovered new machines for combating environmental problems, and is optimistic that Akwa Ibom will benefit immensely from his university’s economic partnerships.

In his presentation at the symposium, which was attended by over a hundred experts from different parts of the world, Herman Schellstede noted that Nigeria has long established its position as a leader in the oil and gas industry, contributing 2.37 million barrels of oil per day to the marketplace. This oil from Nigeria is moved by marine vessels to various sales points throughout the world.

He identified the three major markets as offshore, near shore and onshore which require different drilling and completion equipment. In offshore waters, drill ships, jack-up rigs and semi-submersiles are used for drilling. Drilling barges (swamp and posted) are applied near shore while land-based drilling rigs are employed onshore.

To support the offshore and near shore operations, crafts such as dredges, workboats, crew boats, tug boats and supply barges are needed. These marine vessels are also joined by coastal and open sea cargo ships which transport the crude oil to the market place.

Herman went on to explain that the facility, designed to offer shipbuilding, repair and maintenance services for shipping, oil and gas industries of West Africa’s coastal region will accommodate Nigerian Content laws (Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development Act).  It is also made to service naval and commercial fleets for governments on contract.

“The facility, management and financial support are considered world-class and will result in a very profitable and acceptable return on investment”, he said.

Schellstede declared that the final design of this project will integrate the most advanced materials handling equipment and construction methods available.

The shipbuilder who is President of Herman J. Schellstede and Associates Incorporated also assessed the Ibaka shipyard in comparison with that of the USA.

“During the last 100 years, the United States has constructed major shipyards which were fundamental in the advancement of the United States as a prominent world leader. At the time of war, highly efficient shipyards were necessary and in great demand to provide vital servicing of vessels and equipment. The review of the US shipyards will provide assistance in outfitting the Nigerian facility with the most up-to-date and efficient components including the expertly designed platforms equipped with modern advancements.

“As a result, the Capricorn Facility will be one of the most innovative and efficient facilities built in the world today”.

According to him, this will be the first major shipbuilding and repair centre constructed in recent times.

To facilitate this, Herman said a complete transformation of certain areas in the undeveloped properties and waterways of Ibaka, Mbo LGA is undertaken to produce a world-class shipyard and repair facility  which will provide support to the oil and gas industry of  West Africa.

Hence, Dr Ekong and his team at Ritman University are working on the Environmental Impact Assessment and Geotechnical Survey component to make this project sustainable and in line with international best practices.

By Edidiong Esara

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