Lagos and Port Harcourt restraint shipping traffic in Nigeria

The main port of Lagos and Port Harcourt in the Niger Delta see the highest concentration of shipping traffic to Nigeria. Abandoned cargo ships and fishing boats also float freely or lay submerged on parts of the coastline. Environmental groups say their numbers run into the thousands in Nigeria’s territorial waters.

 A quick boat ride into the Atlantic Ocean from Irede, on the outskirts of the city of Lagos, reveals the extent of the problem. Abandoned vessels dot the ocean, some visible only as chunks of rusty metal protruding from the water.

 Irede Chief Raymond Gold, said that “They constitute a lot of problems to us, they affect navigation in the water because of most the time some are large chunks of metal or rusty metal that was moved here from another place. The small boats that the residents use could just run into them and it could cause a lot of damage and threats to human life.

We have had fishermen come to complain that the shipwrecks are making it difficult for them to fish in the waters.” There is growing concern over the frequency at which unseaworthy and unserviceable ships are being dumped in Nigeria’s territorial waters.

Shipwrecks have been a problem at Alpha Beach for years, with the ownership of the abandoned vessels hard to establish. Public outcry over coastal erosion caused by the abandoned ships prompted the Lagos State government to clear the shipwrecks from the beach but the problem keeps re-emerging. The remains of the vessels are no longer there but the environmental damage they caused persists.

Mr Philip Jakpor of Environmental Rights Action said that “We always cite the example of Alpha Beach. It no longer exists. Some years ago, there were dozens of ships abandoned there and, before you knew it, the waters continue to come inland and ate up all the coconut trees on the banks. Today, those coconut trees are not there. Today, the houses that were close to the sea are no longer there.”