Historically, technology has been a
strong driving force, for the development of any nation. The
18th century industrial revolution in Europe , which led to a
breakthrough in several areas was unarguably driven by necessity
but was powered by technology. No wonder, the culture of technology
development, which had been cultivated over the years in Europe
and America , became a readily available tool for weapon development
during the 1st and 2nd world wars. This inevitably led to huge
military power and unimaginable attendant prosperity for these
The positive impact of technology on development
has not been the exclusive preserve of the western nations.
In Brazil for instance, it was the disagreement between Brazil
and USA on the issue of human rights which led to an embargo
that stimulated Brazil ’s focus on development of indigenous
technology in the mid 1970s. Brazil articulated an aggressive
programme of local production of arms through a mixture of
private and government collaborations and the result is there
for the records today. In Pakistan and South Africa , the story
is not different, the compelling factors of necessity led to
the successful story of indigenous technology development.
No wonder, the Nigerian Navy (NN) took advantage of the economic
problems of the country and the attendant scarcity of foreign
exchange to embark on trial local refit of ships in the1990s.
First in the series of the refit was NNS ARADU, at the Nigerian
Navy Dockyard (NND) Victoria Island (VI), followed by NNS LANA,
at Niger dock between 1994 and 1998. It was not until 2003, that
a comprehensive refit programme for 9 ships was initiated at
the Naval Base Apapa and NND VI. Since then, local refits have
continued steadily. A number of positive developments emerged
as a result of these refits. Firstly, a large number of local
and indigenous engineers and contractors were involved. Secondly,
spare parts that were thought not to be available locally were
discovered. Thirdly, the involvement of NN technical personnel
in the refit enhanced their skills. Notwithstanding the modest
achievements, there are a number of challenges, and some fine
tuning would be required, if the programme is to be optimally
beneficial to the NN, and to the nation at large. The paper will
therefore examine the concept of local refit in the NN, discuss
local refit programme in specific countries and finally venture
an estimation of the challenges and prospects of local refit
in the NN.
The aim of this paper is to appraise the current efforts of
the NN at localizing the refit of ships.
CONCEPT OF LOCAL REFIT IN THE NN
to the commissioning of the Naval Dockyard and Shipyard in the
early 1990s, the NN had always sent her ships to Europe for refit.
Some of the ships that benefited from these programmes include
NNS OBUMA, which was refitted in Holland and the German FAC(M)s
in Germany . The French FAC (M)s and the MK3 Covettes were also
refitted in France and UK respectively. In the 1990 however,
there was a need to develop some capacities to refit ships locally.
Hence the NND in Lagos was partially commissioned. About the
same time, the Shipyard in PH was also acquired, and so a foundation
was laid for local refit of vessels, in order that local capacity
could be developed and foreign exchange conserved 2.
The concept of local refit in the NN was essentially anchored
on the principles of foreign exchange conservation, local capacity
building and local content development but with little consideration
for infrastructural development. Accordingly, while competent
entrepreneurs were being sourced from all nooks and crannies
of the maritime industry, no concerted effort was made to modernise
the facilities at the Naval Dockyard as well as the Fleet Support
Groups, which would serve as infrastructural support for the
refit programme. Indeed, it would have been mandatory to ensure
that would- be contractors were well equipped with competent
and skilled manpower, necessary workshop equipment as well as
the wherewithal to undertake highly skilled jobs given to them.
It was not until late in the year 2005, that a comprehensive
NNO (NNO 11/05 dated 9 Nov 05) on procedures and private organization
participation in Local Refit of NN ships was signed, unlike the
scanty NNO 25/90 of 19 Dec 90 . Undoubtedly, with these guidelines
in place, refit efforts will likely attract better organized,
skilled and oriented entrepreneurs in the nearest future.
Local Refit of ships, rather than being
an end in itself is only a means to an end. This fact was echoed
by a retired Naval Chief when he categorically stated that ‘the aim of acquiring
dockyard and shipyard is to equip the NN with the required technical
capability to carry out major refits and repairs locally. It
is also to lay the foundation for local construction of naval
vessels. ’3 Indeed, the ultimate goal of local refit is
to be able to acquire enough skill and develop infrastructure,
to build ships locally with a high percentage of local content.
It is not surprising then that most countries that have succeeded
extremely well with the idea of local refit are such countries
with requisite skills and infrastructures, which enable them,
add value to local material. In other words, such countries must
have capacity to develop their Defence Industrial Base.
It is instructive to state that there is
a direct correlation between the growth of Defence Industries
and Local Refit effort. It is only when ships are refitted
locally that one can start to think of local sourcing of spares.
In exceptional cases though, preference for foreign goods may
thwart patronage of local industries and ultimately retard
the growth of relevant industries, a point which was clearly
stated by Ogunbiyi in his paper, Appraisal of the Nigerian
Defence Industrial Base. According to him,’ lack
of patronage of local entrepreneurs has been a major setback
for the growth of the Nigerian Defence Industrial Base’ 4.
Therefore, there must be a deliberate paradigm shift towards
ensuring patronage of local industries, if the refit effort is
to ultimately impart on the local Defence Industry.
CASE STUDIES OF LOCAL REFIT PROGRAMMES IN OTHER COUNTRIES
Local Refit In Support Of The
Although India ’s maritime history
is not often well- remembered, sea- faring traditions date
back to Vedic times, 2000-500BC, when the ancestors recognised
and exploited their surrounding sea, using it as an avenue
for trade and in the process exporting her culture and religion.
It was not until after the colonial rule that an Indian Navy
emerged and eventually metamorphosed into a modern navy, following
the presence of the United States Naval Task Force in their
contiguous waters in mid 1971, an act that was considered an
The Indian Navy is perhaps the world’s seventh largest
navy, with a diverse range of ships and submarines. Many of the
major vessels are at the dead end of their service lives. Hence,
the indigenous ship building efforts have been very relevant
to their operational states, in the face of dwindling budgetary
provision. Local refit effort in the Indian Navy, is primarily
anchored on the strength of the shipyards. Presently, India has
about 40 shipyards, majority of which are owned by the private
sector. Nonetheless, they enjoy government subsidies for construction
of vessels in order to maintain an edge in international competition.
Despite their high level of technological know- how, Indian shipbuilders
still employ foreign expertise in specific areas. According to
Cdr Carter of USN, ’Indian shipbuilders have proven a lack
of technical expertise in accomplishing difficult tasks such
as welding of high tensile steel in submarine hulls or even glass
reinforced plastics (GRP) for minesweeper hulls.’ 6 This
therefore underpins the need to employ foreign expertise in those
areas where skill is lacking in Nigeria.
Also of prime importance is the fact that India appropriates
money for refit programmes through recurrent expenditure and
this makes it easy to get approval for such money. Finally, in
India , the government encourages the private sector to venture
into defence production. Indeed, there is a standing committee
of experts specifically tasked to assess the defence production
capabilities of existing manufacturing companies with a view
to attracting government patronage. Since government is the biggest
consumer of Defence products, this kind of policy would ultimately
enhance the Defence Industrial Base of the nation and by implication,
promote local refit effort.
Local Refit In Support Of The Republic
of Singapore Navy
Singapore is strategically an economic
link between the Industrial and developing countries of East
Asia , Europe and the Middle East . With a population of about
3 million, it is heavily dependent on trade. Accordingly, the
nation state is heavily committed to protecting its commercial
Sea Lane of Communication (SLOC).
Singapore with a robust economy has no problem budgeting adequately
for defence. This also translates to sufficient funding in support
of the shipbuilding industry. Within the sub-region, Singapore
has one of the best shipbuilding industries, a feat that has
been achieved as a result of large investment in human capital,
education, training and civilian economy focused on high technology,
knowledge- intensive dual- use industries. She also promotes
research and development. Presently, the number of defence scientists
is about 10 percent of the nations 11,000 scientists 7. The shipbuilding
industry is operated through collaboration between the government
owned but very efficient defence technology group(DTG) and the
private sector. Undoubtedly, Singapore builds and refits most
of her ships, supported by equipment manufacturing industries
that produce under foreign license. She has technology agreements
with the US , UK , France , Italy , Sweden , Thailand and Taiwan
. According to an internet source, retrofitting and upgrading
capabilities have received a major emphasis in Singapore , with
the industry producing modern naval patrol ships equipped with
anti-submarine, anti-air, electronics warfare and Harpoon missiles.
Indeed the strategy is based on foreign product and process technology
import. Hence, technology transfer and training is part of all
licensed production contracts. For instance, when the contract
for 6x stealth frigates was signed, the first was to be produced
in France by Direction Des Construction International (DCN) and
the remaining 5 in Singapore 8. Local ship repair and building
industry has been driven by a robust economy with a large investment
in human capital, training and knowledge- based, high technology
dual use industries, which thrive on technology import. Nigeria
has a lot to learn from Singapore . While the FGN is struggling
to better the economy, NN must ensure that relentless training
is at the forefront of its agenda. We must also ensure that the
private sector operators play pivotal role in our refit programmes.
Furthermore it is important to align our efforts with some relevant
developed countries, particularly in Asia .
Local Refit In Support Of The South African Navy
Africa is undoubtedly one of the most technologically advanced
countries in Africa . It is therefore not surprising that she
boasts of one of the best shipbuilding and maritime industrial
environment in Africa . Accordingly, many of the South African
Naval Ships are refitted, modernised or partially constructed
locally in South Africa . Presently, she has advanced to the
extent that she is already considering constructing vessels for
the export industry. Specifically, the South African Navy (SAN)
is considering a ‘multi-purpose
hull’ concept that
is of standard hull and propulsion combination and adaptable
for different missions. According to a report written by RAdm
Bernhand Genteberg, Director of Maritime Plans, ‘if the
SAN, in conjunction with commercial enterprises, develops multi-purpose
hulls that not only meet our needs but also the needs of African
Navies, and are within their budgets, then we can seek exports,
create sustainability and later gain from refit, repair and modernisation
work on these vessels.’ 9 This is not surprising considering
that a local electronic company C2I2 has won a contract to equip
the world’s most powerful warships, USS Nimitz-class Aircraft
Again, because of the unique history of SAN, technology is
in their favour. Besides, the nation has a transparent budgetary
provision that guarantees sufficient funding for navy projects
including refits and new constructions. SAN can therefore stand
out as a big brother, from where the NN can easily cut its teeth.
It seems the process has started, as many personnel have been
trained of recent, in SAN. However, there is a need to widen
the scope of such training and particularly extend it to technical
personnel of the NN.
AND PROSPECTS OF LOCAL REFIT EFFORT IN THE NN
In the history of the NN, she has carried out extensive refit
programmes, particularly in Europe . However, in the year 1990,
there was a policy shift due primarily to economic reasons. The
NN needed to utilise some of the refit experiences acquired from
Europe , as she could no longer cope with the cost of refitting
all her ships abroad.
The refit of NNS ARADU between 1990 and
1993 was the first major bold step to localise NN refit activities.
According to Oladejo, ‘Previous attempts at smaller vessels were afflicted
by problems related to management, availability of spare parts,
special tools, expertise, workshops among other factors. Drawing
from some of the experiences acquired in Europe , a refit authority
was constituted with an enabling NNO. This provided direction
for efficient use of men and materials. It was also easy to manage
the programme as the refit objectives were limited to the propulsion
systems, air conditioning, refrigeration plants as well as selected
auxiliaries. Besides, there was limited involvement of foreign
experts through Blohm+Voss, the shipyard that constructed the
ship. There was also a deliberate policy of human capacity development
as some of the technical personnel were grouped together under
the supervision of European experts from Vosper Thornycroft,
Kamewa etc. Limited local industries involvement was also considered.
Companies like DEBO, etc were contracted under the supervision
of Blomh+Voss in order to ensure standard procedure. The whole
essence was to ensure that this pool of local technical resources
would be used for continuity on other ships while the presence
of the foreign technical experts will gradually fizzle away.
However, this was not to be, due to policy summersault. The attendant
result is that most of these trained personnel were hired by
the private sector operators’ 10.
The next attempt at local refit was the refit of NNS LANA at
Nigerdock. Again, the mandate was given to a foreign company
that had a partnership arrangement with Nigerdock. The experience
started well but due to the traditional bureaucracies, the refitted
ship was not available until after about five years.
It was not until 2003, when NHQ secured approval of the President
for local refit of NN ships that a comprehensive approach was
again adopted. The FMC which was the refit authority was tasked
with the challenge in conjunction with FSG (W). At the planning
stage, the ships were grouped into batches while the repairs
were in phases. The first batch of ships include NNS ARADU, ENYIMIRI,
LANA, AYAM, SIRI, AMBE, YOLA and Tug RUDOLF while the first phase
was essentially geared towards ensuring acceptable habitability,
ability to float and move. The second phase was geared towards
ability to fight.
One unique aspect of the refit programme
is that very many local engineers and contractors have been
involved. These include some of the technical staff of the
erstwhile Nigerian National Shipping Line, retired personnel
of the NN and indeed a few others from the maritime industry.
The ships’ staff are also involved.
Spare parts were being sourced both locally and abroad, sometimes
with recourse to the equipment manufacturers. With all sense
of modesty, one can confidently acknowledge some level of success
in the refit programme. Of course, it was the refit effort that
supported NNS ARADU’s expedition to UK and back, without
major problems. The effort has also witnessed successes in a
few operational exercises recently conducted.
Another unique aspect of the programme,
which will become clear in future, is that by using a pool
of local entrepreneurs, NN is indirectly building up local
capacities for the nation’s
industrialisation effort. Apart from that, many of the parts
which would have been sourced abroad, if the ships are refitted
in Europe are being sourced locally. This can only translate
to huge savings for the FGN. There is a truism that no nation
acquires technology on a platter of gold. There must be a deliberate
effort to acquire technology. That effort, I believe is what
the NN has been putting into her ships’ refit programme.
Certainly, there are problems along the line, these problems
are gradually becoming challenges and would remain so in future.
Some of the challenges associated with local refit of NN ships
are not farfetched. Firstly, it has become clear that, in all
the refit efforts, there were no sufficient expertise to conceptualise
the planning stage of the programme. The end result is that proper
premises were not established for the repair of equipment as
there was no functional ship maintenance and operating cycle
(SMOC)for the ships. Besides, too many ships were involved at
the initial stage of the refit programme. No wonder, some of
the contractors had more jobs than they could handle. This inevitably
led to the abandonment or at best shoddy completion of some of
It has also become clear, that, at the planning stage of the
last refit programme (or ongoing refit programme), there was
no sufficient expertise and time to properly screen contractors
before being given contracts. Again, some of the contractors
got jobs which they had no capacity to handle. The result of
this is that projects were held on for much longer than expected.
Allied to this, is the problem of spare parts. There was no well
established supply chain for spare parts, thereby resulting in
machineries and engines being dismantled but could not be coupled
back in time. In this regard, NNO 11/05 on local refit would
go a long way in alleviating some of the problems, if religiously
Budgetary problem is another factor that
stands out as a major challenge to the local refit effort.
It is only through proper budgetary provision that timely supply
of spare parts, tools and consumables could be guaranteed.
It is therefore important here to draw from the experience
of the Indian and South African Navies, by ensuring that ships’ refit
budget remain classified under recurrent expenditure, so that
it would be easy to predict and explain in the manner of salaries
Of common knowledge is the lack of Industrial
base, which has resulted in absence of essential spare parts.
It is therefore imperative to look inward. The NN would need
to carry some of the Small and Medium scale Enterprises (SMEs)
operators along. Unbelievably, some of these industries exist
in Lagos , Nnewi, and PH etc, with potential capability to
produce cheaper, some of our consumables, if properly challenged.
This is against the background of availability of cheap local
labour. Perhaps, there is a need for the NN to set up a well-
empowered and well -funded local content development unit in
one of the technical formations or under the R&D department,
with a mandate to identify potential Defence producers. In
the interim however, the method employed by the Royal Singapore
and Royal Omanian Navies, for sourcing of spare parts in support
of local refit could be adopted. All we need to do is to establish
a clear line of communication with our equipment manufacturers.
We must also ensure liaison with external technical experts
until we are able to build enough capacity, by way of training.
There is no navy in the world with all the expertise, resources
and facilities to meet its maintenance needs. Hence, navies seek
special relationship with other navies ,like the Royal Navy,
Indian Navy, and South African Navy, among others . This kind
of relationship would no doubt facilitate the efficient execution
of NN long term plans on ship maintenance and availability. Interestingly,
the NN is on the verge of establishing same with South Africa
. It is on record that mtu South Africa personnel visited Nigeria
sometime ago, to explore areas of mutual cooperation. This initiative
needs to be drawn to a logical conclusion. Finally, if the refit
programme is to be effective, job verification, acceptance and
trial procedures need to be further developed. The NN would need
to put in place, appropriate institutions manned by individuals
with the right skills to carry out final acceptance of systems
Local refit effort in the NN has been
borne out of necessity. It became necessary as a result of budgetary
constraints and was conceptualised on the principles of foreign
exchange conservation, human capacity and local content development
but with minimal consideration for infrastructural development.
In some other navies, the strength of local refit is always anchored
on strong and reliable infrastructures, proper budgetary procedure,
knowledge based industries and reliable government support. The
NN has a lot to learn from such experiences.
To start with, our local refit effort must necessarily take
into consideration, proper training of personnel and civilian
support staff. It must also be aimed at growing the relevant
defence industries. Indeed, there is a need to set up machinery
that will strive to develop the local software and hardware by
identifying and challenging the relevant industries, to support
the local refit effort. At the same time, NN must keep an open
line of communication with other nations that can provide both
technical expertise and spare parts. Even the developed nations
of the world still form technical alliances with other nations.
South Africa can be said to be waiting for an alliance opportunity
with Nigeria , bearing in mind the complementary role of the
2 nations in Africa . Above all, the NN needs to upgrade and
develop infrastructures of the NND, shipyard and the FSGs. In
many nations of the world, the shipyards are the pillars upon
which refit programmes are secured. There must also be adequate
plans for future refit programmes. Infact if need be, civilian
experts could be involved at the planning stage. Finally, job
verification, acceptance and trial procedures need to be further
developed. These are the ways one can be sure of more successful
local refit programmes in the future.
Capt WK OGUNBIYI
1. DRA Ndefo ‘An overview of Armed Forces R&D Functions,
Problems and Prospects’, Kaduna Aug 2004.
2. GO Oladejo ‘The Dockyard as a force
multiplier in effective Naval Operation, FCT Abuja, and Oct
3. SI Oyelade, Local Refit in the NN: A Critical Analysis,
nwc Abuja , Jul 2004.
4. WK Ogunbiyi, An Appraisal of the Nigerian Defence Industrial
Base, Nigerian Defence News Journal, Jan-May 2005.
5. Clearence Earl Carter, Cdr USN, ‘The
Indian Navy: A Military Power at a Crossroad, Air war College
USA , Apr 1996 (Internet)
6. Ibid pg 19 (Internet)
7. R Matthews ‘ Singapore ’s Defence Industrial
Model, Asian Pacific Defence Reporter’, May 1999. (Internet)
8. Susan Willet, East Asia ’s Changing
Defence Industry Survival Vol 39 No 3 Autumn 1997 (Internet).
9 . Ship building and Ship Repair, an Internet Based Article.
BIOGRAPHY OF CAPT WK OGUNBIYI
(NN) William Kunle Ogunbiyi was commissioned into the Nigerian
Navy in 1982 with a Bachelors Degree in Electronics and Electrical
Engineering. He subsequently attended several courses including
Weapon Engineering Application Course in UK , Intermediate Level
Weapon Maintenance Course (Nig), Junior and Senior Division Staff
Course both in Jaji , Nigeria and Defence Diplomacy Diploma Course,
Cranfield University , UK . He has served as Weapon Engineering
Officer on several NN ships including NNS DAMISA, NNS AMBE, NNS
ENYIMIRI and NNS LANA. He has also been a Staff Officer in several
NN Units and Command. He was indeed a Staff Officer at the ECOMOG
Headquarters in Sierra Leone . Capt WK Ogunbiyi was a member
of the Directing Staff, Senior Division Jaji. He is a member
of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) and is also registered
with the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria
(COREN). He loves reading and is a student of Software Engineering.
He was a Deputy Director at the Defence Headquarters, Abuja and
is presently the Director of Maintenance (Weapons Engineering)
at the Fleet Maintenance Corps Headquarters, Lagos .