Fibreglass canoes and boats are known to present superior long term benefits in comparison to wooden ones. This includes better durability and low maintenance cost. Again, in an era where environmental sustainability is rife, opting for fibreglass in the construction will mean less dependence on the country’s tree resources.
This is the argument of two naval architects and academics who have proposed that government introduces a policy that would encourage demand in fibreglass for the mass production of boats and canoes in Ghana.
Dr. Vindex Domeh and Mr. George Obeng of the Regional Maritime University presented this proposition while speaking to Eye on Port’s Kennedy Mornah on Accra-based Metro TV. They said, although not limited to, fibreglass boats and canoes can serve the fisheries, cargo transportation and recreational sectors.
According to Graduate Assistant and Naval Architect, George Obeng, the government of Ghana could follow the cue of other countries by banning the felling of trees for the production of marine crafts in order to create demand for fibreglass.
“When you go to Asia, they have stopped the felling of trees because of their policy. If you go to Ivory Coast, they have policies governing the cutting of trees. So the country will also need to come up with policies that would minimize the use of wood so they can turn to the use of fibreglass”.
He said the capacity for the production of fibreglass boats and canoes already exists in the country, having participated in the design and production of some boats for the Ghana Navy and Ghana Health Service.
The Naval architect said it is important for local manufacturers like himself to be trusted and empowered for the production of fibreglass canoes and boats that meet local needs and specifications.
“Most of the ones that are imported, because they don’t know our terrain, they do not put certain things in it but because we know our terrain, we put all those things in there, especially safety equipment such as the search light, echo sounder, GPS for navigation, VHF for communication, furniture and toilet facility. All these were put in the boats to suit what the people want”.
Despite acknowledging that the price of fibreglass boats and canoes at the point of purchase cost more than wooden ones, Dr. Domeh says more savings are made in the long term use of fibreglass.
“As for the first time cost, it is expensive, but we shouldn’t dwell much on the first time cost because we can compensate with about 50years duration lifespan before doing major maintenance work. So as for the cost, it is expensive but in terms of durability, while the wooden ones have a life span of up to 10years and with that, you need to do major maintenance, the fibreglass boats give you 50years plus, so it is a good investment”.
Mr. Obeng added that so far as price is concerned, customers will be treated on a case by case basis specific to what they want.
In view of how capital intensive both the production and purchase of fibreglass boats and canoes are, the naval architects appealed to government, funding agencies and private investors to collaborate and support this greenfield industry. This according to them could be in the form of a special funding arrangement for producers and end users.
The academics commended the GPHA-led initiative to provide 20 eco-friendly fibreglass canoes to some fishing communities as part of the fish landing sites project.
Dr. Domeh also disclosed that the Regional Maritime University will soon begin a BSc Naval Architecture program in collaboration with a Dubai-based company. He said the company, Laamens Marine will come in with their expertise and facilities to assist the staff and student in their practical studies.
Dr. Domeh and Mr. George Obeng believe that when supported, the fibreglass production industry can become one that can promote Ghana’s maritime sector while providing employment opportunities for the nation’s teeming youth.