The agreement, signed in December 2007, between the SAIW and the Nigerian Institute of Welding (NIW), is beginning to produce results. This is according to SAIW executive director Jim Guild.
Two years ago, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), which oversees all oil and gas operations in Nigeria, directed oil companies operating in the country to start in-country fabrication of equipment, as well as other major components used in oil exploration, exploitation, processing and transportation.
NNPC directives included that all topsides of fixed platforms weighing up to 5 000 t were to be fabricated in Nigeria, and all third-party services such as nondestructive testing, mechanical testing and postweld heat treatment, as well as the certification of welding procedures and welders, be carried out in Nigeria.
NIW was tasked with the certification of welding personnel in collaboration with international accreditation bodies.
Currently, the government of Nigeria, through the NNPC, is working with the Petroleum Technology Development Fund and various local and international organisations to upgrade fabrication yards in Nigeria and to train Nigerian engineers in engineering designs and related skills.
The Nigerian Content policy was initiated by the Olusegun Obasanjo administration to help develop local capacity building in the Nigerian oil and gas sector, with a view to ensuring Nigerian participation and dissuading capital flight. The aim is to achieve a local content target of 70% by 2010.
In terms of the agreement signed in Johannesburg, the SAIW, an authorised national body (ANB) of the International Institute of Welding (IIW), will help Nigeria train and certify welding personnel to international standards.
NIW president Solomon Edebiri says that Nigeria, the world's sixth largest oil producer, already has a large pool of skilled welders in the oil and gas industry. As a first step, the SAIW will help with an eight-week assessment and training of 80 of these welders sponsored by the NNPC and petrochemicals company Shell so that they can be certified to internationally accredited ISO 9606 standards. Nigerian instructors will also be trained.
The IIW normally allows one ANB in each country to be the sole organisation responsible for ensuring that welding personnel training and certification programmes, and standards of education, examination and qualifications, are within IIW guidelines and requirements.
"In August 2008, SAIW lecturer and trainer George Walker went to the NIW to train fifteen of their instructors. In September, SAIW technology manager John du Plessis will spend several weeks in Nigeria supervising these trainers in the training and examination of 80 welders for the oilfields," says Guild.
This is in addition to Du Plessis' recent visit to Warri in the Niger Delta where he evaluated a group of petroleum producer Chevron-sponsored students at the Petroleum Training Institute in accordance with IIW standards for International Pipe Welders.
Guild says that the progress being made with the NIW is most encouraging, and the SAIW is pleased that it is able to be in a position to help its Nigerian counterparts in their process of becoming an IIW ANB. He envisages that the NIW will reach ANB status within two years.
Founded in 1980, the NIW is based in Effurum, near Warri, in the oil-rich Delta state of Nigeria. It has 1 000 individual and 120 institutional members, and its main activities are the training and maintenance of welding codes and standards on behalf of the Standards Organisation of Nigeria consulting and membership management. Currently, most welding-related training is undertaken by private companies, with welding engineers trained in Germany.
"The institute has been working with federal government to redefine and reposition the welding industry in Nigeria, by standardising the practice of welding to be in line with international requirements. Federal government has committed to the training of 10 000 welders by 2010, and the institute believes its cooperation with the SAIW will assist it in achieving this goal," comments Edebri.
Guild says that South Africa and Nigeria are the only members of the IIW in Sub-Saharan Africa, and, with this agreement, the two countries are laying a platform for establishing an African welding federation in the future.