…Tasks FG on implementation of Maritime Laws, Policies
The Group Executive Vice-Chairman of SIFAX Group, Dr Taiwo Afolabi has lamented the aggravated attacks on vessels at berth at various terminals in Nigeria by sea robbers and hoodlums.
Afolabi appealed to the government and its relevant agencies to further fortify the nation’s coastal areas and maritime boundaries against maritime crimes. SIFAX group are the operators of Ports and Cargo Terminal at the Tin Can Island port of Lagos.
Even though he commended the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) for getting the presidency to sign the Anti Piracy Bill into law, he advised that this should not just end there, adding that there should be a campaign for more funding for maritime security.
Afolabi made the appeal during the 4th edition of Taiwo Afolabi Annual maritime Conference (TAAM) with the theme “Innovation and Practical Reforms Towards Sustainable Growth in the Maritime Sector” held in Lagos.
He called on the Federal Government through the Ministries ,Departments and Agencies (MDA’s) in the maritime sector to ensure implementation of the various policies and reforms for transformation and growth of the maritime sector.
He noted that Nigeria do not lack innovations due to the constant engagements and collaboration between the operators and the regulatory agencies.
He however called for a strong implementation and feedback mechanism, adding that head of maritime agencies who have initiated a reform process should be allowed to see it through to the end before they are removed.
Afolabi also noted that piracy attacks on ships at various terminals had led to the introduction of war risk surcharges on consignments heading to Nigeria by many shipping lines.
According to Afolabi, who was represented by Mr Adekunle Oyinloye Managing Director of the Group, the Federal Government and its relevant agencies should further fortify the nation’s coastal area and maritime boundaries against maritime crimes.
“While I commend the support of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), I want to say that attacks on ships, either at berth, anchorage or off our coastal area, can effectively be tackled with the right approach.
“I want to commend the Federal Government, through the various efforts of regulatory agencies in the maritime sector such as the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), NIMASA and Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), for its policy of linking some of the ports to the national rail network.
“With this policy, cargoes can be evacuated by rail from Apapa ports to the hinterland.
“Government’s initiative of moving cargoes from the ports to the inland dry ports and container freight stations is a welcome development and must be seen to the end,” Afolabi said.
He said that in spite of several maritime laws and port reforms, there should be more policies, reforms and most importantly, a strong implementation mechanism.
Afolabi, who is also the Consul-General of the Republic of Djibouti in Nigeria, said that in spite of various challenges, the Nigerian ports reforms policy, which brought the private sector into ports operations, was indeed a huge success.
Also speaking, the Chairman of the occasion, who is also Chairman, Ports Consultative Council (PCC), Chief Kunle Folarin, said that issues of reforms and the need for practical and innovative solutions had become imperative in dealing with the maritime sector.
“The new economic agenda in the maritime sector and ports industry raises concerns on port reforms and local participation policies.
“It also calls for direct foreign investment policies, the transformation of the port from a whole public monopoly into a landlord model organisation, with a master plan that will also include Green Field Development,” Folarin said.
The Vice Chancellor, University of Lagos, Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, represented by Prof. Matthew Ilori, commended the efforts of the organiser in exposing Law students to the maritime sector.
Ogundipe said that the maritime industry was the gateway to the nation’s economy, adding that organising the industry could sustain Nigeria’s economy.
He commended the Federal Government for the concession of the nation’s ports, adding that more still needed to be done to make the industry competitive.
In her welcome address, the Dean, Faculty of Law, University of Lagos, Prof. Ayodele Atsenuwa, said that the programme had exposed their students to various platforms by deepening their knowledge beyond the school curriculum.
Atsenuwa said that it was important for the school to partner with the maritime industry to enable the students choose career in maritime law, shipping as well as admiralty, to enhance the progress of the industry.
In his keynote address, the Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NCS), Mr Hassan Bello, said that the NSC bill which, he hoped would be passed to the parliament as an executive bill, was presently being treated by the Federal Ministry of Transportation.
“We have to regulate the carriage of goods by land, which means there must be liability, insurance, responsibility of the owners of the transport and carriage.
“In the freight forwarding practice, we have called for consolidation and professionalism for reforms in the tracking and haulage systems.
“We need to have registered fleets which will pass all the tests so that carriage of goods from the ports to the hinterland will be secured and fast because delivery of cargo is essential to the economy.
“What we have now, of course, is rickety trucks breaking down all over the place and there is no legislation to guide carriage of goods by land.
“There must be, for example, a rest period, after six or eight hours of driving, the driver must observe some rest, as most accidents are caused by fatigue,” he said.
Bello pointed out that NSC would not want to see articulated vehicles being parked unnecessarily on the shoulder of the highway.
He said that it had given room to the council promoting the truck transit park, which would be a whole village, with many facilities, including shower and hostels, adding that it would also create employment.
The executive secretary added that investors were looking at what the country was doing and so needed not run the transport sector haphazardly, as there would be problems.
“Infrastructure is also important; government must take its responsibilities to provide infrastructure, which means good roads, linkage of rail to the ports.
“ If the transport system is not efficient, it means sluggish economy; if the transport system is efficient, it means a strong and vibrant economy,” he said.
Bello, who noted that the Nigeria was currently lacking the ability to harness what it had, called for proper utilisation of the various potentials in the maritime industry.