By DAPO OLAWUNI
Fresh indications have emerged that due to the death of a functional national carrier, Nigerian importers pay $45 Billion as freight for dry and wet cargo to foreign ship owners between 2015-2019 alone.
This indication was given in Lagos on Thursday by the Executive Secretary of Nigerian Shippers Council, Barrister Hassan Bello at the launching of a book titled; The Rise, Fall and Liquidation of Africa’s Pioneer Carriers; Nigerian National Shipping Line and Black Star Line.
The book was authored by Dr Edmund Mbama Chilaka.
Speaking at the event which had the creme-de-la-creme of the Nigerian shipping business in attendance, Barr Hassan Bello represented by the Deputy Director of Consumer Affairs Department of the Council, Mr Celestine Akujobi stated that the
vacuum created by the collapse of NNSL is yet to be filled till date.
Quoting the Nigerian Ports Authority statistics, Hassan Bello revealed that between 2015 and 2019 alone, a total of 26,147 vessels berthed at the Nigerian ports with total dry cargo throughput of 372,000,000 Metric Tonnes and total wet cargo throughput of 613,000,000 Metric Tonnes.
“If we apply the NIMASA benchmark freight rate of $92.5 per Metric Tonnes, for general dry cargo from Europe, total freight of more than $34 BIIIIon was paid for the period while with a benchmark freight rate of $18 per Metrlc Tonne for crude oil to Europe, freight paid to foreign ship owners on crude on export was more than $11 Billion for the period”
“This means that more than $45 Billion was paid as freight for dry and wet cargo to foreign ship owners by Nigerians from 2015-2019 alone (an average of more than $8 Billion paid to foreign ship owners annually)
“This is an economic opportunity loss to the nation as the country did not benefit anything as freight from carriage of her cargo due to absence of Nigerian fleet plying international trade”
Bello said that it was because of this losses that the Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Rotimi Chlbulke Amaechi, constituted the
Nigerian Fleet Implementation Committee (NFIC) with members drawn from the public and private sector maritime stakeho|ders to actualize the establishment of a Nigerian fleet that would be wholly private sector owned and operated, with the government providing the required support.
He said the myriad of challenges that have hampered the development of the Nigerian fleet over the years include; ship registration issues, absence of incentives for the maritime Industry, as well as faulty trade terms.
He said Nigerian Exports are shipped “Free on Board” (FOB), while its Imports are shipped ‘Cost Insurance Freight (CIF).
Chairman of the book launch event and Chairman of Genesis Worldwide Shipping, Capt Emmanuel Ihenacho congratulated Dr Edmund Chilaka for venturing into documenting the demise of the NNSL and the Black Star Lines years ago in order to encourage the Nigerian government and private investors in the business of ship ownership.
According to Capt Ihenacho, Dr Chilaka showed a depth of knowledge in the business of shipping itself which is the heart of international trade.
“Out of this bad business of NNSL, we now have a historical record that people now and in the future can reference to, that if they venture into the business again, they have a good chance of achieving success”
While reviewing the book, Prof David Aworawo stated that indiscipline was one of the reasons why the NNSL did not thrive.
“As a government company, the workers were simply not committed, so there was gross indiscipline in the way they operated.
For instance, there was incessant strike action by some of the workers who only thought of what they could gain, and not what the country needs to sustain the company”
“The example of Ghana Black Star Lines was sited when they went on strike for more than six months, and by the time they came back, all the ships were dead, nobody oiled them, they couldn’t function and they were subsequently sold as scrap. As the ships were sold as scraps, the workers too didn’t have job to do again”
“The consequences of the indiscipline is that the ships became highly indebted, they were detained outside Nigeria times and they became a subject of mockery”
“The book suggested that government should not get involved in business of owning ships, but should rather allow private owners”
He however suggested that the government must be involved but at a minimal level.
On his part, President of Nigerian Association of Master Mariners, Capt Tajudeen Alao argued that the NNSL is not dead but it is alive, and there are testimonies to that effect.
He said the NNSL gave birth to many offsprings.
“Before the birth of NNSL, nobody knew that Africans could own a ship. But today, indigenous practitioners and shipowners like High Chief Raymond Dokpesi, Fajemirokun, Jolapamo, Odili, Ladoja, Capt Ihenacho, Alhaji Waziri, Greg Ogbeifun among other indigenous companies emerged”
Capt Alao said that all the vessels under NNSL collapsed because of the change in general cargo handling to container handling in late 70s and early 80s, adding that modern technology and changing in times, took effect on the vessels on NNSL which are brand new ships.
He argued that in areas of human capacity development, NNSL left unparalleled legacy.
In his statement, author of the book, Dr Edmund Chilaka argued that there is no need for Nigeria to continue in the present quest to establish a National Fleet as the NFIC has been charged to do.
He said that instead, the Federal Government should take policy measures to help indigenous shipowners to grow their tonnage and improve their practice for competitive sea trading.
On why the book was published, Dr Edmund Chilaka said the book launch presents a forum for reflection on the part Nigeria has travelled in sea trade since colonial times.
He said that the liquidation of the NNSL need not be a funeral, and that the book converted the ill-fated liquidation into an ongoing discussion on how to achieve a better performance by indigenous shipping operators.