By DAPO OLAWUNI
About 10,000 seafarers working on Nigerian fishing trawlers may lose their jobs in the next two months, so says the President of Nigerian Shipowners Forum, Mrs Margret Orakwusi.
Orakwusi who was the former President of Nigerian Trawler Owners Association (NITOA) raised the alarm at a stakeholders meeting in Lagos last week.
According to Orakwusi, the cost of diesel has skyrocketed from N150 per liter to N800per litre in less than two years and this has increased the operational cost of trawling business among other challenges.
“Most of our trawlers have left the country, those of them that are remaining in the country, operationally they are less than 20percent, it is not a thing of pride, but this is exactly where we are.
“We all know that we use AGO (diesel) 24/7 to power all the equipment on the vessel, each fishing trip lasts from 45-50 days.
“Now, less than two years from getting it (diesel) at N150 per liter, we are now getting it at N800 per liter, the fact is that nobody can survive under such a business environment.
“About 90percent of our products are exported, and in the export market, we are just managing one percent shares of the market, so we cannot even pass on this excessive cost of production to the end users
“So, we are calling on government to provide incentives in order to reduce the impact of what we are going through. I have personally tried to do ‘Mother Christmas’ by trying to pay people for not doing anything, because the trawlers are tied down for about four months now just every other companies.
“In two months time, we might have about 10,000 people in the job market, and this is loosing their jobs in direct employment. So, we need incentives, we also need reduction in the taxes we pay, these are what the government can do to keep business afloat.
“The various agencies should facilitate trade and businesses, they should not be competing, there shouldn’t be uneccessary pressure on them for revenue generation.
“If you squeeze life out of us the business people, what happens? So the focus should be on facilitation and not on revenue generation. We pay money to NIMASA, we pay to NIWA and all sorts of agencies” she stated
Orakwusi stressed the need for a fishing terminal which would make it easier for trawler owners to operate at cheapest rate.
According to her, for you to be a trawler owner today, you need to have your cold room certified by government and all sorts of auxiliary services.
She said “All these should be in a the proposed fishing terminal. The government can come in and set up fishing terminals.
In terms of maritime security, she commended the efforts of NIMASA at ensuring no attack on the high seas in the last five months.
She however lamented that sea robbery still thriving within the nations waterways.
“When it comes to security, we are getting it right, especially at outside bar, but within our waterways, we still have sea robbers and something has to be done” she said