…Say Freight Forwarding Associations have Rubbished Sector
By DAPO OLAWUNI
Nigerian maritime industry big wigs on Friday converged at the JF Ade Ajayi main auditorium of University of Lagos to proffer actionable solutions to challenges confronting the maritime sector with the 5th edition of the Taiwo Afolabi Annual Maritime (TAAM) Conference.
The theme for this year’s lecture is tagged; The Maritime Roadmap Project: Making Nigeria Leading Maritime Nation in the World.
A former Director General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Barr. Temisan Omatseye who delivered the lead paper presentation stressed the need for Federal Government to encourage ship building and repair yards in Nigeria.
According to him, out of 100percent of the cargoes coming into Nigeria, 98percent of them are carried by foreigners and this has killed the Nigerian shipping sector.
“The reliance on foreign vessels to carry Nigeria import and export which in most cases are higher than market rates has made Nigerian goods uncompetitive in international market, while the high freight rates on import has brought negative effect on Nigerian economy.
“I believe that Nigeria should develop more deep ports which is already ongoing at the moment, we need to ensure the set up of a national shipping line which would set as the bedrock for the return of the old glory days.
“Nigerian shipowners should be given the criteria to register as a national carrier in line with section 35 of the NIMASA Act, so as to allow them take advantage of the law which allows them to carry State, Local Government cargoes both liquid and bulk” he said
Omatseye who was also the pioneer President of African Shipowners Association, encouraged the setting up of ship repair and building infrastructure, stressing that for efficiency such places should be declared as Free Trade Zones (FTZ) while at the same time create incentives of Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) to set up shop within these ship building free trade zones.
He equally opined that the nation should work assiduously towards the completion of the Ajaokuta steel complex while at the same time provide support for the rolling mills and machine tools industry to fabricate needed spare parts for the shipping industry.
“Nigeria should be making policies for the training of manpower for the shipping industries such as officers, able seamen, etc by also making the remittances of seamen tax free. We should have policies in place for welders with international certification to be trained in Nigeria,” he opined.
Also speaking, the Secretary General of African Shipowners Association, Ms Funmi Folorunso noted that although Nigeria has ships, the available vessels in the nation aren’t the required specification needed for the available trade.
“We have ships but the ships we have aren’t the ships we need in 2023. There is a report on the number of vessels required in Africa with emphasis on the kinds of vessels. We should be working with this vital information as we go about ship acquisition,” she said.
Folorunso, however, expressed regret that ship owners in Nigeria have placed so much anticipation on the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund (CVFF), stressing that there is more funding outside the country.
“The CVFF isn’t required for ship acquisition. There is more funding out there. We must set an agenda for the next government. We must set an agenda for the government to work at it. Nigeria doesn’t have a fleet development agenda; but we can begin to work on this agenda. We should have veterans from the past like the esteemed former NIMASA Director General, Omatseye; the present (current NIMASA leadership and present stakeholders) and the future (young operators and students),” she posited.
On his part, the Principal Counsel, Akabogu and Associates and Convener of Nigerian International Maritime Summit (NIMS), Dr. Emeka Akabogu lamented that the nation’s maritime sector suffers from gross neglect of salient issues by regulators.
Akabogu argued that there is no valid reason for the prolonged non-disbursement of the CVFF by the government, even as he wondered why the Maritime Fund captured in the NIMASA Act for the development of the sector hasn’t been utilized with the agency more focused on humanitarian activities as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) projects.
According to Akabogu, in the area of freight forwarding and cargo evacuation, Nigeria has remained backwards because of the constant bickering among the freight forwarders.
“The freight forwarding associations have done a lot of dis-service to the Nigerian Maritime industry as a result of continued bad blood amongst themselves” he said
Earlier, the Director General of NIMASA, Dr. Bashir Jamoh OFR, who was represented by the Director, Internal Audit, Mrs. Olamide Odusanya said that Nigeria remains largely a work in progress when compared to some of the global maritime powers who have mastered seaborne trade for several centuries.
“We make bold to say however that we have earned the right to be taken seriously and respected at the international level. Our position as a regional leader remains unassailable whether it is in terms of volume of trade, our accession to key maritime convention and the development of in country capacity of unparalleled significance in Africa. We also hold the record of the most significant fightback from record level piracy in our waters to zero incidence in the past two years. The future is indeed bright for Nigerian shipping,” the NIMASA boss said.
Also speaking, the President of Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA) Nigeria, Mrs. Eunice Ezeoke described human capital development is the singular most important factor to be prioritized in Nigeria’s craving for a sustainable shipping sector.
Noting the impending logistics quagmire at the Lekki deep seaport, Ezeoke said; “Deep seaports can’t be developed in isolation. You can’t develop a deep seaport without the infrastructure for cargo evacuation and consolidation. Otherwise, we are setting up for problems and challenges. It is akin to putting the cart before the horse”
“How did we get it wrong? The Ajakuta Steel Complex is a vital facility to enable us build vessels in Nigeria. We have the raw materials and human capital; but we lack the political will.”
In his welcome address, the Chairman of SIFAX Group, Dr. Taiwo Afolabi, who was represented by the Managing Director of Skye Capital, Mr. Bode Ojeniyi stated that the maritime industry in Nigeria is grappling with various issues including infrastructural deficit, foreign exchange bottleneck, insecurity on our waterways, low level of technology adoption and deployment as well as inconsistent policies, among others.
“The TAAM Conference, a partnership between the Maritime Forum of this University’s Law Faculty, was birthed to serve as a platform where key issues that will engender innovations and practical ideas needed to sustain growth of the maritime sector are discussed and workable solutions are proffered to challenges confronting the sector,” he said.
According to him, these issues have largely limited the ability of the sector to contribute significantly to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Other maritime bigwigs such as; the Former Continental President, African Women in Maritime (WIMAFRICA), Mrs. Jean-Chiazor Anishere (SAN); Convener of Lagos International Maritime Week, Barr. (Mrs.) Oritsematosan Edodo-Emore; President, WIMA-Nigeria, Mrs. Rollens Macfoy; Managing Solicitor, Trizon Law Chambers, Foluke Akinmoladun; Chief Executive, Bomarah Group, Hajiya Bola Muse; among others.