Twenty-two years after the demise of the Nigerian National Shipping Line (NNSL), Nigeria has not been able to midwife another fleet as the Nigerian merchant shipping act does not favour local ship owners. BAYO AKOMOLAFE reports
Unfavourable policies, which have led to the collapse of indigenous shipping lines in the last two decades in Nigeria, is yet to be reviewed by lawmakers unlike other maritime countries.
For instance, foreign vessels, which do not meet the requirements of the nation’s Cabotage Act, have dominated Nigerian waters at the expense of Nigerian registered vessels due to loopholes in Nigerian maritime laws.
Because of this, many ship owners have gone out of business, a situation which has led to huge loss of jobs.
Today, the tonnage of cabotage fleet in the country has diminished considerably in the last couple of years as most vessel owners can no longer meet their obligations to the financing banks.
In most cases, the ship owners said they had no option than to go under or have their vessels repossessed by the banks, leading to loss of jobs, training opportunities and failed businesses.
According to the President of Shipowners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Engr. Greg Ogbeifun, the only thing which could have been the saving grace was the recent Memorandum of Understanding signed in August 2016 between the Federal Government and a Singaporean firm, Pacific International Lines (PIL), to establish a national fleet.
However, he explained in Lagos at a shipowners’ workshop and dinner that Nigeria’s tax laws had put off the firm from the MoU because of its unfavoufrable terms and policies.
He recalled that “PIL put it in writing that unless the tax laws were reviewed, it won’t be able to fly the Nigerian flag as planned.”
He lamented that Nigerian flagged tankers were already disadvantaged.
Also, the president said that government had failed to review the country’s tax laws and policies with a view to enhancing the growth of maritime industry as it has been done in other maritime countries.
He explained that the country had not been able to midwife the emergence of a Nigerian fleet, whether private fleet or fleet resulting from Public Private Partnership.
Ogbeifun stressed: “This is despite the fact that 92 per cent of all import/export cargo in and out of our country is via seaborne trade.”
Also, he explained that the country’s flag administration was extremely weak to the extent that the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG), which owns a large fleet trading worldwide, could not register its ships in the Nigerian flag in other to boost Nigerian tonnage.
The president said that the country lacked the political will to implement the comprehensive report and recommendations made by a committee set up by the Ministry of Transportation to study and make recommendations for the revamping and restructuring of the country’s flag administration.
Instead, Ogbeifun explained that Nigerian maritime administration was interested in collecting levies and revenues and meting out punitive measures on stakeholders, such as arrests, threats and shutdown of ship repair yards with the accompanying consequences to the industry, which the International Maritime Communities and the IMO were observing.
The shipowners said that despite the fact that they contributed two per cent of their contract values to the cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF), most shipowners, who approached the maritime administration could not benefit from the fund.
He said: “Up till now, a fund that has accumulated several hundreds of millions of dollars has never been used to finance a single vessel since its inception over 10 years ago.
He noted: “Our maritime administration has now gone into the business of acquiring a floating dock without a clear objective of what to do with it despite the need to support and grow existing shipyards in the country.
“A large number of the vessels in our maritime domain leave the country to foreign countries for their docking and ship repair needs.”
For Nigerian maritime to move forward, the Federal Government should review the existing laws impeding the growth of the industry.
NPA export plans suffer setback
Plans by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to move export containers by water from Ikorodu Lighter Terminal (ILT) to Lagos Port has suffered a setback, 12 days after it was flagged off.
It was gathered that a barge ferrying the first batch of manganese from the terminal to Lagos Port was programmed to spend six hours on the water but the barge is yet to arrive the port since it began its voyage.
Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Ms Hadiza Bala- Usman, had on February 7, 2018, launched the exportation of the solid mineral from Ikorodu to APM Terminal, Apapa, through badges.
However, it was learnt that the terminal is still awaiting the arrival of the vessel 12 days after the badge left Ikorodu.
A source at the terminal explained that the service provider, Connect Rail Services Limited (CRSL), had not given any reason why the consignment had not reached the port.
When contacted, the Chief Executive Officer of CRSL, Edeme Kelikume, could not offer explanation why the barge ferrying the consignments was yet to get to Apapa port.
The managing director asked for time to respond but as at the time of this report, he was yet to get back to our correspondent. It would be recalled that Usman, at the event, said the movement of the solid minerals was of huge economic advantage to the country. She noted that using barges to ferry containers of solid mineral across the waters to the AP Moller Terminal within Apapa Ports would help to elongate the life of port roads.
She called on stakeholders to key into the window of Public Private Partnership (PPP) and restated NPA management efforts at complying with the Federal Government’s directives on the ease of doing business at the nation’s seaports while the rehabilitation of the ports access roads are on-going.
Govt’s policies hinder blue economy’s development
Nigeria is one of the countries in Africa considered to be sea-blind because of its low level of awareness of the resources, which abound underneath the sea. Also, the country is currently facing challenges of insecurity and bad government policy to tap some ocean resources estimated at $24 trillion.
Other challenges are criminal activities at sea, climate vulnerability, poor infrastructure, environmental degradation, illegal mining, marine pollution and unauthorised fishing.
In Nigeria, there is no fusion of policies that can bridge shipping and fisheries under a maritime economic regime.
While Nigeria’s shipping policy, which is considered obsolete, stands alone, national fisheries policy, superintended by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, operates in isolation.
For instance, Nigeria’s Sea Fisheries Act 1992 does not have provision for Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (IUUF). This, to some extent, has hindered blue economy’s development.
Blue economy deals with all economic activities associated with the oceans and seas.
The resources include fish, oil and gas, deep sea mining of refractory clays, iron and heavy minerals like garnet, rutite, spatile, tourmaline, hydrocarbon, gold and zircon
Others are aquaculture, biomedicine, boats and shipbuilding, cables and pipelines, coastal zone management, defence and security, water treatment, marine recreation, ocean energy and minerals, ocean science and observation, port operations, robotics and submarines, shoreline development, telecommunications, marine tourism, very large floating platforms, harbours, ports, and coastal zones, weather and climate.
For the country to create a blue economy regime, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has, therefore, stressed the need to amend its obsolete legislations to conform to the present day ocean sustainability realities.
It also noted that the maritime economic growth should be given proper attention by government to enable Nigeria take advantage of the vast resources in the seabed. Its Director General, Dr Dakuku Peterside, at a media parley in Lagos recently, said that the seas and oceans were central to the concept of blue economy and important tools to achieving sustainable development in Africa.
According to Peterside, the country’s seas and oceans are overlooked when it comes to th issue of sustainable development in Africa.
He noted that the country could benefit from the deep sea wealth by working with the International Seabed Authority (ISBA) in the area of seabed resources exploration. Peterside called for desirable blue sea economy framework, participatory engagement, agenda setting, participatory policy design and multi-sector partnership.
Already, the director general explained that the agency had sought the assistance of ISBA in the area of capacity building to survey deep sea and establish the database of mineral resources available for the benefit of all mankind. According to Peterside, “NIMASA is working with Nigerian Navy to effectively enforce the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and other relevant international maritime instruments to which we are a party around our continental shelf.
Also, he said that the Federal Ministry of Transportation was developing a country blue economy policy and strategy, which will incorporate the sustainable development of the country’s deep seabed resources. In addition, he said that the agency had equally recognised the need for increased partnership and collaboration with the judiciary in the actualisation of the country’s collective vision for the sustainability of its shipping and maritime transport sector in a blue economy
Also at the media parley, Sam Omatseye, Chairman, Editorial oard, The Nation, urged maritime journalists to report the potential of the blue economy to enable Nigerians to key into the platform. According to him, studies had revealed that ocean resources could sustain an economy.
Omatseye said that journalists should be able to understand the blue economy and its relevance before they can enlighten the public on its potential. He said: “There are about $24 trillion of wealth in blue economy, which is open for humanity to tap.”
Echoing him, the Managing Director, ThisDay Newspapers, Mr Eniola Bello, also said that blue economy could assist Nigeria to improve on tourism and create jobs within the West Africa region. Bello called for the establishment of good government policies to help the blue economy initiative to flourish.
Peterside said that if government was able to tackle the maritime challenges, the country would be able to sustain the concept of the blue economy. He noted: “We need to put suitable policy in place to enable us achieve all the potential in the blue economy.”
For the blue economy to flourish, the director general said that government must maintain peace and security as well as technological innovations.
Peterside stressed the need to create an institutional framework or structure for coordinating the inter-ministerial commission for seabed resources to achieve the potentials of blue economy.
According to him, protection, conservation, preservation and sustainable use of aquatic biodiversity must be at the centre stage of the blue economy.
Government must invest in infrastructure to boost and block all loopholes in order to exploit blue economy
NPA moves against poor container stacking
Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) has said that shipping companies that litter the port roads with empty containers under the guise of holding bay will be sanctioned.
It said that severe sanction would be meted out to erring organisations, which refuses to obey rules guiding the directives after a one week window.
In a statement, the authority’s General Manager, Corporate and Strategic Communications, Abdullahi Goje, quoted the Managing Director of NPA, Hadiza Bala Usman, as saying during a quarterly stakeholders meeting in Lagos, that the management had set up a committee to liaise with representatives of terminal operators to review existing concession agreement within the shortest possible time.
She urged the stakeholders to remit outstanding payments and dues meant for NPA as quickly as possible.
Usman said that NPA would provide an enabling environment for efficient port services in view of the vital role the maritime sub sector plays.
The managing director said that machinery had been put in place to ensure a level playing field for operators doing business in the sector.
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