With a coastal stretch of 853 kilometres (km) and an entire maritime waters of 210,900km2, including the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), Nigeria’s local shipping industry has potential for cabotage trading that is only second to the first in the whole world.
Over the years, operators in the local shipping industry, under the umbrella of the Nigeria Shipowners Association (NISA), have continued to defend their claim that the industry could employ up to five million people if harnessed to the maximum.
As part of its agenda to transform the maritime sector, the federal government in recent times has only set up committees with tags such as “presidential” or “taskforce” to assess only trending issues such as delay in the cargo clearing process and vessel dwell time.
That has nothing to do with the indigenous shipping industry. The Coastal and Inland Shipping Act, now popularly known as the Cabotage Act, made in 2003, has failed to fly. Experts say it was high time the federal government stopped looking the way of committees and begin to formulate and enforce policies that could drive the local shipping industry.
The president of the Nigerian Association of Master Mariners, Capt. Saib Olopoenia, said the absence of a transport policy was the bane of the nation’s shipping industry. A renowned seaman who has timeline familiarity with the shipping policies of the developed worlds, Olopoenia emphasised that Nigeria must establish a transport policy to attain a focused direction in shipping development. According to him, a transport policy would define roles and responsibilities for the development and growth of a national shipping industry.
“One of the things is that there must be a national shipping or transport policy. At the moment, people are just coming with ideas here and there. But there should be an overall shipping policy for the country, and the role of the private industry as well should be very clear. This is how we want to go about shipping.
“There should be a national shipping or transport policy from which the government and its agencies in the maritime industry as the regulator and industry players can obtain direction, cutting through various stages of development at different times,” Olopoenia said.
Such policies, according to experts, should also bear masterpiece plan for investment in ship building and maintenance, ship scrapping and recycling as well as industry financing. An industry investor, Capt. Chukwulo Nwaora, said while Nigeria lacks the requisite facilities with respect to shipbuilding at the moment, the country could begin by making policies that would favour building of small crafts and tug boats for coastal operations.
Nwaora said, “At the moment, we have ship repair facilities but do not have a steel industry in this country. So if we are going to start building ships, we must have the necessary infrastructure in place to build them. It is policies that will do this. And of course in the world, not all countries build ship, there are some countries that are noted for ship-building. What we need is to have a very strong viral ship repair industry in Nigeria made possible by well formulated and enforced policies. We can start building small crafts like the coastal vessels, but when it comes to foreign-going vessels, I don’t think at the moment we have the capacity to do it.”
Source : Leadership