Experts and stakeholders under the Nigerian Maritime Development Conference Group have taken the bull by the horn to save the maritime sub-sector so as to do something about this key sector that has the potency to pull other sectors to faster speed.
The move began in 2012 with a conference series that promises to explode in 2013, according to the coordinator of the new move, Andy Usanga, chairman, organising committee and managing director/chief executive officer of Globalbond Intership Limited.
The maritime industry has been estimated to be bigger in size than oil and gas, yet Nigeria seems not to have realised the hidden treasure in the sector. Hitherto, this is the same way power sector which is very critical to the fabrication industry was ignored until very recently that His Excellency President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s transformation agenda has brought about transformation in the power sector.
This is why foreign experts believe that Nigeria has the capacity to grow its gross domestic product (GDP) at 12 percent instead of the present level of between 5.6 percent and 7.7 percent. Nigeria’s economy is described as a vehicle running on one wheel when it could run on four.
Over the years, several attempts have been made by several individuals and institutions to reposition the Nigerian maritime industry and make it operate like its counterparts in more stable economies but much has been left undone.
Now, the Nigerian Maritime Development Conference (NIMADEC) group has emerged to take the bull by the horn. The group organises annual conferences to drum attention and drive the right level of funding to the sector in terms of ship building and transfer of maritime transportation to the indigenous entrepreneurs in total realisation of the objectives of the Cabotage Act.
NIMADEC is a private-sector driven initiative working with the Nigerian Institute of Shipping (NIS) and some others to drive the new goals. This has attracted the attention, respect and some level of participation by the public sector. NIMADEC 2013 is themed on “Building A Sustainable Maritime Industry in Nigeria,” which holds at Rockview Hotel in Apapa Lagos between December 9 and 11 December, 2013. According to Usanga, NIMADEC 2013 is an economic Conference to revolutionarily assess the challenges of the maritime sector of the Nigerian economy.
Objectives and Scope:
The Conference would strive to achieve the following objectives: To create an economic forum for public and private sector joint participation in maritime development issues;
To act as an expressional forum towards aligning gang and hook capacities of Nigerian ports and jetties to global standards;
To annually encourage an appraisal discuss on the state of seamanship in Nigerian coastal and inland shipping;
To extensively sensitise indigenous and foreign operators on import and export opportunities inherent in the Nigerian maritime sector and eventual increment in throughput;
To complement national awareness on the aims and objectives and benefits of the Coastal and Inland shipping (Cabotage) Act 2003 in the bid to attain a successful Cabotage regime;
To assist further in educating the Nigerian public on Customs import and export procedures in order to generate increase in cargo traffic as a causation effect;
To annually analyse the state of the segments of the Nigerian maritime sector in compliance to International Maritime Organisation (IMO) conventions’ ARPOL, STCW, ISPS, ISM codes, SOLAS, etc, policies and standards.
The Conference is also aimed at serving as an opportunity for statutory maritime agencies and organisations to inform the Nigerian populace on their roles and periodic contributions to the Nigerian maritime development.
Some of the key topics that would be treated and served hot to the audience over the three days include: ‘Managing domestic and international shipping for national advantage; the political dimension.’
It is believed that political will and the desire to do what is right are critical in whatever level the maritime industry of any country would attain. The next is, ‘Nigerian maritime sector and quality shipping; the imperative of reforms.’ This shows that there have been reforms but the extent those reform principles have been given the teeth to bite has been an issue.
Others include ‘A case history of Nigerian maritime industry development in Nigeria and Gulf of Guinea.’ It is important to note that the US is keen on what happens in the Gulf of Guinea since it has emerged as the next safe oil belt after the crisis-ridden Middle-East.
The Nigerian American Bi-National Commission which was hosted outside Abuja in Port Harcourt for the first time last year has underlined this factor. It seeks to help Nigeria sanitise the waterways and the coastal areas of the Gulf of Guinea in terms of threats such as oil bunkering, piracy and other vices. It is therefore obvious that any home-grown suggestions and plan of action put forward as suggestions to the US and the international community might receive huge attention and support.
Expected participating corporations and institutions:
The industry stakeholders know that there is need to come together and take conscious action. This is why those who have shown serious concern for solution have been slated to participate, and they include: Federal Ministry of Transport; Federal Ministry of Finance and other maritime-related parastatals; African Centre for Supply Chain; IOCs and upstream and downstream operating companies; Association of Indigenous Ship-owners of Nigeria (ISAN); LADOL (Lagos Deep Offshore Logistics Base Free Zone; Marine Platforms; Aveon Offshore Limited; Intels Nigeria Limited; Jagal group; the NNPC; and Orlean Investment West Africa Ltd.
Others include Dorman Long Engineering Limited; Nigerian Export Processing Zone Authority; Lekki Free Zone Development Company; Nigerian Customs Services; Nigeria Navy; Members of National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents; NIMASA; Onne Oil and Gas Free Zone; Ocean marine security and TransOcean.
Also included are West African Ventures (WAV); Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board; Members of Nigerian Institute of Shipping (NIS) and other shipping professional bodies; The Senate Committee on Marine Transport; House Committee on Marine Transport; Agencies – NPA, NIWA, NSC etc; Maritime Reporters’ Association of Nigeria (MARAN); and Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA).
Problems of the maritime sector:
For such quality and volume of stakeholders and participants to be found in one hall for three days, the maritime community and indeed the entire nation expects breakthroughs at the end of each Conference year. Glaring issues are therefore on the table for attention. For instance, the importance of fabrication in the industry cannot be over stated.
Fabrication is the backbone of the industry. Fabrication, steel development, access to steel products and so on, are all problems that stare everyone in the face. The federal government therefore needs to single out some companies and offer them facilities, loans, import right and things like that, with definite mandates to achieve milestones, according to Usanga.
There is need for focus to achieve specific objectives, for instance, the hydraulic system requires attention. “Since Nigeria is not able to build engines such as Detroit, Cat, Wartsila and so on and is depending solely on foreign technology, then federal government should identify ship builders and help them with incentives (subsidy) to import necessary equipment and machineries. It will also serve as a research base. These aided companies will be relied upon on fabrication and ship-building. They would need waivers,” said the NIMADEC coordinator.
He said there is need for what he called protective legislation to ensure that any vessel that can be built in Nigeria cannot be imported any more. He described the Cabotage Act 2003 clause as clumsy.
“It has allowed the government to bring in vessels when they are not available in Nigeria but has ignored the very essence of the law which is about transfer of the vessel economy to Nigerians. This should be given to Nigerians to bring in.
This helps to promote the indigenous entrepreneur and enhance capacity. By bringing in the vessels, he can gain expertise stage by stage and would soon begin to manufacture the vessels locally. This is a key turning point and it is there that the budding Nigerian shipping industry’s protectionism lies.”
To him, if the government should create a fabrication market or hub in Nigeria, it would have created a hub in Africa. He said the vessel fund in NIMASA should be made vibrant to help Nigeria join other Third World powers like India that are now building ships.