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Stakeholders urge goverment to focus more on ‘blue economy’

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Stakeholders in the maritime industry have urged the Federal Government to shift attention to the development of the nation’s maritime sector, in its quest for economic diversification.

The operators, at a breakfast meeting with the media in Lagos, decried the current state of infrastructure decay at the nation’s seaports, and exposed several lapses in the policy direction of government in the sector.

Specifically, the stakeholders including, terminal operators, maritime workers, clearing agents, journalists and other agencies condemned the parlous state of the Apapa roads, and urged government to take urgent steps to rescue the ailing sector.

The bad roads, high tariff regime, low indigenous participation/capacity utilisation, and poor administration of the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF), were identified as major setbacks for the shipping sector.

The Chief Executive Officer, Ships and Ports Communications,Bolaji Akinola, said: “How do you explain a situation where the roads leading to Apapa have become death traps? It is unfortunate that the seaports, which is the cash cow of government has completely failed, yet government has not deemed it fit to pump massive investment into that road. The Customs generated about N800 billion for government yearly, and 90 per cent of the funds come from the seaports in Apapa.

“There is the Apapa regeneration plan and the cost of implementing that plan as at 2011, is about N110billion, this is not up to what government earns from the ports in a month. It is a shame,” he said.

Akinola however stressed the need for journalists to add value to maritime reportage in Nigeria.

“We should all begin to work towards putting behind us that era junk journalism. We need to weed out touting and support professionalism,” he added.

The National Publicity Secretary, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Kayode Farinto, urged the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), to focus on its core mandate of ensuring development of indigenous shipping to enable cadets acquire sea time experience, and create employment in the industry.

He said the plight of the indigenous ship owners will continue because NIMASA is being economical with the truth on the proceeds and disbursement of the Cabotage Fund, which is estimated at about $100million.

Similarly, the Special Adviser on Seafarers Affairs to the President- General, Maritime Workers’ Union of Nigeria (MWUN), Comrade Henry Odey, stressed the need to encourage indigenous shipping, as this will spur local participation in the sector currently dominated.

He noted that the cadets are suffering in their career because there is not ship to train them.

Faulting the new trend whereby NIMASA shuttles from country to country seeking assistance with sea-time training, Odey wondered: “How would you think that the other countries would like to train your cadets for you to compete with them?

“It is a shame on our country because we are doing nothing. Do you think you can go to The Philippines and ask them to train your cadets so that you can compete with them? I worked onboard the British ship, Dempsa, and if you were not a good sailor, nobody would employ you. But today, nobody cares.”


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ANLCABolaji AkinolaNIMASA

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