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Roadmap to generating N7 trillion from maritime in 2022, by experts

By Adaku Onyenucheya
05 January 2022   |   3:55 am
As 2022 begins, there are high expectations that the maritime sector would be prioritised and properly harnessed to drive the country’s economy and fund its budget.

Amaechi.

As 2022 begins, there are high expectations that the maritime sector would be prioritised and properly harnessed to drive the country’s economy and fund its budget.

According to industry players, countries such as Singapore and Greece have leveraged the maritime sector to grow their economies, as it is one of the biggest revenue-generating industries globally.

The Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) had said that Nigeria’s maritime sector could generate N7 trillion revenue yearly and create additional four million jobs in the next five years if properly harnessed.

However, issues of multiple shipping charges, cumbersome cargo clearing processes, absence of indigenous ship ownership, foreign exchange scarcity, multiple taxation, poor state of the roads to ports and lack of scanners are some of the challenges that crippled the industry in 2021.

Industry players have said that while the Federal Government focuses on the Information Communication Technology (ICT) sector in its economic diversification agenda, solving the lingering challenges in the maritime sector should be prioritised this year if the government must grow a sustainable economy.

Speaking on movement of cargoes, the Deputy National President, Air Logistics, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Dr. Segun Musa, lamented that while all modes of transport aside air, are responsible for the entry and exit or cargo into the seaport, the reverse is the case in Nigeria where only the roads are being utilised.

He said more worrisome was the politisation of barges and railway, which are meant to be deployed as additional value since pipeline deployment is not visible.

Musa expressed concern that government officials and other stakeholders were responsible for the frustration of the railway and barge operations, alleging that they benefit from the congestion that is frustrating businesses in the nation’s ports.

He said for the maritime industry to move forward this year, there should be immediate reshuffling, from the minister to heads of agencies in the transport ministry.

The General-Secretary, Association of Bonded Terminal Operators of Nigeria, Haruna Omolajomo, said bonded terminal operators should be allowed to do their traditional role of business as stated in the International Maritime law and CEMA, noting that the terminals are currently under-utilised as none is working up to 30 per cent utilisation capacity.

He noted that if the bonded terminals are patronised and barges are used to convey goods, they would reduce the current road traffic menace by 95 per cent.

Omolajomo said through activities of barge operations, more than one million TEUs were moved within 18 months. A former director of shipping development, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Captain Warredi Enisuoh, lamented that the country’s hinterland capacity is yet to be improved upon, noting that there are literally no functional inland container depots (ICD) and inland dry ports (IDPs) to help decongest the ports.

He said the road and rail networks in and out of the ports have neither been improved nor given the right attention. On improving import and export trade, Omolajomo said government should give serious attention to exports as one of the revenue generators for the economy, adding that there is the need to give exporters unconditional support and access to foreign exchange.

He added that export hubs or clusters need to be created in all the major ports, noting that just as the country has a fast-track for imported cargoes, there should also be a fast track for the exports.

“Nowadays, shipping companies and terminal operators pay lip service to exports. They don’t take it seriously as they do for import. Government should enforce it on the shipping companies and the terminal operators to see the need to make exports attractive and competitive in price and quality,” he added.

On government agencies and trade facilitation, a former Director-General of NIMASA, Temisan Omatseye, said there is need to eradicat human interface and automate the whole process from the Customs clearing of goods to the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) tracking of vessels and the NIMASA documentation to know the key performance indicators (KPI) for the growth of the maritime sector.

President, Shippers Association of Lagos, (SAL), Jonathan Nicol called on the government to resolve tariffs and all vexatious issues by the port economic regulator and other regulatory agencies in the ports.

Nicol added that the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) amendment of the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) should meet with the current realities in the World Trade Agreements, thereby eliminating threats to importers.

Nicol also added that the government should ensure peaceful co-existence in the maritime sector by the multinationals operating in Nigeria while urging Shipping Lines and Terminal Operators to induce the development of the maritime systems and not just increase costs as a major target.

The National Publicity Secretary of the Association of Registered Freight Forwarders of Nigeria, (ARFFN), Taiwo Fatomilola, said government should focus on reducing the cost of cargo clearance to make the nation’s ports attractive, as the country is losing its cargoes to Cotonou and Togo.

He said Vehicle Registration (VREG), container deposit, duty, multiple taxation and poor network services at the point of processing and releasing cargoes are challenges crippling the nation’s seaports.

He said in Cotonou, Togo and other neighbouring countries, there is nothing like VREG or container deposit, which importers pay N500, 000 to shipping companies in Lagos and more in other states. Fatomilola charged the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) to scrap container deposits or reduce the amount paid.

He also called for the harmonisation of government’s agencies at the port, noting that the proliferation of agencies within and outside the port is making the cost of doing business in Nigeria one of the most expensive in the world, thereby driving investors to neighbouring countries.

Fatomilola said the Police, the Navy, Army, Customs and street urchins are all over the roads of the ports with guns and several roadblocks extorting and damaging people’s already cleared vehicles, noting that this should stop if the country must deal with inflation.

Speaking on infrastructure, Enisuoh, said the overdependence on Lagos port is going to be stronger as not much is being done in the Eastern ports, in terms of expansion, dredging and improvements on their viability.

Enisuoh added that the insecurity in the east and its proximity to the Niger Delta would force more foreign ships to drop their cargoes in Lagos.

He noted that unless the Lekki Deep Sea Port comes on stream, Nigeria would see lots of its containers being dropped off in Togo and the Benin Republic who seem to be enjoying continuous reforms and good hinterland connectivity.

“Ships are getting bigger and with draft restrictions, Nigeria may end up getting a reasonable size of their goods from neighboring countries. We will be losing businesses and jobs to those countries as well,” he warned.

Enisuoh also added that unless Nigeria opens her Cabotage waters to foreign-flagged ships, more seafarers with Nigerian certificates are likely to go jobless, especially as the certificate is not recognised internationally, while the growth of local ships is very low.

Omatseye further called for the development of vessels acquisition and manpower to make Nigeria a hub. While President Buhari, in his 2022 agenda restated his administration commitment to the fight against widespread insecurity in the country, the shippers’ boss, called for an end to insecurity on Nigeria waterways.

Nicol noted that fishing vessels should be protected to enable Nigerians to supply fish into the various local and neighbouring countries’ markets, while also protecting the Gulf of Guinea from invading pirates.

Enisuoh said with this year being a pre-election year, piracy and sea robbery will possibly be up, unless the Niger Delta elders continue in the current stride of weeding their communities of criminal elements.

He noted that the presence of foreign Navies will increase as Nigeria has not shown any form of capacity that it can handle the insecurity on its waters.