‘Why African countries lag behind maritime super powers’
• NASS to redeem legislations on Cabotage matters, shipping
• FG approves zero import duty for vessels
Stakeholders in the maritime sector, yesterday, bemoaned the low status of African countries in the international maritime space, despite being a prominent centre of trade in the world.
The stakeholders, who met at the Nigeria International Maritime Summit, with the theme: “Becoming Significant Maritime Nation”, decried the many challenges hindering Africa, causing its countries to lag behind Asians, Europeans and American countries.
Chairperson, Nigeria International Maritime Summit (NIMS), Mfon Usoro, noted that African nations have abundant natural resources, with more than one body of water, that are used for vibrant trade and migration routes
She, however, regretted that there is no single African country on the list of 10 or 20 top shipping nations, except Liberia that has made the region proud as the world’s second-largest flag in fleet size.
“One could in a manner of speech describe Africa as a giant island surrounded by seas and oceans. About 38 countries in Africa are coastal States bordered by either the Atlantic Ocean or the Indian Ocean.
“It is so unfortunate that no African country has emerged as a maritime superpower; they are not on the list of the top 20 shipping nations. We are not even aspiring to be among these shipping nations. We need to address the domestic and external impediments,” she said.
The Director-General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Bashir Jamoh, said Nigeria must aspire to be a maritime nation, as there is no developed country, whose development history is without the maritime sector.
He said despite over 90 per cent of world goods being transported by sea, Nigeria is still struggling to be a maritime nation.
According to Jamoh, Nigeria must harness its natural resources of the ocean, while addressing the issue of maritime security, which is the number one threat and impediment.
He said the statistics that emanated between November and December 2020, in which Nigeria recorded an average of six attacks on vessels in a week, made the international community tag Nigeria as the most dangerous country to trade in terms of shipping.
Jamoh noted that the Federal Government is concluding plans to grant zero import duties on vessels and ship parts.
Jamoh added that the zero import duty, a physical incentive presented to the Ministry of Transportation, had been approved in August, adding that this would create a situation where the country will be having a national fleet.
The NIMASA boss said the fiscal policy is long overdue, noting that the government has made similar incentives for manufacturers, airline operators, among other sectors.
“All modes of transportation, be it rail, road and air, have enjoyed incentives only the shipping sector. We are pushing for two types of incentives, physical and monetary, and I am pleased to announce that the physical has been granted.
“The Federal Government has granted the physical incentive, which is zero import duty for ship owners and what is remaining is the monetary one and we are interfacing with stakeholders on this,” he said.
Former Director-General of NIMASA, Temisan Omatseye, said beyond playing as a regional powerhouse in the maritime sector, there is a need to first build a national consciousness around Nigeria’s inland waterways.
Former Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer of the Liberia Maritime Authority, Binyah Kesselly, said African nations must prioritise economic base, laws/legal reforms in becoming a maritime powerhouse.
The Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Emmanuel Jime, said the summit came at a time when the National Action Committee on the Africa Continental Free Trade is mobilising various sectors of the national economy towards articulating an implementation strategy for Nigeria’s participation in the continental free trade agreement.
He said the collaboration of industry professionals and stakeholders in the sector to discuss and generate ideas that will improve maritime trade as well as create a logistic platform to drive the actors are quite germane and timely.
Jime noted that trade has been a factor for the economic, social and political integration of Africa and its countries for many decades, adding that AfCFTA, if well implemented, would spur economic growth and prosperity, help reduce poverty, boost job creation, eliminate trade barriers, facilitate movement of made-in-Nigeria goods, movement of vessels and engender investment creation.
He said it is imperative for Nigeria to provide a strong maritime logistics platform that will propel its participation in the continental trade.
He said the country, as well as its stakeholders, need to look into critical issues such as gridlock on the ports’ access roads, lack of scanners at the ports and borders.
Also, Jime pointed out that Nigeria needs to address the issue of the single window, checkpoints at the nation’s major trade corridors, resistance to regulations and proffer practical solutions to address those challenges.
He suggested that stakeholders need to come up with practical suggestions that will eradicate obstacles that threaten the repositioning of Nigeria as the maritime hub for Africa trade.
Chairman, House Committee on Maritime Safety, Education and Administration, Lynda Chuba-Ikpeazu, stated that the maritime sector is pivotal to the development of any country.
She said while Nigeria is blessed with human capital and a coastline of almost, which is 900 kilometres, rich in biodiversity, it is still struggling to be a maritime country.
Chuba-Ikpeazu added that the Nigerian maritime sector, with its untapped potential, is capable of driving sustainable economic growth if the right actions are taken and implemented.
She, however, revealed that the National Assembly is already paying attention to strengthen the maritime sector by redeeming the legislations on Cabotage and shipping among others while working with the Federal Ministry of Transportation and NIMASA to actualise the intent of those legislations.
“We will be engaging stakeholders for their inputs to ensure that these legislative initiatives begin to reflect the industries’ expectations and realities,” she assured.