‘Nigeria can’t shy away from shipbuilding’
They warned that continued neglect of the shipbuilding sub-sector is inimical to nation-building.
Chairman, NIMENA, Henry Unuigbe, at the 7th Annual Conference and Annual General Meeting of the Institute, in Lagos, noted that investment in shipbuilding is humongous, therefore, government must create the enabling environment, including putting sustainable policies in place in order to attract the needed investment.
Unuigbe, who expressed regrets over the state of affairs in the nation’s maritime industry, decried that shipbuilding and repair yards, which remain a vital component of the maritime industry, have been neglected over the years.
He was also worried that Nigeria was losing huge capital as indigenous ship owners patronise other countries for ship repair and maintenance.
Unuigbe noted that critical sectors like the steel and power, which are crucial to ship building, are currently comatose and needed urgent revitalisation.
“Ship repair yards are essential part of the infrastructure needed to support shipping. There is no doubt that this critical infrastructure is presently insufficient, and not capable of meeting the industry demand. Without adequate and suitable repair yards, ship owners will have no choice than to take their ships elsewhere for their maintenance, and in most cases at a relatively higher cost. The economy suffers as a result of this,” he said.
Unuigbe also lamented that tank farm owners have taken over the waterfront, a development he said poses challenge to potential investors to sight ship repair yards.
He said, “Investment in ship building is humongous. Government don’t need to be an active player, all it needs to do is to create the right environment. There should be power for you to talk about shipbuilding. You must get the steel industry right because those are the essential components of shipbuilding. As at today, our steel industry is in comatose, as the power sector.
On manpower development, he said: “We need to put up policies to train upcoming engineers. We have competent naval architects and marine engineers. Over time, it will get better, but at least let’s begin to have a roadmap.”
Unuigbe also called for robust maritime security architecture to tackle persistent security challenges on the nation’s waterways.
He said the situation, which has remained unabated, has made Nigeria an unattractive destination for ships, resulting in the diversion of Nigeria-bound cargoes to other destinations and increased cost of transportation back.
“If we must tackle maritime security challenges, we need to eschew some of these parochial interests. Why is it that we are unable to surmount these challenges?
“I think we should consider the views of those who think that we should have separate maritime coast guard agency. The protection of our water is not only the exclusive preserve of the Nigerian Navy; we need to look at other agencies to play complementary roles. So, if it takes another coast guard to be able to stem the challenges we have in maritime security, so be it,” he added.