Stories by Steve Agbota || [email protected] 08033302331
With a coastline of 852 kilometres, a maritime area of over 46,000 km2, Nigeria is yet to optimise its enormous maritime potential.
The industry is still operating the 1962 old model, which is far behind what is obtainable in other developed economies. For instance, Nigeria controls 70 per cent of cargo traffic of West and Central Africa and going by the latest data on traffic of ships into Nigeria it has over 5,307 per annum.
But unfortunately, the nation economy benefits little or nothing from the huge freight revenue that supposed to accrue to government’s coffers. Nigeria does about 2.2 million barrel of crude oil per day, exporting gas NLG, LPG and other petroleum products and non-oil export products but no indigenous ship is involved in the carriage of these products.
The challenge is that, presently, Nigeria is said to be losing $9.1 billion yearly on freight revenue that would have accrued to its treasury. This amount is being lost to foreign ships.
Recently, the Executive Secretary of Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC), Mr Hassan Bello, lamented that foreign shipping lines were milking the country dry as a result of the absence of Nigerian-owned fleet plying the international route.
According to him, there is need to have a national carrier because of the profound economic impact it would have on nation’s economy. He said Nigeria lost so much in terms of earnings of freight to foreign shipping companies.
He explained: “Nigerians don’t operate any ship at all; that is on the part of the dry cargo. On the wet cargo, Nigerians don’t lift the crude and the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, thought that this imbalance is very dangerous to the economy.
“So he set up a committee for the Nigerian fleet implementation with the Nigeria Shippers Council as chairman to lead the private sector and we started working with PIL which is a Singaporean shipping company.
Between 2004 and 2017, Nigeria recorded total vessel traffic of 25,256 vessels with the total gross freight of $39 billion and earning a paltry sum of $1 billion as levy for NIMASA.
However, stakeholders who spoke with Daily Sun expressed concerns over the huge loss and employment opportunity, urged the committee on the national fleet implementation to back to drawing board and see how soon Nigeria can have its national fleet to reduce the losses to foreign shipowners.
Former Director General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, Temisan Omatseye, said that the $9.1billion cannot be wrong.
He added: “If you look at what’s happening to Nigeria right now, are exporting crude oil. You can imagine we are doing may be 2.2 million barrel of crude oil per day. We are exporting gas NLG or sometimes, LPG. In the midterm, we are exporting petroleum product such as diesel, petroleum PMS and kerosene. “And not only that, a lot of containership are coming in, bringing in cargoes and we are exporting agricultural produce. Now, in all of these, we don’t have single Nigerian flag vessel to carryout this operations.
So all these freight charges are being paid to foreign ship owners.”
He said the only way to get this anormally sorted out was to basically develop an indigenous capacity to have Nigeria’s flag vessels to begin to compete strongly to pick these cargoes.
Said he: “In addition, government that are importing a lot of things and railway and all these kind of stuff, what government supposed to do on annual basis, which is provided for in the Local Content Act, was to help NIMASA or whatever based on cargo support that this is their importation for next year, which that information supposed to be shared by NIMASA with the shipowners so they can acquire vessels in order to be able to move those cargoes.”
Meanwhile, National Publicity Secretary of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agent (ANLCA), Joe Sanni said there is need for Nigeria to do things the way the foreigners do it because it is operating an international trade. Therefore, he said Nigeria needs to get things done the way they are doing it over there.
He explained: “Particularly, talking about the customs now, we must make sure we do things in the ports according to international standard…Shippers and terminals have to automate their processes so that anybody that wanted to do business can just go online and do those businesses without physically seeing them.
“All the stakeholders must synergise their processes. Meaning that if you want to do anything with Shippers Council, you don’t have to go anywhere, there is a portal for that, if you have anything with IMSE or Maersk Line or any of the Shippers, all you have to do, go to their portals and do what you have to do. Same thing goes with the terminals, all of the terminals have to make sure that all the things they are doing are online.”
On the national fleet, he said Nigerian government is decided to have their own carrier, can they have all the goods that are coming into the country? Can they carry all of them?
He said they must have a way to synergise with all those carriers coming into Nigeria carrying cargo in such a way that they come to Nigeria’s waters, they know there is a portal for them to enter to be able to discharge their cargoes. He said once this system is not there, there is no way Nigeria shipping industry can survive.