Brigit Gijsbers, Director Maritime Affairs and Inland Shipping of the Netherlands.


The third edition of the Association of African Maritime Administrations AAMA, hosted in Abuja, last month by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency NIMASA, in conjunction with the International Maritime Organisation IMO, may have come and gone. But the echoes from the regional event, which turned out a global conference because of the number and quality of people that were in attendance across the global, may linger for a very long time.

Brigit Gijsbers, the Director Maritime Affairs and Inland Shipping under the Directorate General for Mobility and Transport, and Directorate for Maritime Affairs of the Netherlands, was definitely one of the quality participants at the just concluded conference.

Incidentally, she was both visiting Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city and attending the AAMA conference for the first time.

Most of the time; due to the often exaggerated level of insecurity in the country, most foreigners, some of whose countries may have issued a travel warning at one time or the other adopt extreme caution while visiting Nigeria.

There is also this erroneous belief even among some Nigerians living abroad that every street in the country has become a war zone.

But Gijsbers, though her trip was very brief, says she enjoyed her stay in Abuja, describing Nigerians as a people that have lots of humour. This may sound unusual, especially given that the country is going through a period of economic recession.

While speaking in an interview on the sidelines of the conference, Gijsbers admits that Nigerians and the people of Netherlands have one thing in common, which is a high sense of humour.

She also took out time to assess the conference, describing it as a good one with good discussions, because through the platform provided by the conference, Africa is gravitating towards harnessing her rich maritime potential and resources. But she however underscores the urgent need for the African countries to cooperate and collaborate to achieve this.

According to her, after these discussions, Africa should go a step further to implement the discussions for the overall benefits of the African people.

She also observes that the theme of the conference: ‘Sustainable Use of Africa’s Oceans and Seas’, was apt, as most maritime nations of the world are working towards developing and harnessing the huge potential of the blue economy.

On investment and participation of the Dutch firms and businessmen, she disclosed that though the country is small with only 150 Kilometres of waters, many Dutch companies are already operating in both the English and French speaking Africa, insisting that the Government of Netherlands and its agencies would not hesitate in ensuring that more doors that would further boost such participation are further opened on both sides.

She also said: I am aware that the Transport College of the Netherlands is very active here and working together in Africa. The conference is import because shipping is a global business and so it is important for the African economy and the world as well. The theme is also apt because everywhere in the world people are trying to utilise the resources of the oceans. So it is important that we keep the oceans clean free from pollution”

“There are also a lot of Ditch companies already investing here. Many Port Authorities in Africa also come to the Port of Rotterdam for exchange of human capital, and training of professionals. In addition, there are many companies from Netherlands already investing in Africa in the areas of dredging, oil and gas and offshore activities”.

She assured that her country would continue to assist Africa in the development and managing of seaports while encouraging member states of AAMA to continue to work towards implementing the relevant conventions and protocols, some of which were discussed at the conference with a view to sustaining the growth and development of the global maritime business, especially for the future.

Recall that over 34 African countries were in attendance at the conference in addition to other individual and corporate participants from across the globe, including the world maritime regulatory body, the IMO, among several others.