A taker vessel

Strong indications emerged that African countries are seriously lagging behind in terms of active participation in global shipping activities, despite the huge maritime resources the continent is blessed with.

According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development UNCTAD 2016 review of maritime transport, in the share of vessel ownership by country grouping, developing countries in Africa own only 1.23 per cent while their counterparts in Asia own 36.24 per cent.

The report also indicates that out of the 35 top ship-owning countries in the world, which make up approximately 95 per cent of world ship tonnage, none is an African country.

Similarly, other world maritime trade statistics show that African countries marginally represent only 0.9 per cent of shipbuilding yards and marine equipment industries, an indication that the continent is lagging behind both in terms of share of global shipping tonnage, shipbuilding and related equipment industries,.

It was probably in reaction to this that the African Union dedicated the period of 2015 to 2025 as the Decade of African Seas and Oceans during which attention would be focussed on harnessing the huge potential embedded in the continent’s blue economy.

The union had also declared July 25th of every year as Africa’s Day of the Seas and Oceans, which also coincides with the official launch of the 2050 Africa Integrated Maritime Strategy.

As part of measures to address this challenge, the Association of African Maritime Administrations AAMA at the just concluded third conference hosted by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency NIMASA in conjunction with the International Maritime Organisation IMO, in Abuja resolved that member states must strive towards inclusive participation in global trade.

In a 21-point communiqué issued by the association at the end of the three-day conference with the theme: “Sustainable use of Africa’s Oceans and Seas”, attended by 34 African nations in addition to countries and groups from Asia, America and Europe, it was resolved that member nations must develop the political will to facilitate trade through transparency, simplicity of trade documentation and procedures elimination or reduction of bureaucracy and adequate implementation of relevant laws.

The conference also urged Maritime Administrations in Africa to devote concerted effort and planning to pursue the enhancement of wealth creation, regional and international trade performance through maritime-centric capacity and capability building.

They were also enjoined to minimise environmental damage and expedite recovery from catastrophic events, prevent hostile and criminal acts at sea, and coordinate/harmonise the prosecution of offenders while protecting the population protection, including assets and critical infrastructure from maritime pollution and prevention of dumping of toxic and nuclear waste.

Other recommendations include Improvement of Integrated Coastal Zone/Area Management in Africa, promotion of ratification, domestication and implementation of international instruments and also addressing the enormous challenges of building human capacities in the maritime industry especially regarding training and employment of cadets.

The communiqué reads in part: “Maritime Administrations should develop an integrated human resources strategy for the maritime industry to support the provision of skills taking into account gender balance in the entire maritime value chain which includes shipping and logistics, offshore activities, fishing, tourism and recreation, and safety and security (AIMS 2050)”.

“Governments must develop measures in addition to Food and Agricultural Organisation FAO guidelines to protect our exclusive economic zone and territorial waters from illegal, unlawful unreported fishing by foreign fishing trawlers, strengthen the legal and governance framework for monitoring and control of fishing activities on a national and regional basis”.

It was also resolved that governments of member states should provide fiscal incentives to attract vessels to their respective ship registrars, adopt the Port State Measures Agreement and to consider taking immediate actions to implement and enforce the measures.

The conference also encouraged member nations to re-enforce regional cooperation and coordination, enhance information sharing and regulatory governance among members to combat the menace of piracy and other maritime crimes while maintaining a balance between security and the facilitation of global trade, among several others.

Meanwhile Secretary General of the IMO, Mr. Kitack Lim, who was represented at the event by the head, Africa (Anglophone) Section Technical Cooperation Division, Mr. William Azuh, had while presenting a goodwill message, charged African governments to take steps to build the continents vessel tonnage to be able to participate in the global trade.

The IMO-scribe, who pledged continued technical cooperation and support for Africa however warned the association and indeed governments in the continent should when considering the global trade statistics, seriously take into account the history of the national shipping lines and the reasons for their demise; especially the very high level of risk which investing in the shipping industry entails; and the benefits for the wider public which can be realised if the funds were to be spent towards achieving national sustainable development priorities.