As part of the fallouts of the 2019-2020 maritime forecast, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency NIMASA, has said that that the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund CVFF is grossly inadequate to handle the huge demand for maritime assets, and it is therefore working with the Central Bank of Nigeria CBN and the Federal Ministry of Finance to push for funds at single digit interest rate.

The forecast is intended to give direction to operators and investors, both local and international, as to what should be expected within the review period, as part of efforts to guide investors and encourage more participation in the maritime industry.

Speaking shortly after the unveiling of the document in Lagos recently, the Director General of NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Peterside insisted that the maritime industry has the potential of increasing greatly its contribution to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product GDP in no distant future, as the country has the biggest market in Africa; noting that the she accounts for about 65-67 per cent of cargo throughput in West Africa, and 65 per cent of all cargo heading for these regions will most likely end up in the Nigerian market.

 At the event tagged; “Harnessing the Maritime and Shipping Industry for Sustainable Growth”, the DG stated that the maritime sector remains a pivot to the stability and growth of the economy, hence the need to provide guidance to industry players as it will attract more foreign direct investment and ultimately improve the nation’s GDP.

 “The 2019 – 2020 forecast focuses on harnessing the shipping and maritime sector for sustainable growth. Essentially, the forecast will be addressing; how emerging trends in the global maritime industry affect the maritime sector in Nigeria; and what domestic factors will influence the maritime sector in Nigeria,” he said.

 The industry forecast released by the Agency also noted that for Nigerians to actively participate in the maritime and shipping sector, asset acquisition and human capacity development are important.

NIMASA DG assured stakeholders that the agency will continue to push for reforms to assist develop indigenous capacity in the shipping and maritime sector to ensure a high level playing field for operators adding that the 2019-2020 period is full of hope for investors.

 While noting that the drivers of the macroeconomic outlook for 2019 include the general elections and its aftermath, prices of crude oil and policy imperatives such as fiscal, monetary and regulatory,  Peterside disclosed that the maritime forecast model adopted by NIMASA projects an increase in demand for maritime services in Nigeria considering the global and domestic economic conditions.

On the regulatory aspect of the 2019 forecast, he stated that it is expected that the Suppression of Piracy and other Maritime offenses Bill (Anti-Piracy) will be passed into law within the margin of the 8th National Assembly to provide a robust and detailed framework to criminalize and punish piracy and unlawful acts in the Nigerian maritime domain as well as give further expression to the relevant provisions of the International Maritime Convention on maritime security to which Nigeria is a party.

The DG expressed the hope that all these will provide the necessary assurance to foreign investors that Nigeria and the Gulf of Guinea to a large extent is a safe hub for International trade. Other Bills that would impact on the sector are National Transport Commission Bill, Petroleum Industry Governance Bill, National Inland Waterways Authority Amendment Bill, Coastal and Inland Shipping (Cabotage) Amendment/Revised Bill and Ports and Harbour Bill.

The challenges highlighted for stakeholders in the Nigeria maritime industry to contend with in 2019 include funding, ethnological change, supply of specialized maritime industry skillset, and efficiency of ports and shipping companies among others.

The forecast had observed that the domestic conditions for the maritime sector in 2019 looks tighter considering the budgetary proposal of N8.83 trillion when compared to the approved N9.12trillion naira appropriated in the 2018 national budget.

It also projected that while growth in the global maritime industry is expected to slow over the next five years with crude oil projected to decline by 0.1 per cent, containerised trade to decline by 0.4 per cent and seaborne trade by 0.2 per cent. Total fleet increase was projected at slightly over four per cent growth for both 2019 and 2020. The baseline forecast is based on the 2018 outcome and 2019 Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) forecast for total trade and foreign reserve.

It was gathered that the optimism of forecast is based on the projection that total trade will increase to N28.55trillion in 2019 and N30.11 trillion in 2020, while foreign reserves is $44.7 billion in 2019 and projected to be $61.7billion in 2020. NIMASA has an optimistic projection of a 0.67 per cent increase in 2019 and same to be maintained in 2020.

A review of the performance of the 2018 maritime industry forecast released by NIMASA shows that the publication is reliable as the figures projected for the year almost matched the full year actual figures. While the forecast projected 0.66 per cent growth for oil tankers and 3.21 per cent for non-oil tankers in 2018, the actual growth rate was 0.71 per cent for tankers and 3.0 per cent for non-oil tankers.