A foreign container vessel arriving one of Nigeria’s seaports in Lagos.

The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency NIMASA, has said that developing a national fleet that would fly Nigeria’s flag will significantly energise the maritime industry. This will in addition help to curtail capital flight by retaining the huge foreign exchange spent on freight within the country and thereby create job opportunities that are needed to grow the country’s fledging economy.

Statistics show that no fewer than 5, 307 foreign vessels comprising tankers, bulk and container carriers call at the nation’s various seaports per annum, many of which fly foreign flags as the country has none on her fleet. This follows the liquidation of her defunct National Carrier, the Nigerian National Shipping Line NNSL.

The Director General of the NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, who made this assertion when he played host to members of the National Fleet Implementation Committee NFIC at the headquarters of the agency in Lagos, said that Nigeria is long overdue for an active national fleet that would properly position her among comity of maritime nations.

According to him, creating a formidable National Fleet has several economic benefits to the country which include but not limited to energising the maritime industry, retaining the huge spending on freight in-country and create job opportunities to grow the economy.

He therefore pledged the agency’s readiness to support the committee, saying, “The national fleet implementation is long overdue and so NIMASA will work assiduously with the committee to ensure that the national fleet is restored to its past glory so that our nation can be reckoned with in the comity of maritime nations.”

The Director-General stated that NIMASA had taken a lot of steps towards developing the maritime industry and increasing indigenous participation. He detailed the measures to include repositioning of the Nigerian Ship Registry; securing a special tax regime, in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Finance, and the Nigeria Customs Service; and changing of trade terms from Free on Board FOB to Cost Insurance and Freight CIF.

Others are engaging the Central Bank of Nigeria CBN in negotiation for one digit interest rate for ship owners to help in the acquisition of maritime assets; collaborating with the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board NCDMB; and supporting the Nigerian Navy in capacity building.

“The national fleet implementation will create employment and wealth opportunities in Nigeria. The focus lab will also help Nigerians to understand the maritime sector and bring the players together to solve and understand issues better,” he said.

Chairman of the committee, Mr. Hassan Bello, during his presentation enumerated the work done so far by the committee and solicited NIMASA’s support. Bello doubles as the Executive Secretary/CEO of the Nigerian Shipper Council also requested a joint briefing with NIMASA to the Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi to get his buy-in on the need to go through the Focus Lab to realise the Nigerian fleet project.

He said there was need for the Ministry of Transport and Ministry of Budget and National Panning to write a joint memo to the Federal Executive Council and other relevant arms of the government for approval to hold the lab.

Recall that the NFIC was set up by the Minister of Transport Rotimi Amaechi, to work out modalities for the establishment and sustenance of a Nigerian Fleet.

It is on record that Nigeria had a lot of vessels under the defunct NNSL before it was liquidated in 1995 and this is a major effort to resuscitate the national fleet.