The Marine Engineering and Naval Architecture MENA, division of the Nigerian Society of Engineers NSE, has said that Nigeria could get a substantial chunk of the $250bn global annual shipbuilding budget by developing her vast shipbuilding potential.
Chairman of the group, Charles Otuonye, who spoke against the background of the current economic recession in the country, said that if Nigeria gets part of the $250billion global ship demand budget, it would have a significant impact in developing the national economy, especially at this point in time when the country needs injection of offshore funds to jump- start the nose diving economy.
“More than 20 years after the liquidation of the Nigerian National Shipping Line NNSL, the nation’s former national carrier, which was established in the late 1950s and liquidated in 1995, the Federal Government is still talking about establishing another one instead of entering into contracts with modern shipbuilding yards equipped and fitted with the state-of -the -art technologies to be dotted around Lagos, Badagry, Nembe, Escravous, Yenegoa, Port Harcourt, Bonny, Eket and Calabar, which are natural shipbuilding sites”, he said.
According to him, the world’s annual shipping demand is estimated at over $250billion, part of which would have been invested in the Nigerian market if she developed her shipbuilding segment of her maritime industry.
He noted that as a major shipping nation, what is Nigeria’s share of this huge business.
“The ship is the centre of the maritime zone business. Shipbuilding is a broad, technical and a huge commercial business or enterprise, which has the capacity to turn around Nigeria’s economy. Commercial shipbuilding is also a capital intensive investment that earns its returns as socially useful investment for water transportation and cargo affreightment, among several other social and economic benefits”, he also argued.
It was however gathered that the scope of such contracts between the ship designer and the ship owner covers from conceptual design, preliminary designs, detailed design and contractual to sea-trial design, with each segment creating several job opportunities for the citizens.
He cited some maritime countries of the world such as China, Singapore, South Korea and Japan, among several others that have significantly developed their economies by establishing shipyards along their coasts through which so many job opportunities were created, insisting that Nigeria can take a cue from them.
On calls for the diversification of the economy through the development of the agricultural and manufacturing sectors in line with measures to take the nation out of the current economic recession, he argued that commercial ship manufacturing is also a segment of the real sector.
Otuonye insisted that the nation could adopt the shipbuilding option as part efforts to stop the nation’s economy from slipping into depression and also grow Nigeria’s economy significantly.
The Federal Government had as part of measures to enhance indigenous operators’ participation in the shipping business in the country currently dominated by foreigners enacted the Coastal and Inland Shipping Cabotage Act 2003.
The act, which is protectionist in nature provides that vessels to be used in the inland and coastal trade in the county must be built in Nigeria, owned, registered and crewed by Nigerians, which is yet to be achieved more than 10 years after.