The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency NIMASA, has said that the evolution of a concise National Maritime Transport Policy would boost Nigeria’s economic interest in addition to enhancing trade facilitation.

Director General of the agency, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, who spoke at the ongoing two-day workshop on Maritime Transport Policy organised by the agency in collaboration with the International Maritime Organisation IMO in Lagos, said that Nigeria is in dire need of a Maritime Transport policy in the country.

He insists that evolving a distinct policy on maritime transport will complement the nation’s existing National Transport Policy and advance the country’s global maritime trade.

According to him, as a major crude oil producing nation of over two million barrels per day transported only through the seas and import-dependent nation, which relies on imported items to cater for her 180 million population, Nigeria urgently needs a ‘stand out’ Maritime Transport Policy, distinct and different from the general Transport Policy, which covers road, rail, pipelines and air.

“Currently the Nigerian Ports Authority NPA is doing its own, NIMASA, the Nigerian Shippers Council and Nigeria Customs Service are doing their own. But evolving a National Maritime Transport Policy will bring about a common vision and mission among all the agencies and by so doing bring about cohesion and unity of purpose”

“This will go a long way in promoting Nigeria’s economic interest, enhance trade facilitation and thus engender the growth and development of the nation’s economy”.

“You will also agree with me that 60 per cent of the cargo headed to West Africa will likely end up in Nigeria; we have not only a long coast but also one of the longest inland waterways; in addition of six active port complexes. All these, coupled with our population, make us the biggest economy in Africa. Therefore, we need a sustainable maritime policy that would guide the coordination of maritime activities as we strive to advance Nigeria’s Global maritime Goal”, Peterside noted.

He also argued that shipping is an international business guided by international conventions and protocols, which Nigeria is signatory to and must therefore comply with, which would form major part of maritime transport policy to conform to global standards.

It has also been argued that on the continental level, there is a general maritime transport policy for the African continent, which Nigeria must also conform to, a development that has made the evolution of a maritime transport policy in the country not only desirable but also pertinent.

Dr. Peterside also said that as part of the revolution going on in the transport sector, the President Muhammadu Buhari  led administration is advancing the intermodal transport system by linking all the port complexes to the hinterland via the railway to further facilitate ease of doing business.

The DG however argued that NIMASA cannot achieve these goals alone, hence the need to seek supports of the IMO and other relevant stakeholders in order to come up with a model to develop a maritime transport policy that will serve Nigeria’s interest and stand the test of time.

He said: “A workable maritime transport policy of any nation should be stakeholders driven. Therefore all associated stakeholders and professionals in the sector are needed to participate in the articulation and formulation of this policy”.

He pledged that NIMASA has volunteered to champion the evolution of the new policy, which he said would be done with the support and direction of the IMO, the global maritime regulatory body.

Meanwhile, Secretary General of the IMO, Mr. Kitack Lim, who was represented at the event by the head, Technical Cooperation Division, Anglophone African Section, Mr. William Azuh, stated that promotion and development of national policies to guide planning, decision making and relevant legislative actions is an important governance practice of many governments, including Nigeria.

According to him, the IMO will support NIMASA in developing a sustainable maritime transport system reflecting and balancing the interests of stakeholders with a carefully devised and executed maritime transport policy, which is crucial in serving as a fundamental guidance document to provide a long-term sustainable vision for the future of the Nigerian maritime sector”,  Lim said.

Chairmen, Senate Committee on Marine Transport, Senator Ahmed Sani Yerima, who was represented by the vice chairman of the committee, Senator Ahmed Ogembe and his House of Representatives counterpart,  Umar Bago, represented by Hon. Solomon Adaelu, assured of the National Assembly’s support to see to the formulation of the policy.