Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency NIMASA, Dr. Bashir Jamoh (middle) presents a souvenir to the chairman, National Fleet Implementation Committee, Barr. Hassan Bello, while foremost shipowner and committee member, Isaac Jolapamo, looks on during a courtesy visit by the committee to NIMASA headquarters in Lagos recently.

The Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency NIMASA, Dr. Bashir Jamoh, has said that the country’s desire towards the re-establishment of a National Shipping Line should be achieved at no better time than now.

He also reaffirmed the agency’s commitment to the establishment of a strong and sustainable national fleet, insisting that the desire for a Nigerian shipping line is gradually being achieved.

Speaking in Lagos while playing host to members of the National Fleet Implementation Committee who paid him a courtesy visit at the agency’s headquarters, he told the team led by the committee chairman and Executive Secretary/CEO, Nigerian Shippers’ Council, Barr. Hassan Bello, that the need for a national carrier cannot be over-emphasised owing to the enormous economic benefits it offers.

“There is no better time to have a national carrier and develop the maritime industry than now, when the world is gradually looking away from fossil fuels, which currently form the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy, and President Muhammadu Buhari is trying to diversify the economy from oil.

“Nigeria cannot be caught unawares; we need to look at ways of developing our shipping industry, which, from studies, is capable of earning the country even more than oil annually”, he said.

The DG also stated that Nigeria’s maritime industry has the potential to grow by between three and five per cent annually due to the size of the local market, but regretted that this capacity remained mostly untapped.

He said since the liquidation of the Nigerian National Shipping Line NNSL in 1995, the country has been looking for avenues to re-float a national carrier, though through private sector participation.

The Director-General added that the Federal Government had over the years put different measures in place to stimulate the maritime industry due to its strategic importance to the economic fortunes of the country. He emphasised the need for the country to learn from the experience in order to avoid the pitfalls that ruined the NNSL.

“We need to have a sustainable National Shipping Line in order to avoid the events that led to the liquidation of the NNSL. The committee must focus on ensuring that the implementation stands the test of time,” Jamoh also said.

He assured of the agency’s commitment to fully and actively supporting the drive for a wholly Nigerian-owned and operated fleet was unwavering, explaining that it is one of the main pillars that NIMASA is built upon. “It is also the third leg of the tripod driving the development agenda of the current management at NIMASA,” he said. 

Meanwhile, Bello in his remarks, said the committee was at a critical stage of the national fleet implementation process, stressing that capital injection is required at this juncture to actualise the project.

According to him, “The quest for a Nigerian fleet is essential in ensuring that the country regains control of our external trade, thereby opening up the economy. This is a perfect time for Nigeria to invest in its own fleet, with global dependency on oil projected to dwindle considerably by 2030 and alternative power sources replacing fossil fuels in many countries.

“Consequently, a mono-economy, such as ours, should be diversifying into other revenue streams, with maritime being a major potential earner.”

Bello said the primary objectives of the committee were to create employment opportunities for Nigerians; reposition the Nigerian maritime industry; and generate revenue for the Federal Government as well as economic benefits to businesses ancillary to the maritime sector, such as the logistics and services.

President of the Nigerian Shipowners Association NISA, Aminu Umar and his predecessor, Chief Isaac Jolapamo, both of who are members of the committee, while speaking in support of a wholly Nigerian-owned, manned and operated fleet, as canvassed by the NIMASA DG and Bello, commended NIMASA for its active role in the fleet implementation process.

Recall that the Federal Government, through the Minister of Transport, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi, having identified the need to diversify the economy and address the imbalance in the maritime industry, decided to establish a private sector-led Nigerian maritime fleet to participate in the carriage of the country’s import and export cargo.