Former DG NIMASA, Temi Omatseye.

A former Director General of the Nigerian Maritime and Safety Agency NIMASA, Temi Omatseye has said that despite the abundant maritime potential in the country, her shipping lines control only about two per cent of her total cargo throughput comprising both import and export, while foreigners control about 98per cent of her cargo resources in terms of shipment.

Omatseye, who was also the pioneer president of the African Shipowners’ Association, made up of shipping lines drawn from over 30 countries, especially within the West and Central African sub-region, also observed that as a major maritime nation, Nigeria has in excess of 90sq kilometres of ocean waters, 850 nautical miles of coastlines and over 4,000kilometres of inland waterways and eight seaports, which make her a rich and great maritime nation.

The former DG spoke when he delivered a key note address at the 5th edition of the Taiwo Afolabi Annual Maritime TAAM Conference organised by the SIFAX Group in collaboration with the Maritime Forum of the University of Lagos with the theme: “The Roadmap Project-Making Nigeria a Leading Maritime Nation in the world”, held in Lagos, Friday.

One of the implications of the inability of the country’s indigenous shipping firms to lift both import and export cargo is that the foreign liners impose all manners of arbitrary freight and sundry charges on Nigeria-bound cargo, which have negative ripple effects on the country and her citizens

According to him, one of the ways this can be addressed is for the Federal Government to commence a Fleet Replacement Programme through which the indigenous shipping lines, most of which are currently incapacitated would begin to acquire modern vessels that would adequately fit into today’s shipping business.

“One of the quickest ways to achieving this is through the immediate disbursement of the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund CVFF, which has accrued since 2004 from two per cent of every contract awarded under the Coastal and Inland Shipping Act 2003. There is no reason that fund should not be disbursed at this time to serve the purpose for which it was created.

“The government should also as a matter of urgency begin to grant national carrier status to indigenous shipping companies as provided in section 36 of the NIMASA Act, 2007, which statutorily empowers such national carries to lift all project and other cargoes belonging to the Federal, State and Local Governments in the country.

“The establishment of Shipping Free Trade Zones which would create Original Equipment Manufacturing (OEM) is necessary at this point. To achieve this, the government should put measures in place for the optimal functioning of the Ajokuta Roling Mill for the large quantities that steel that would be required”, Omatseye also said.

Chairman of the SIFAX Group, Dr. Taiwo, who also spoke at the event, noted that the days of over reliance on the oil industry for the country’s sustenance were over, especially given the uncertainties in the global oil market as well as the rising need for cleaner sources of energy, a development that makes the development of the country’s maritime sector urgent.

Represented by the Managing Director of Sky Capital, a subsidiary of the SIFAX Group, Bode Ojeniyi, Dr Afolabi said: “Looking carefully at the theme of this year’s conference, you will discover that it is an ambitious one, as we are looking beyond positioning in Africa. Judging by the potential of the industry, we are of the opinion and belief that Nigeria’s maritime industry can rank among the best in the world. It will only take careful planning, progressive policies, generous funding, enabling environment, friendly economic policies, manpower development and massive infrastructural development.

A good foundation for sustainable growth and positioning we earnestly crave has been laid. The sector has professionally-run government agencies including the Nigerian Ports Authority NPA, NIMASA and the Nigerian Shippers Council that have contributed significantly to the growth that we already have.”

Director General of NIMASA, who also presented a goodwill message at the event, observed that the theme of this year’s even is in tandem with the vision of the agency to remain a leading Maritime Administration in Africa.

The DG, who was represented by the Director Internal Audit of the agency, Mrs. Olamide Odusanya, assured that NIMASA is committed to her core functions of ensuring safety and security of lives, cargo and even the vessels within the country’s maritime domain while also not losing focus of her shipping development functions as well as capacity building.