The Food and Agricultural Organisation FAO, a special organ of the United Nations UN, in a recent report identified the Blue Economy as a major tool for achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals SGDs. The current management of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency NIMASA, led by Dr. Dakuku Peterside has since inception made giant strides in harnessing Nigeria’s rich but grossly untapped maritime resources on a sustainable basis, reports FRANCIS EZEM.

NIMASA DG, Dr. Dakuku Peterside

Located in the Gulf of Guinea, Nigeria, which accounts for over 60 per cent of the West African population, is endowed with vast coastlines of over 850 km, an Exclusive Economic Zone EEZ of 300, 000 square km and over 3,000 km of navigable inland waterways. In terms of coastal shipping resources, the country’s River Niger is the third longest river in Africa with over 1,271 km of navigable waterways, which is capable of promoting inland water transportation.

As a prominent member of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries OPEC, Nigeria with crude output of over 2.4 million barrels per day is the world’s sixth largest exporter of crude oil and therefore makes significant impact in the global shipping arena. This is equally given the fact that she is an import-dependent nation, importing almost all her machines, equipment, and raw materials needed for her growing industrial sector as well as other household needs ranging from healthcare materials, electrical and electronic appliances as well as automobiles, among several others to cater for her 198 million population.

Regrettably, the country has yet to tap this huge blue economic potential for the benefit of the country over the years. But the cheering news is that the last three yearshave witnessed a newawakening in Nigeria’s maritime industry spearheaded by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency towards changing this narrative by effectively harnessing her huge maritime resources, to enhance economic diversification and growth.

According to experts, apart from the vast coastlines that promote inland water transportation, the blue economy comprise agriculture, fisheries, and tourism and ocean energy, aquatic life, oil and gas and other mineral deposits beneath the seabed among others, which are not available to land locked countries, and which if fully tapped can contribute to human wellbeing in an economically and environmentally suitable way. These experts also believe that the oceans and seas are central to the concept of blue economy and are therefore important tools for achieving sustainable development not only in Nigeria but also in the continent of Africa.

It was probably in line with this fact that for the first time in Nigeria’s maritime history, serious attention is being given to the need to develop policy framework that would facilitate the harnessing of the country’s rich but largely untapped blue economic potential. Driving this new vision and awakening is the Director General of the agency, Dr. Dakuku Adol Peterside, who has since his appointment by President Muhammadu championed the need to develop framework for fully developing and utilising the vast resources embedded in the nation’s vast seabed as part of efforts to diversify the economy, create jobs and build wealth in the country. The DG has insisted that his passion toward the development and fully harnessing the country’s blue economic potential is in line with the recent observation by the FAO, which identified the Blue Economy as a major tool for achieving United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals SGDs.

For instance, the agency has set up a 13-man committee of stakeholders drawn from the agency, Federal Ministry of Transport, private operators, ship owners and legal practitioners to draw a roadmap and come up with strategies to develop and harness the nation’s rich blue economic potential. 

According to the DG, constituting the committee headed by the chairman of governing board of NIMASA, Major General Jonathan India Garba (rtd.), is also in line with the agency’s commitment to ensuring sustainable development and utilisation of the nation’s blue economic resources in line with Federal Government’s policy of diversifying the economy.

Peterside, who was last year re-elected chairman of Association of African Maritime Administration AAMA for another two-year term, having been elected for the first tenure in April, 2016 when the country hosted the AAMA Conference in Abuja, has extended the advocacy for the development and harnessing of the resources of the seas and oceans beyond the shores of Nigeria to a continental level.

Little wonder, at the 2018 edition of the Africa Day of the Seas and Oceans ADSO, held in Lagos with the theme: Partnership, key to Sustainable Blue World; the NIMASA-boss made a strong case for partnerships among African nations towards developing and harnessing the continent’s blue economic potential.

This call is also in tandem with the decisions reached at the 22nd Ordinary Session of Heads of States and Governments of the African Union AU held in 2015, which adopted the Africa’s Integrated Maritime Strategy, also called AIMS 2050, which in turn recommended the establishment of an Africa Day of Seas and Oceans slated for July 25th of every year. The African Union AU had earlier declared 2015-2025 as a ‘Decade of African Seas and Oceans. ‘This is in recognition of the fact that Africa’s seas and oceans represent major assets to accelerate the development of the continent’s economies.

Part of the objectives of the theme is to raise awareness of the campaign for better waste management on land to aid the recovery of Nigeria’s seas and oceans, given the growing incidences of pollution, Others include to popularise the strategic importance of the National Maritime Strategy, to reopen the discourse on the National Maritime Transport Policy for sustainable development and to understand the role of NIMASA beyond annual celebrations and partnership strategies, to ensure sustainable implementation of resolutions. Another objective includes developing a roadmap for building a sustainable interest and passion for the maritime industry in our young people, among several others.

The DG stated however that partnership remains a crucial element to the effective development and utilisation of Africa’s maritime resources, noting that there is also need for countries in the African continent to collaborate, in order to realise a common goal, geared towards the actualisation of the continent’s blue economy.

“Our passion for Africa’s partnership inspires our leadership role in AAMA to continue to innovate with ideas to pull African Maritime Administrations MARAD together for sustainable realisation of the objectives of the AIMS 2050 towards a peaceful, prosperous and integrated Africa where there will be equal opportunity to participate towards economic growth.

“The world is concerned about the sustainable use of the seas and oceans as it is endowed with enormous resources, but unfortunately, they are neglected in Africa including Nigeria, hence the need for the continent to utilise the opportunities embedded in it”, Peterside said.

While underscoring the crucial role played by the maritime industry in the growth and development of any nation, Peterside said: “The decade of Africa’s seas and oceans should bring about a shift in the perspective that recognises the fact that Africa’s seas and oceans are economic infrastructure. What this simply means is that there should be increased investments to enhance the productive capacities of the blue economy in the context that we need to urgently resuscitate the degraded resources and develop others that are underutilised.

“The maritime industry must agree with the AU that Africa’s seas and oceans are essential for sustainable growth and development of the continent and should therefore play a critical role in shaping Africa’s common position in the post 2015 developmental agenda and formation of suitable developmental goals”.

In addition toputting in place the much needed policy framework, the NIMASA boss has also identified the lack of investments, among other factors as largely responsible for the non-harnessing and full utilisation of Nigeria’s vast Blue Economic potential to the benefit of her citizens.

The DG said: “Of a fact, Nigeria is truly endowed in maritime resources. But over the years, there has not been sufficient and deliberate efforts in terms of putting in place the right policy framework, creating awareness and favourable investment climate that would engender the taping of these huge resources to the benefit of the people”.

Investigations however showed that in some climes, the governments created the Ministry of Oceans and Seas, which formulate policies and regulate the deep sea shipping, which is a major segment of the blue economy, a development that necessitated an urgent adoption of a national policy on deep sea shipping in Nigeria.

As part of efforts to attract the much needed investments both foreign and local, NIMASA for the second year running came up with a maritime forecast for 2018 and 2019, which have proven to be a veritable tool for intending investors.

For instance, the 2018 forecast projected that the country’s maritime industry would record a growth rate of between 2.5 – five per cent in 2018 and the post- election era 2019. The industry was also projected to experience increase in demand for maritime services in the country,

These projections were predicated on the expectations that the total fleet size would grow by 4.08 per cent in 2018 and 4.41 per cent in 2019, even as oil tanker fleet size will decrease by 2.23 per cent in 2018 and grow by 1.7 per cent in 2019. The non-oil tanker fleet size was projected to increase by 8.15 per cent and 8.72 per cent in 2018 and 2019, respectively while the oil rig count is projected to increase by 27.67 per cent in 2018 and 0% in 2019.

Available statistics show that the industry recorded a growth of 4.5 per cent in real terms last year against the projected five per cent.

For the 2019 forecast, the agency projects a 10 per cent real growth in the Nigeria’s maritime industry. This current projection is part of the 2019/2020 maritime forecast tagged “Harnessing the Maritime and Shipping industry for Sustainable Growth” unveiled by the agency recently. This is however also predicated on the expectation that there would be increased shipping activities in the country within the projected period, especially in the areas of acquisition of more shipping assets including vessel acquisition, which would also need to be backed with human capital development.

Peterside had while speaking at the unveiling ceremony, said the forecast was meant to give direction to investors and stakeholders in the industry in their planning and investment decisions as part of efforts to attract more foreign direct investments to the economy. Major plans covered by the forecast are the economic environment, the maritime industry (local and global), regulatory framework, and emerging opportunities and challenges.

He said that this year’s forecast will focus on how emerging trends in the global maritime industry would affect Nigeria’s maritime industry as well as how other domestic factors will influence the industry, insisting that the maritime industry holds a lot for Nigeria’s future economic growth.

“The maritime industry has the potential of contributing at least 10 per cent to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product GDP in no distant future, as Nigeria has the biggest market in Africa; and generates about 65-67 per cent of cargo throughput in West Africa, and 65 per cent of all cargo heading for these regions will most likely end up in the Nigerian market,” the DG said.

Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi

According to the forecast, the outlook for the economy in 2019 reflects, on the global side, concerns about a substantial global economic growth slowdown, likely higher US interest rates, a stronger dollar and volatile oil prices, possibly averaging below US$60pb, and domestically, the impact of sentiments surrounding the 2019 general elections and post-electoral transition.

Meanwhile, experts have commended the agency for taking the initiative of providing the forecast to guide stakeholders. Dr. Doyin Salami of the Lagos Business School, one of the experts that commented on this innovation, noted that forecasts are essential tools for growing an industry. In his analysis of the maritime forecast, he pointed out that the gaps in the sector must be filled by policy makers in the sector in order to realise its potential. He urged all investors, local and international to take the forecast serious as a way of enhancing the growth of their businesses.

A maritime lawyer and Secretary General of the Abuja Memorandum of Understanding MoU, and former DG of NIMASA, Mrs. Mfon Usoro, while praising the efforts of the agency noted that the forecast brings about healthy interaction with the industry players to move the sector forward. She also observed that the increased presence of NIMASA activities in the maritime industry of the West and Central Africa sub-region is an indication that the present leadership of the agency is on course.

No doubt, the management of NIMASA led by Dr. Peterside has in the last three years brought the maritime industry into Nigeria’s economic front burner in line with its statutory function of promoting shipping development;  but so much is however needed from policy makers that would truly lead to the optimum harnessing of the nation’s abundant blue economic resources.