General Manager, SIFAX Off Dock Trinity; Oliver Omajuwa, Executive Director, Legal Services/Company Secretary, SIFAX Group; Barrister Tunji Olusinde, Executive Director, SIFAX Off Dock; Captain Ibraheem Olugbade, Executive Director, Compliance, SIFAX Group; Mariam Afolabi, Group Managing Director, SIFAX Group; Adekunle Oyinloye, Dean, Faculty of Law, University of Lagos; Prof. Ayodele Atsenuwa, Senior Lecturer, University of Lagos Dr. Adewale Olawoyin, Staff Adviser, Maritime Forum, University of Lagos, Olayinka Afolabi, and Executive Director, SIFAX Marine during a visit to the Dean shortly after the 4th edition of the Taiwo Afolabi Annual Maritime Conference which held at the University of Lagos recently.

In order to achieve greater level of growth in Nigeria’s maritime industry, there is urgent need to adopt a strategic framework that guarantees innovations and sustainable solutions that could address the problems in the industry, according to the Executive Vice chairman of SIFAX Group, Dr. Taiwo Afolabi and some maritime experts.

This was the submission of these experts at the 4th edition of the Taiwo Afolabi Annual Maritime TAAM Conference, which held at the University of Lagos recently.

Speaking at the one-day event, chairman, Nigerian Ports Consultative Council, Otunba Kunle Folarin, observed that Nigeria’s maritime industry has endowments that can transform the industry to becoming a leader in Africa if properly tapped and utilised.

“Nigeria’s maritime domain consists of 932 nautical miles of coastline, 12 nautical territorial waters, 200 nautical miles of Exclusive Economic Zones, international indigenous shipping average of 5,307 vessel calls per annum, 572 kilometres of inland waterways, 16 functioning ports, eight littoral states, 28 port terminals under concession and thousands of professionals in the port and maritime industry. These endowments give us the edge to become the leading light in Africa. Government and all stakeholders must set a deliberate agenda on how these endowments can be properly harnessed to sustain the growth already achieved in the maritime industry. There is a new economic agenda for the maritime industry. This new agenda can be successfully executed with sustained port reforms and local participation policies”, Folarin said.

Group Executive Vice Chairman, SIFAX Group, Dr. Taiwo Afolabi, which the conference was organised in his honour, said a strong implementation mechanism for the various policies and reforms were necessary to accelerate growth.

Afolabi, who was represented by the Group Managing Director of SIFAX, Mr. Adekunle Oyinloye, said, “Nigeria’s maritime industry has over time seen various policies such as the port concession reforms, truck standardisation policies, Cabotage law, maritime safety laws and several others with the sole aim of eliciting growth in the sector. But, may I say that while some of these policies have catapulted the industry to its next level growth, a strong implementation mechanism is strongly needed.”

He further noted that reforms in the sector must go beyond the ports, adding that a holistic approach, including legislation, infrastructure, transportation, security and funding among others, must be adopted.

 “I will like to appeal to the Federal Government and its relevant agencies to further fortify the nation’s coastal areas and maritime boundaries against maritime crimes. I will not fail to give kudos to NIMASA and other agencies for getting the presidency to assent to the anti-piracy bill recently. It should not just end here alone, there should be a campaign for more funding for maritime security. The insecurity on the waterway has led to shipping lines introducing war risk surcharges on consignments heading to Nigeria”, he expressed.

Meanwhile, Executive Secretary/CEO, Nigerian Shippers Council, Hassan Bello, while speaking at the event, noted that the government is constantly ready through the various ministries and agencies to continually engage all stakeholders in the industry. “First, I must commend the organisers of this event and add that we are ready to partner with all stakeholders including the universities in order to make sure that the maritime sector achieves its mandate. We believe that constant dialogue through a forum like this will help us bridge the missing links in the sector and move the sector to its next level growth”, he said.

The panelists at the conference including Executive Vice Chairman, ENL Consortium and Chairman, Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria, Princess Vicky Haastrup, CEO Skelas Limited and immediate past president, Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents ANLCA, Prince Olayiwola Shittu, Partner, Paul Usoro and Co Adetola Bucknor-Taiwo, and Executive Director, Operations, Oceandeep Services Mrs. Rollens McFoy, who all unanimously agreed that for the industry to truly continue on its upward trajectory, there is a need to review some of the existing laws and promote on all fronts local participation in the industry.