Stakeholders have identified factors hindering the development of the nation’s maritime sector.
Nigeria’s maritime sector has been regarded as the second revenue earner after oil as experts revealed that the sector can generate over N7 trillion annually.
According to them, despite the sector’s huge potential, the country is yet to harness its maritime potentials due to insecurity, inconsistent policies, poor vessel finances scheme, infrastructure deficit among others.
Nigeria’s strategic location in Africa put her at an advantage of becoming the hub of shipping activities. It has an extensive coastline and vast exclusive economic zone with inland waterways and large volume of various commodity, oil and gas exports.
In a chat with LEADERSHIP, President, Shipowners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Greg Ogbeifun identified infrastructure deficit, regulations and involvement of multiple government agencies in cargo clearance at ports as some of the factors hindering the maximization of Nigeria’s maritime potentials.
“The primary thing to consider is the type of regulations that affect cargoes into our port, the clearing through the ports and evacuation from our port. We have great challenge in area of non-involvement of Nigeria flagged ship in the importation of manufactured goods into our country. The participation of Nigeria flagged ship on import coming into our country is zero, that is a challenge,’’ he said.
He also identified lack of adequate maritime infrastructure as another challenge that has affected growth of the industry. ‘‘Also, the biggest challenge is lack of appropriate infrastructure to evacuate the goods from our ports,’’ said Ogbeifun.
On his part, the Vice- Chairman, Nigeria ports Consultative Council (NPCC); Major Henry Ajetunmobi (rtd) said Nigeria was yet to be called a maritime nation because it was yet to harness its enormous maritime potentials. He said the maritime industry must be harnessed because crude oil that used to be a major revenue earner was dwindling.
‘‘Crude oil is now a losing game and we need to turn to other sectors and the one sector available from the beginning of time is maritime and we need to dominate and we are yet to take dominion of our maritime area,’’ he said.
Ajetunmobi stated further, “We are a coastal nation doesn’t mean we are a maritime nation. We have a gift of nature but no one can be a very effective maritime player in the maritime arena simply because nature is kind to give it a large coastal area.
“As we are now, no single deep ocean going vessel and we call ourselves maritime nation it’s one thing to have an asset, it another thing to harness the asset and explore them. Look at the abundance of waterway and why did we find it difficult to commute between it. With the population we have, we should dominate African and beyound. Some of the problems we have is how we got it wrong when we have NNSL in the 70s we lost it to simple administrative policies and our ships were hounded around the sold because we owe them.”
The Chairman, Shipowners forum, Mrs Margaret Onyema-Orakwusi also said non availability of fund at a reasonable interest rate for investors and insecurity are some of the reasons why the sector was yet to take its rightful place.
‘‘Also, finance is another challenge. Banks don’t get it that Maritime business is a long term investment and not cash and carry. Your investment running into millions and the banks will want you to pay 20 or 30 percent so you spend the whole of your life working for the banks. The big problem is how to get cheap finance for investment in the sector,” she said.
Orakwusi also said as part of the untapped potentials is allowing big vessels to poach our aquatic resources because we refuse to harness it. ‘‘We have the natural resources because we can boast of a long stretch of sea water and we forget the resources in the water and because we do not harness this resources, big vessels come in to poach the resources this resource are untapped and I am happy that crude is not fetching money for us anymore so that we can harness all these potentials.”