We are on track, but it’s just that we are still crawling. There is need for us to strengthen that track so that we can get to where we are heading. When tracks are not straight, they will definitely affect the growth of a sector. For example, we still don’t have a national carrier and we can never be a maritime nation if we don’t have it and generate our own cargo. Apart from carrying our cargo we also need capacity development and it is only through ship that we can have that. If we don’t have our own ship how can we have capacity building? We can’t give what we don’t have. If we don’t have revenue to train our people then it means we don’t have capacity and without that we cannot carry our cargo. God has given us the coast line; it’s just that the part we are taking is crooked.
I think it is on track except that there are challenges like any other sector in the economy. However the challenges must be addressed for us to move forward, for example our ports need to be more efficient like those in other parts of the world like in Singapore where vessel turnaround time is just 24hours. We also need collaboration among the agencies to move the sector forward because one agency cannot do it alone. For example if we are talking of quality of Nigeria products, Standards Organization of Nigeria must collaborate with the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control because they cannot do it alone so that there can be efficiency. Timely administration of procedures is also important. For example, how do officials working in the port know that the timely export of goods is of essence to somebody at the other side of the market? Port administrators including Customs should assist in this regard to facilitate export goods from the port because we all have a role to play in this effort to boost non-oil export drive.
In the maritime industry, we are 50 years behind compared to other countries in the world; we are way behind and we need to catch up. There is need to review the industry in terms of human and technical capacity for quality service delivery and the way forward would be to improve standards through training because no nation can move forward without training. There is decline in the sector in terms of training and meeting up with best practices required by international standard. For example, most of our vessels are not up to standard; we still have single hull vessel used in Nigeria trading on Nigerian waters just because we don’t have the financial capability to upgrade our vessels to double hull.
We are far behind. Opportunities in the maritime industry are numerous but we are hardly tapping these potentials and that is why we are where we are today. Since the liquidation of the Nigerian National Shipping Line (NNSL), Nigeria has been grappling with the challenge of getting seatime experience for cadets who graduate from MAN, Oron, so there is an urgent need for us to look at resuscitating the national carrier to move the sector forward. Before port concessioning, NPA was bedevilled by many problems including corruption, but after concessioning, it has paved way for competition and port efficiency has fared well but we still need to do more.
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