Gov. Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State said the maritime industry would witness a major boost with the progress the state had recorded in ongoing construction of the $2.6 billion Badagry deep seaport.
Ambode, who was represented by his Special Adviser on Commerce, Benjamin Labinjo, made the remarks at a Gala Evening Dinner, organised by the Ship Owners Association of Nigeria (SOAN) in Lagos.
He said on completion, the seaport would be the largest in Africa.
The governor said the state was encouraged by the interest already shown by international investors.
Ambode said that investors were willing to partner with the state government to make the project a reality.
He, however, urged operators to resolve to forge a strong partnership and make necessary sacrifices that would bring about a quick turnaround of the country’s economy.
The governor said the great potential of the maritime industry will be the major revenue earner and driving force for economic growth and development. He acknowledged that the maritime industry played a vital role in the development of the country.
According to him, the industry is widely acknowledged as being in need of far-reaching reforms in order to align with global best practices.
“For the potential to be fully harnessed, there must be a convergence of ideas among stakeholders, including the shipowners association on how best to move the industry forward.
“The idea should also move the industry forward in the best interest of economic and private investors. I believe one of the basic issues revolve around the need for government to create enabling environment through the design and implementation of appropriate policies, incentives and provision of required infrastructure,” Ambode said.
The governor said the state government was committed to doing everything in its capacity to ease the process of doing business. Ambode said this was the only way to attract investments to the critical sectors of the economy.
In his opening remarks, the President of SOAN, Engr. Greg Ogbeifun, said the association was committed to raising the efficiency of the Nigerian vessel owners’ participation in the maritime sector.
Ogbeifun said that the association’s intents were also to facilitate the streamlining of government’s policy direction to actualise realistic maritime potential.
“We want to be the eye on ground, while government will be our supporters as well as serving as a facilitator for the agencies that are stakeholders in the sector. “We commend the Lagos State Government for creating a conducive environment for SOAN to be headquartered here. SOAN wishes to use this opportunity to build our headquarters here to be named Ship Owners House and this house will be a centre of excellence for shipowners, seafarers and other relevant stakeholders.
“Our dear Governor, we kindly appeal that you allocate an appropriate land in a suitable location for this planned edifice,” Ogbeifun said.
He said SOAN members had embarked on the provision of their vessels for the much needed sea-time requirements for cadetship training in order to support the ever-increasing manpower needs of the industry.
Ogbeifun said that the association’s network within the year of existence became an important enabler of maritime trade in Nigeria.
He said that this had increased investments in the industry and responsible for why ship owners owned many vessels.
The Group Managing Director of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Dr Maikanti Baru, said the corporation relied a great deal on shipping to connect with various crude oil centres across the globe.
Baru, who was represented by the group Executive Director Downstream of NNPC, Hemcy Obi, said that owning a ship was no mean feat. He said that to own a ship, “one must consider the amount of money involved in maintaining a ship, hire crew, insurance, regulatory dues and so on”.
Barus said that the association should be applauded for its worthy objectives, which were largely aimed at growing the shipping industry in Nigeria.
“Our country once had a national fleet under a company called Nigerian National Shipping Line (NNSL).
“Cabotage Act is important, therefore, as a prerequisite to establishment of a national Fleet, if government would revive the ailing institution.
“Today, Nigeria exports her crude oil on FOB basis through traders that provide vessels and transportation of the crude oil to buyers.
“Vessels used are foreign-owned. However, with the establishment of national fleet for transportation of crude oil, it provides the nation with an opportunity to deliver her crude oil on CIF basis to buyers,” he said.
Baru said that the establishment of national fleet would reduce reliance on foreign ships for transportation of our crude oil in the case of epidemic or war-risk in a country.
Baru, however, said that the establishment of a national fleet would help in such challenges and also go a long way to increases activities in the maritime sector. The Executive Secretary, Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB), Simbi Wabote, said that collaboration by the stakeholders was key to fulfilling the mandates of the Nigerian Content Act.
Wabote said that under the Cabotage Act, one of the expectations on the part of the SOAN is the registration of vessels on the Nigeria Content Joint Qualification System JQS.
“Twenty eight Nigerian traders were successful in the 2014/2015 crude oil lifting term contracts.
“Through the efforts of the Board, NNPC has been urged to incorporate Nigerian content in requirements in crude oil.
“The Board has noticed major challenges in the authenticity of submission and also some infractions by some companies.
“The NCDMB also expects ship owners to go ahead with the maintenance and repairs of their vessels in Nigerian ship yards.
”Some vessels sailing out to the neighbouring countries for dry docking is a great disservice to our industry and must stop,” the NCDMB boss said.
He, however, said that the Board had ensured that all vessels owned by Nigeria and built in Nigeria will get priority opportunity in engagement by the industry. The President, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Dr Nike Akande, said the Nigerian economy offered tremendous opportunities to ship owners, especially the indigenous ones.
“We need to work together to harness these opportunities by ensuring that appropriate policies are put in place to ensure a more inclusive maritime sector. “No doubt, the outgoing year has been challenging. The maritime sector players have had their own share of these challenges,” Akande said.
She commended the effort of female ship owners, adding that to be a ship owner was certainly a big deal and women ship ownership was a greater feat.
Akande, however, celebrated all women members of the association for standing shoulder to shoulder with the men in the maritime business.
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