Bad year for an ailing sector

Flipping through several reports and articles published in your soar-away maritime newspaper, SHIPS & PORTS DAILY in the course of 2013, it would appear that Nigeria’s case with corruption and flip-flop policies is irredeemable. 2013 was the year we chronicled the unprecedented frauds and shady dealings at top levels of the maritime industry, the uncertainty that confronted the sector as well as the dire implications of these shortcomings on the Nigerian economy.

From the bribery and subterfuge that characterised goods clearance at the ports to the several failings of the Federal Ministry of Transport and its many parastatals that have set the entire maritime sector in reverse gear; lack of a clear roadmap to address the myriads of problems bedeviling the sector; government’s ineptitude and passive posture with regards to the passage of the Ports & Harbours Bill; poor implementation of the Cabotage Law and shoddy performance of the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN); it has become manifestly evident that all is not well with the maritime sector.

Yet the Federal Government, which derives its second highest revenue from maritime activities, appears unperturbed. The administration of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan has shown more appetite for installing friends and cronies in juicy government agencies and parastatals in the industry than in developing it. It is a rent-seeking attitude displayed with a brazen boldness never witnessed before in the history of the nation’s shipping sector.

One wonders how any government which lays claims to an unflinching commitment to transform and improve the lives of its citizens could put up with a sharp deterioration of its economic artery and do absolutely nothing about it.

In July 2013, for instance, we published a report that 79 signatures were required before an import consignment could be cleared out of the port. We quoted a Corruption Risk Assessment (CRA) report put together by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP). Not a pronouncement or a move has been made on with regards to that expose despite wide media coverage.

We also published a report in the second half of the year that over 80 per cent of shipping companies owned by Nigerians had closed shop largely due to poor implementation of the Cabotage Law and government policies concerning the shipping sector. No government agency has deemed it necessary to act on that report even though it was widely reported and quoted by other newspapers.

The dire consequence of the Federal Government’s policy on rice importation was exclusively reported by SHIPS & PORTS DAILY and again widely reported by other newspapers last year. That was one blunder of government that should have been reversed without much ado but alas, nothing was done.

The Presidential Committee set up by President Jonathan in 2012 submitted its report the same year with the hope that government would act on its recommendations in 2013 but again, nothing happened.

On a cheery note though, it is heart-warming to note that more ports in the country were able to berth and discharge the famous 4,500 TEU WAFMAX vessels. By 2012, only the Lagos Port Complex Apapa could handle the WAFMAX but by the second half of last year, Tin Can Island Port and Onne Port had developed capacities to handle the largest container vessel to ever to call at any West African port.

Private terminal operators, against all odds, were also able to boost efficiency at the ports through the deployment of IT infrastructures and modern cargo handling equipment.

By all means, 2013 was an eventful year for us at Ships & Ports. We made good progress on various fronts and made good our promise to remain afloat as the nation’s go-to source for maritime information. We strengthened our online presence, expanded our radio programme and took position and the most respected and widest circulating maritime newspaper in Nigeria. Our brand of maritime journalism is devoid of blackmail, narrow self-interest and parochialism. We do not practice sensationalism and truism has remained our watchword.

For everyone that stood by us last year, we say a HUGE thank you. We wish you a happy New Year. We pray that this year will bring multiple blessings into your families and berth miracles in your lives. May all the good desires of your heart come to pass.

In this New Year 2014, we assure you of our selfless contributions to the development of the maritime industry. We have concluded plans to inject new hands into our operations to ensure that SHIPS & PORTS DAILY, Ships & Ports Online and Ships & Ports on radio maintain the high level of analytical, factual and objective reportage that earned us several laurels last year and that been our hallmark over the years.

Happy New Year.