Captain Niyi Labinjo

We are suffering in Nigeria because we do not understand the importance of maritime’

General Secretary of the Indigenous Ship owners Association of Nigeria (ISAN), Captain Niyi Labinjo in this chat berates the level of indigenous operators’ participation in Nigeria’s maritime trade. Labinjo who spoke specifically on offshore operation said that Nigerians have been unable to take full advantage of the opportunities in the industry due to government’s attitude.

On the state of shipping in Nigeria
There is nothing about ship ownership that you can see in me or in any of our member. We are in a country that is losing N2 trillion every year and you think people should not make noise. If you look at the amount we are losing vis-a-vis our annual budget of N4.5 trillion. We don’t need to capture the entire N2 trillion but let us capture a bit of it and we can progressively capture the entire too because if we capture that we will not be talking about unemployment.
I have seen very many ship owners particularly foreign ship owners. When you see them you know you have seen a ship owner. No matter how small a ship is; when you see a foreign ship owner, you will know you have seen a ship owner. They are usually very okay. They wear gold both on their fingers and necks. If you look at their wrist watches they are dazzling and their shoes are shinning but we cannot say same of the Nigerian ship owner and it is very unfortunate.

On the plight of indigenous operators
We are owing salaries, some close to nine months. That is the plight of Nigerian ship owners. There is nothing in me that will tell you that I own ships but I do and I am proud to say this because I did not steal the money. I bought the ships but that does not go for only me but for many of us like that too. When we choose to be ship owners, we believed that there is a prospect. I do not need to remind you of the millions Nigeria worth, I am talking about our 900 kilometers of coastline, I don’t need to remind you about our 200 nautical miles of our exclusive economic zone, neither will I remind you of the enormous resources that abound in our marine environment.
Let me give you an idea, God is the first ship owner, he puts the countries on one side and some of them build only ships and he put at the other side cargo owners. So those who own ship on this side and those who own cargoes on the other side and for you to access that cargo you need to take your ship there and that is why the world is made up of 75 percent of water. Three –quarter of the world is cover by water, so that is the circumstance. It would have been easy for people to carry cargoes in their cars but what do you do when you approach water? You cannot continue to ride your car. It would have been okay to put cargo in your plane but you are limited by weight on how much you can carry but in the water there is no limit and that is the beauty of a ship. You can carry an entire house on a ship because there are ships that can carry it.

If you take a look at what happened in Japan during the tsunami, you will appreciate that water is very powerful and resilience. 90 percent of cargo worldwide is carried by sea, so if you have 100 tons to be carried, 90 tons will be carried by sea while the remaining 10 tons will be carried by land and air. We will not be talking about maritime, if Nigeria does not have Atlantic Ocean washing our foot. Nobody talks about maritime when you are in Niger Republic or Bokinafaso, when they talk about water they probably talk about internal water because they have no water frontage, Nigeria has a water frontage and it is a major advantage and as a matter of fact countries go to war over dispute on maritime boundaries. It is only in a crazy country like Nigeria that you will carry your island and give it to another person.

It is our own appreciation of the importance of maritime. If you really appreciate maritime or the importance of maritime we would not have done what we did if even the world was crashing on us to let go of Bakassi, it is never done, strategically it is wrong, practically it is wrong, everything about it economically, politically it is wrong. It shows the importance or understanding by the government about maritime. We fail to even understand that because if had; somebody would have said stopped it. Drawing of maritime boundaries after the world wars, after the establishment of the United Nations and what have you. They said this is how we shall be drawing maritime boundary, if you have your coast, start counting your 200 nautical miles from there and some person said no, we have our island, what do we do? And they said you start calculating your nautical miles from there and that is why you have countries like India, they have an island 1000 miles away from their coast, so between that mainland of India and that little island which is un-habited all the things there are part of their mainland because they realize the importance of maritime, I want you to understand and appreciate why we are suffering in Nigeria.

This is because we do not understand the importance of maritime. America has one small island very far away from her coast but they say that island is their island because they need the water frontage from that island to their mainland. So it is from the island they start calculating their territorial waters of twelve miles and 200 nautical miles of economic zone. That was why Walter Rooney in I640 said that he, who controls the sea, controls the trade and whoever controls the trade controls the world. When I was in the Navy at Jaji, I took part in sea power and sea power was broken into two, sea control and sea denial, that is what makes up sea power, you want to control the sea for your own purpose and you want to denial your enemy the use of it.
That was what I was teaching and was able to tell you the relative importance of it. One of the problems affecting the development of our maritime industry is the failure of the government to have maritime culture and knowledge. Also if the people do not have maritime culture they will not understand. And these are the things that are affecting us seriously. We have a government that does not know about maritime and a people that do not have the idea of maritime culture.

On what Nigeria is losing 
I will just give you a bit of things we are losing. We have plenty of hydrocarbons. As at today, it is 37 billion barrels but our government is working towards making it 40 billion. That is our proven reserve. We are said to be the 10th-world producer of oil. The world as a whole everyday uses 84 million barrels per day of oil and Nigeria produces 2.5 million barrels every day.
For gas, we have 24 trillion reserves. We have the best shrimps in the world called tiger shrimps, that is why you have very many Indian fishing companies in Nigeria. All the tiger shrimps are exported. We import into Nigeria five million metric tons of cargo, 100 million metric tonnes of general goods.
We import 65 million litres of petroleum products every year. In the oil and gas industry, Nigeria has close to 500 oil wells that we are drilling all over the place. For each well, there is a rig which is supported by a minimum of five ships, and they are called oil support vessels.
As at today, for ships that earn $5,000 and above per day, there are about 600 of them, there are those that even earn $150,000 per day, you have 60 belonging to Nigerians out of this 600. Those 60, if you go to our waters, you will see them there they have no jobs. So for offshore we are not just there.

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