Chijoke Egwuagu Collins

“The whole idea of NIMAREX is to attract investors, who will come and see opportunities, identify them in the Nigerian maritime industry”

Barely six weeks to the hosting of the Second edition of Africa’s biggest maritime event, the Nigeria Maritime Expo (NIMAREX) 2012 in Lagos, Chairman of the organising committee, His Royal Highness, Chijoke Egwuagu Collins, speaks on the rationale behind the annual conference cum-exhibition. He also spoke on expected impacts of the event after the second edition.

Sir, what is Nigeria Maritime Expo (NIMAREX) all about?
Nigeria Maritime Expo NIMAREX is an annual event sponsored by the Federal Ministry of Transport and her subsidiaries; Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) NIMASA, Nigeria Ports Authority, Nigerian Shippers’ Council and National Inland waterways Authority (NIWA), including stakeholders in the maritime sector of the Nigeria economy ship owners, and all other private parties that have things to do with the shipping industry.

What is the objective of NIMAREX?
The objective of NIMAREX is to showcase the maritime potentials of the Nigerian nation. We have had the privilege in years past to travel to different parts of the world to attend similar seminars and maritime exhibitions and after several tours we discovered that we also have vast potentials in Nigeria and nothing should stop us from exhibiting the same and invite the rest of the world to come and also see what we have.
The annual expo particularly look at potentials, existing opportunities in the maritime sector of our economy and they are enormous. The whole idea is to attract investors who will come and see these opportunities, identify them and find ways and means to participate and in the process, grow the potentials we have in this industry and take advantage of them with the objective of simulating the sector.

Sir, the investors, are they just local or international investors?
This time around we are looking for international investors different from the previous ones we have had in the past. We are looking for investors now with genuine interest of our country at heart. Not only investors who will come and take advantage and give nothing back.

Who are those putting NIMAREX together?
Like I said earlier, it’s strictly has to do with the government and the private sector. Government is represented by the Federal Ministry of Transport and her parastatals, NIMASA, Nigerian Ports Authority, Nigerian Shippers’ Council and National Inland Waterways Authority alongside private sector operators like Indigenous Ship Owners in Nigeria, freight forwarders and other stakeholders in the maritime industry, those that have to do with things like stevedoring, fabrication, paint companies as well as banks and insurance houses etc.

How many exhibitors are you expecting?
This year we are expecting no fewer than one hundred exhibitors and they have started showing real interest, most of the boots are taken and in terms of participation we expecting no fewer than a thousand participants.

How many local and foreign investors are you expecting?
We cannot draw a statistic on that now but all we know is that we have extensively reached out to the outside world and we’ve had a lot of responses, most of the companies have shown great interest, they have taken boots and the boots are been almost exhausted. So, while the local players also have shown a lot of interest, we don’t have a clear statistic of the number of foreign and local investors for now.

So what is the response so far?
The response has been quite encouraging because what we want to show the rest of the world is something they believe is true; it’s real. The opportunities are real; they are there. So this is what has really ignited their interest particularly the foreign maritime players. They know that what Nigeria is showcasing is in existence. They know that the opportunities are there and that’s why the interest is being simulated. The only problem we are having at this point is security. The events on the security challenges of the nation are not playing out well for us at this point in time I must admit but which is not of our own making though.

Who are the dignitaries expected to grace the event this year?
We are expecting the Secretary General of the International Maritime Organisation, Mr. Koji Sekimizu, and former head of State, General Yakubu Gowon who will chair day one of the event. We are also expecting, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, President Federal Republic of Nigeria as the Chief Host and to be present at the opening of the event. We are also expecting the Transport Minister, Senator Idris Umar who is the host of the event as well as the Minister of Finance, National Planning, Commerce and the Governor of the Central Bank and a host of others.

At the end of the event, what impact do you think this year’s NIMAREX will make in the maritime industry?
Our objective is to unlock this dormant sector so to speak because when you look at the opportunities we have in this sector, they have to do with shift of government policies. We strongly believe that government will adjust her policies accordingly and if that is achieved, a lot of employment opportunities will be created for seafarers; a lot of training opportunities. And looking at finance in terms of earnings, a lot of banks also will be enhanced if the policies of government we want them to adjust and modify are achieved in this outing.

Will the outcome of this event help in salvaging the plight of indigenous ship owners in petroleum products shipment?
You see the policies are simple; I will point a quick picture. We have observed that amongst all the oil producing nations in this world today Nigeria is the only nation that runs a different trade policy.
Other oil producing nations of the world trade their crude oil on Cost Insurance and Freight (CIF) bases. Meaning if you are buying their product it will be their responsibility to delivery to your destination wherever the cargo is going to. They will ensure that they deliver. That is how other nations trade the world over except Nigeria.
So we are very optimistic that during this event on or before or immediately after the event, government will see reasons to adjust our crude oil sales policy from FOB (Free on Board) to what the rest of the world are doing CIF (Cost Insurance and Freight). If that happens, it means a lot of job opportunities for Nigeria shipping companies; it means a lot of added revenue. For instance we lose about $5 million everyday because of this faulty trade policy. $5 million a day added to the economy will make a lot of difference.
Also look at the recent drama that took place where we had the Government of Nigeria at war with her citizens over N1.33trillion subsidy fund. For us in the shipping sector, we laugh to tears because the implementation of the Cabotage Act which was sign into law about nine years ago if implemented would be more than enough subsidy; will provide for this subsidy fund we are talking about.

What do you mean by this?
Every day we tranship not less than 30 million litres of product within our waters. Like you rightly know NNPC, PPRA are coming up with figures of what we consume every day. These cargos are brought into Nigeria and they are tranship on a daily basis. So the cargo volume of 30 million litres is a lot of cargo. It is transhipped here with zero participation of indigenous ship owners; we don’t participate because it is a carefully orchestrated design by those who import these cargos to scheme the local players out completely. They give irrevocable payment orders for large quantities of products to be supplied to Nigeria. These irrevocable payments of order are given to few Nigerians and their foreign counterparts. These cargos are brought in; they already have arranged light rate ships with their counterparts who have shipped the cargos. These ships are littered all around our waters in violation of the Cabotage Act. So when the mother vessels come in with the consignments the NNPC players scheme us out completely. We offer our ships to do the lighterage at N2.50k a litre but they will say no to us and they use the same foreign ships for lightrage at N4.00 per litre simply because of what some people may benefit out of the trade. So with the implementation of Cabotage now, you discover that this N30 million litres of product daily would be contracted to local ship owners by so doing a lot of employment will be generated, ship owners will have monies to buy better vessels for their operation etc. Look at general import, as a nation we import over 120 million tons of cargo every year because of our faulty trade policy which is import is based on CIF as oppose to our export which is FOB. If the government can adjust our import trade policy from CIF to Free on Board( FOB) on a monthly basis we can generate not less than $750 million that can stay within our confers and circulate within our economy.
So there are the numerous opportunities that abound in the maritime sector but which up till today these policies are yet to be adjusted. But we strongly believe by the grace of God that these will be done which is what NIMAREX 2012 is hoping to achieve.

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