One year into the appointment of Rotimi Amaechi as Nigeria’s Minister of Transportation, has the maritime industry made appreciable progress?
Yes the industry has made significant progress, most especially on human capacity building.One can look at it in various ways which is capacity for ship regulation, capacity building for port administration and operations, human capacity development; all these are related to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). So, if you are looking at ship regulation that comes under flag state control, this administration took a bold step to accept the IMO mandatory audit scheme which is called IMO Member State Audit Scheme (IMSAS), not many developing countries like to subject their country to the audit scheme.
This is a key thing to determine how we are faring before the IMO and is mandatory; very few countries have elected to scale their progress. Though, the IMO audit was started by the previous administration but there were a lot of lapses and popular views were that it should be suspended. When this administration came on board, the minister said emphatically that if it was started, it has to be completed and the audit was done in June. The audit is not an end in itself but the objective of the audit is that IMO comes to audit your capacity, discharge responsibilities in respect to the key instrument which are SOLAS, STCW, MARPOL, tonnage measurement, load lines and pollution regulations. Nigeria did that and it was a bold step to take because it will indicate to us areas we should make progress. I consider it as a major and significant achievement of this administration. Also restructuring of NIMASA to make it more effective and the national fleet and the Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron is also on the line being positively affected by the administration.
This not something that can be said now because this administration just started working and time is needed for the effectiveness of the work being done. In the maritime industry, nothing is achieved in a rush; it takes a while before it happens and at the end of the day it will benefit everyone. For instance, the Inland waterway was not in Lagos for a while but later it came into reality and so many other parastatals. Meaningful progress in the industry needs proper planning and right timing to be achieved.
This present administration has looked at what they can do and has picked some certain areas that should be given accelerated development because it is critical to the transportation sector. For instance, most of the railway development that has been streamed were completed; Abuja to Kaduna rail is working now and some indication is given that the deep seaport project will be looked into and also general restructuring of the agencies under the ministry of transportation. It is too early to talk about any progress in the industry but it is seen that most of the agencies are coming out and keying themselves under the master plan, which is the development I have seen happening in the industry so far.
The government has good intentions, like the setting up the Committee on the proposed National fleet and the restructuring of NIMASA. These are positive actions that have been taken by this regime and the dynamic nature of the approach of the minister of transportation is quite promising.We only need time to see how far we all go with the plans. We are all aware of the benefit of shipping but how many people particularly in authority can appreciate shipping. There is a difference between awareness and appreciation. If you do not appreciate enough, you will not know what makes shipping because it is the most successful business in the whole world and most countries growth, including Nigeria depend on the benefits they derive from shipping. I hope this present administration will sit back, take mind away from the money involved in reviving the sector because the industry will generate money through cargo and if the cargo cannot be carried; another country will do the carriage. If we all get it right in the country and most especially in the industry, the action of the minister will be supported by the idea of what makes it a success. The depth of understanding is important; how to get it right is a different thing like the case of security, legal and manpower which is the key issue, port infrastructure, registration and certification of vessels.
Maritime industry is not a photography studio where they snap and pay; it is a time long industry and is something that take years to build. Whatever this present administration does today, the value cannot be immediately accessed. It will be over a period of time. I feel it is too early to judge. The minister’s intentions are good but no one can judge based on what has happened in the last eighteen (18) months.
In my own opinion, this administration has made progress, especially, NPA reviewing the concession the authority granted over ten (10) years which is meant to be done every two years. Nigeria is not a force to be reckoned with when it comes to shipping because of its lapses but it’s being improved on gradually. I believe time should be given for more effectiveness in the industry because it takes a lot of work to put in and less discussion should be done but action. I feel this administration can do more by putting the right people in place to do the job actively and putting all their hearts towards it.
Nigeria still has a lot to do as far as this industry is concerned because what is crumbling the sector is that the right people are not put in place and to this effect, the shipping industry cannot make progress. In the 70’s there was Panalpina and coastal agencies that were really functional but what happened to Nigeria in less than four decades is because of our behaviour. I feel what we are going through now is deliberate because we all know where the pains are.This administration need to put heads together for the industry to move forward. They are clamouring for change and we all have to change in our attitude, one thing is to have a laudable intention and the other is to form a diligent Committee. I heard a maritime department has been set up in University of Lagos to enhance the youth and save them the stress of going to MAN, Oron; what is the achievement? Everything is not all about money in this industry; we have the potential to get things done but because of our selfish interest and greediness, the industry is not moving forward.
This present administration is working hand in hand to put things together in the maritime industry.A lot has been faulted right from the very start but I feel changes will happen soon. It is a process that needs time to get the best result needed. The minister of transportation has also talked about some innovations to move the industry forward and within a year or two; I believe the result will be visible in every area.
Mkpandiok Ante Mkpandiok
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