NIGERIAN MARITIME: Obasanjo laments dominance of foreign vessels

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has bemoaned the dominance of foreign-flagged vessels in Nigerian waters.
Speaking at the opening of the Nigeria Maritime Expo (NIMAREX) 2013 held yesterday at the Eko Hotel and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos, Obasanjo said that the domination of the nation’s waters by foreign vessels costs Nigeria huge revenue losses annually.
“Presently, the maritime sector is characterised by the domination of foreign-flagged vessels, especially those of developed market economies of Western Europe and America. This situation has led to a loss of billions of naira annually in freight revenue. Even efforts by my administration to procure vessels for the defunct Nigeria National Shipping Line did not yield the expected results ,as those vessels were ill-managed, and, subsequently, the NNSL was liquidated,” he said.
The former Head of State also lamented the situation of indigenous ship owners, noting that their huge investment in the shipping sector has not yielded returns.

The enactment of the Cabotage Act, according to him, has not imroved the lot of the indigenous ship owners.
He stated: “With the demise of our national shipping and tanker companies credit to our indigenous ship-owners who saw it fit to have investment in shipping. I am told that funds in excess of two billion dollars have been invested in various ship types, but no appreciable returns on their investment yet. The reason for this must be properly addressed as no nation can fund a non-performing maritime industry gobbling billions of dollars of either private or public investment.
He further said: “Still to help indigenous investors and participants in the maritime industry, we brought about Cabotage Law… If Cabotage Law, when it was being promulgated, took the government along with it, because it was a private bill, maybe we will have put in it the process of implementation that would have made it achieve the purpose of which it was meant to achieve.”
Focussing on the cargo clearance procedures at the nation’s ports, Obasanjo said: “Port situation in Nigeria seaports are still characterised by cumbersome clearing procedures and excessive shipping charges despite the concession of the ports. There is therefore urgent need to introduce trade facilitation measures that will improve the clearing process with a view to reducing time and cost and making our ports competitive with other sub regional ports otherwise shippers will prefer the use of ports of our neighbors.”

Also speaking at the event, Minister of Transport, Senator Idris Umar, who represented President Goodluck Jonathan, said that the numerous business opportunities in the maritime sector have remained largely unexploited, but noted NIMAREX 2013 as a platform to unlock the endless opportunities in the industry.
“The administration of Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (GCFR) has played a key role since inception in mobilizing the private sector to participate actively in the development of critical sectors of the economy including the maritime sub-sector. NIMAREX 2013 is therefore another opportunity for industry practitioners to interface and harness opportunities and provide a networking platform that will showcase to the world, the largest assemblage of maritime industry products, new technologies and unlock the endless opportunities in the industry,” he said.
Chairman NIMAREX 2013 Planning Committee, Mrs. Margaret Onyema-Orakwusi, while commending the transport minister for his support to NIMAREX reiterated that the unlocking of the maritime industry holds the key to the actualization of the transformation agenda of President Goodluck Jonathan.

She also commended the government for its support to the development of local content while appealing that it hasten the implementation of the Cabotage Act so as to encourage indigenous ship owners and other stakeholders in the maritime industry.
“It is gratifying to note that the issue of local content is yielding positive results. We are further appealing to the Federal Government to accelerate the process of implementing the cabotage regime which is meant to leverage optimal participation of indigenous operators in domestic shipping as well as act as a spring board for capacity building in all aspect of maritime trade,” she said.

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