The need to fast-track the emergence of the national carrier

The issue of getting a national carrier in Nigeria came to the fore again penultimate Tuesday at a stakeholders’ meeting in Lagos organised by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
To any patriotic Nigerian, the issue of national carrier in Nigeria is long overdue after several years of the demise of the National Unity Line (NUL), which had succeeded the equally defunct Nigerian National Shipping Line (NNSL).
Several reasons have been adduced by stakeholders for the demise of the NNSL and NUL, both of which were a pride to Nigeria.
There is no doubting that the lines contributed significantly in placing the country in the global map of shipping, contributing greatly to the training of seafarers, ranging from ratings to master mariners which the country presently parades.

So when the issue of granting a national carrier status to Indigenous Shipowners Association of Nigeria (ISAN) was revisited penultimate week, many operators said that it was a welcome development, as this will redirect the country’s maritime industry.
However, the decision to grant the national carrier status to ISAN Shipping Company was not without opposition as a certain number of stakeholders had kicked against it, as, according to them, the association does not reflect the view of a number of stakeholders.
It was on this premise that NIMASA organised the stakeholders forum to harmonise the different views, so as to have a common front to push the idea of the national carrier status.

Speaking at the meeting, the Director-General of NIMASA, Mr. Ziakede Patrick Akpobolokemi, said that the meeting was organised to harmonise the different views of stakeholders in granting the ISAN Shipping Company a national carrier status so as to have a common voice in the industry.
He said that granting ISAN Shipping Company a national carrier status will enable NIMASA to be able to perform some of its statutory responsibilities effectively and help the agency in presenting a better argument to government. In his words: “This meeting is to harmonise our views to grant ISAN a national carrier status, because it will make our job simple and minimise the way we are in the press for negative issues. I am in the mood to give ISAN a national carrier status. We are going to give the national carrier to ISAN, but the views should be harmonised.”
Akpobolokemi, who said that he is favourably inclined to the decision to grant ISAN a national carrier status, noted that there was nothing wrong in giving ISAN a national carrier status, since, according to him, the body represents several interests in the Nigerian maritime industry.He urged stakeholders to support the move to grant ISAN Shipping Company the national carrier status. “We must put national interest before personal interests. National interest should take precedent over personal view,” Akpobolokemi said.

NIMASA’s Executive Director, Maritime Labour and Cabotage Services, Hon. Ibrahim Zailani, had explained that the decision of the agency to support ISAN Shipping Company in getting a national carrier status is as a result of the fact that ISAN has been able to galvanise the sector for the benefit of Nigerians .Zialani said that NIMASA will pursue the national carrier status for ISAN Shipping Company to a logical conclusion.
NIMASA’s position and determination to grant ISAN Shipping Company is indeed commendable, but the fear is that would this laudable idea not go down the way of most government’s policies; policies that come with so much vigour that are stepped down at the end of the day?
This particular push for a national carrier must not cease midway, just as Zailani has said that government needs to pursue the dream to a logical conclusion so that Nigeria can once again take her pride of place in the comity of maritime nations.
Granting a national carrier status to the ISAN Shipping Company will reduce the capital flight which is the major cry of indigenous operators and equally create more employment for Nigerians.

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