‘There can be no maritime development without adequate security’

Without adequately securing her waters, the development of the Nigerian maritime industry is headed on a journey to nowhere fast.

According to a conference communique of the just-concluded fourth edition of the annual Nigeria Maritime Expo (NIMAREX 2014), “there can be no maritime development without adequate security on the waters.”

As a way out, NIMAREX 2014 participants posited that “Nigeria must tackle the underlying factors that give rise to piracy and criminality at sea, such as poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, environmental issues etc.”

Still on security, the 22–point communique stated: “That the key to maritime security was surveillance and response for which NIMASA (Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency) and (Nigerian) Navy were acknowledged to be performing well. Enforcement will need to be strengthened by a purposeful synergy between the relevant security agencies that must work together and share information for the common goal of ensuring security in Nigeria’s maritime environment. This synergy should be structured to ensure that security agencies work as a team rather than merely assisting one another through MOUs (Memoranda of Understanding).

“That some of the identified reasons for insecurity within our maritime domain were: Lack of equipment and technology required to address the situation; Lack of political will to tackle the problem head-on; Arrested criminals are not properly prosecuted but in most cases released to continue with their criminal activities; Insurance companies and the KNR factor whereby insurance companies are now making money from kidnapping incidents. Others include gangster activities and the Private Security organizations that threaten ship captains to make use of their services. The banks that receive ransoms on behalf of kidnappers should be identified and duly sanctioned while Nigeria should embrace stricter deterrent measures against piracy like Cameroun.”

NIMAREX 2014 had as its theme 100 Years Of Maritime Development In Nigeria, and participants urged the government to demonstrate the needed political will to develop the shipping industry, starting with the full implementation of the recommendations of the Presidential Committee on the Review of the Outcome of the Maritime Sector Retreat as an imperative measure to develop its shipping sector.

Government, according to the communique, needs to fast-track the development of the maritime/shipping sector by promptly granting it leave to begin to enjoy subsidy and duty exemptions, as applied to the aviation sector.

Noting “that Nigeria as a maritime nation with abundant natural and human resources should harness her maritime potentials by improving indigenous participation in shipping, engender competiveness, earn foreign exchange, create employment and accelerate development of her national defense and security system,” the communique stated “that Nigeria should develop a novel policy or plan to guide her maritime practice. However, shipping policies and developmental initiatives should be strengthened by encouraging critical Legislative actions (including favourable legislation that is protective of indigenous operators/operations) and periodic reviews (for the National Shipping Policy, the Cabotage Act, the Local Content Act, the Petroleum Industry Bill, Harbour Bill, etc.”

The NIMAREX 2014 participants emphasised: “The Ministry of Transport should have accessible documentations and information data bank on all policy decisions and legislations.”

On funding to boost indigenous capacity, the communique stated: “That the Cabotage Vessels Financing Fund (CVFF) and other funding support mechanisms and channels should be implemented to hasten equipment/tonnage development within the indigenous maritime/shipping industry.

“That further the delay in the disbursement of the CVFF should be stopped as participants called on all those concerned –NIMASA, banks and the Federal Ministry of Transport to ensure the money is disbursed to their owners without further delay. Expressed also was the urgent and immediate need for government to establish strategic bailout fund for the maritime transport sector.”

Still on boosting indigenous capacity, NIMAREX 2014 posited: “That Nigeria should adopt protectionist policies for indigenous ship owners as there is no nation in the world that has developed its maritime industry without protectionist policies. As the primary role of any maritime administration is to develop local shipping capacity, NIMASA therefore, should work to grow indigenous tonnage while government through the relevant agencies should secure fiscal incentives for ship owners to acquire ships.

“That more shipping companies should be accorded national carrier status and be encouraged to meet the expectations of the status rather than playing politics with it.

“That as a deliberate effort to grow the industry, greater attention must be given to ship building and repairs.”

The communique sought the enhancement of expertise and capacity through a supported local content initiative of contracts and awards to hasten development of the sector.

On human capacity development, the communique stated: “That there should be positive incentives to engage women in the industry. Female cadets should be given equal opportunities for sea-time training.

“That there is urgent need to close the manpower gap created by the demise of the Nigerian National Shipping Line (NNSL). The NIMASA’s NSDP (Nigerian Seafarers Development Programme) should be structured to emphasise sea-time training which has been a challenge for Nigerian Cadets. Indeed training of seafarers should go hand in hand with building shipping capacity to avoid training potential pirates. To achieve this, Nigerian shipping operators should be encouraged and assisted to acquire ships in order to offer the cadets training berths while the use of legislation to force the ships working in the oil and gas industry to take Nigerian cadets on board their ships for mandatory sea experience should be mandatory.

“That in the line with the above, NIMASA should collaborate closely with MAN (Maritime Academy of Nigeria), Oron and the Institute of Oceanography and Marine Research, Lagos to build capacity by sponsoring cadets in these institutions to foreign training.

“That in consideration of the proliferation of fake Seafarers’ Certificates in Nigeria and its attendant implications, NIMASA should live up to its mandate of regulating and standardizing Seafarers’ Certificates.”