On the occasion of the World Maritime Day with the theme: “Sustainable Shipping For Sustainable Planet.”shippers in the nation’s maritime sector have thrown their weight behind investments in Deep Sea Port Projects in the country.
According to them, the global scramble for deep seaports is linked to the increasing embrace by maritime architects and engineers of very large carriers, which are considered “economical vessels.” This preference for mega ships which can only berth in deep drafts is expected to continue and increase.
According to the Nigerian Association of Importers (NAI), a deep seaport would not only enhance public revenue earnings in port activities and charges, but promote the production and earning scales in the real sector, the formal sector and the organised private sector; all factors that would promote the economy.
They argued that the handling capacity of existing ports in Nigeria is put at 60 million metric tonnes, while current demand and usage is put at about 100 million metric tonnes, and is expected to rise with the increasing population, urban expansions and attendant demand for more markets, adding that maritime transportation is one of the key sectors of the Nigerian economy, yet, it is a fact that this lucrative sector has not been fully harnessed.
Also commenting, the Amalgamated Freight Forwarders Association (AFFA), said with Nigeria’s large maritime space, huge maritime potentials and undisputed leadership position in cargo traffic on the West and Central African region, the country’s maritime sector is central to her economic development as a transport, commerce, resource and recreational factor, emphasising that with such massive maritime capacities and potentials, Nigeria cannot be expected at the rear lines in the scramble for deep seaports in the global maritime industry.
They further argued that with the intense competition on the regional maritime space, the imperative to maintain the lead and attain an undisputed hub status in the region as a transshipment centre, is more compelling.
Further they said the maritime industry, effectively harnessed, has the capacity to be a big factor in the national economy; with revenue, at maximum potentials, capable of competing with oil and gas revenue.
Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala-Usman, said the focus of the agency going forward is to aggressively drive investment in deep sea ports to make Nigerian ports competitive and efficient.
She stressed that the absence of the deep sea ports, which provides a depth of draft of about 17 meters, was the reason why Nigerian ports in totality are not competitive.
Speaking on a television programme monitored in Lagos yesterday, Bala-Usman said, “We want to get our ports as competitive as we see in other countries and drive the attendant reforms around providing enabling environment for new Deep Sea Ports to come on board.
“As you are aware one of the concerns that we have that make Nigerian ports in totality not competitive is the absence of the deep sea ports, which provides a depth of draft of about 17 meters, which is where the industry is going now.
“The economies of scale encourage larger vessels and that is what is absent in the Nigerian port environment now and we are going to work with the new board to ensure that the deep sea ports that are on the pipeline are concluded in a timely manner.”
She said she would work with the new board of the Authority to drive efficiency, map out strategies to further increase revenue for the federal government.
“In the last four years we have seen the NPA grow in leaps and bounds, we have seen revenue increased, our contribution to the consolidated revenue has been highest the authority has ever made.
“So, yes it has been a very productive four years for the NPA and for the country as a whole. Revenue generating agencies have risen to the challenge and increased contribution to the government,” she added.
Bala-Usman said the agency was engaging the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) on how to sustain security at the eastern ports.
The eastern ports including Calabar Port, Onne, Port Harcourt, has lost patronage from importers and shipping companies due to insecurity in the region.
The NPA boss noted that the agency has taken steps to revive the eastern ports and it intends to sustain the momentum it is currently yielding.
She said that NPA was also working with the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), terminal operators and other stakeholders to fast track cargo evacuation as well as deployment of scanning machines to the port.
“We will continue to engage with our stakeholders. We recognise that we must enhance efficiency; we must ensure that consignees come to clear their cargoes within the time limit.
“Some of the things we are doing are pushing to ensure that vessels come in good time and are evacuated without delay. We do have attendant challenges as I mentioned, because the waiting time within our ports is not in the optimal manner that we would like it to be,” she said.
She added, “We are working seriously with the terminal operators and Nigerian customs to fast track the process of evacuating cargoes and also importantly, the inspection of cargoes.
“This is something that is great priority for the Ports Authority, for the Nigerian government, more so for the Nigeria customs. We need to deploy scanners in our ports so that cargoes can be inspected using scanners. Right now as a lot of consignees are aware, cargoes are inspected physically.
“So, having the entire cargo that comes into Nigeria being physically examined, you would look at how difficult and challenging that would be and the time frame with which we would have that attendant longer window because the inspection officers would have to literally open all the containers that come in.”
Several members of Nigeria’s Shippers Council, interviewed by this medium, also expressed support for the move for increased investments in Nigeria’s waters.
In a related development, the Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi has called for synergy among stakeholders in the maritime industry to tackle insecurity in the nation’s water.
Amaechi said this in Lagos on Thursday on the occasion of the 2020 World Maritime Day.
Amaechi, who joined the event virtually from Abuja, also identified the secure anchorage issue as one that required greater understanding and transparency on the part of stakeholders.
According to him, it is only synergy among stakeholders that could end the security challenge in the country’s waters and called for synergy among stakeholders in tackling the problem.
Speaking also at the occasion, the Director General of NIMASA, Dr. Bashir Jamoh, restated the federal government’s commitment to the security of the country’s marine environment through the Integrated National Security and Waterways Protection Infrastructure, also known as the Deep Blue Project.
He said over 85 per cent of the assets needed for the project’s full takeoff had arrived the country, stressing that the training process for officers that would man the various equipment was being concluded.
According to him, “The determination of the agency to ensure sustainable use of the seas and oceans is clearly demonstrated by our establishment in 2008 of a specialised department in charge of marine environment management. With the current collaboration between NIMASA, Nigerian Navy, Nigeria Police, and other security agencies, I am convinced that the future of maritime security in the country is very bright.”
He further reiterated that the agency’s commitment was to get Nigerian waters free from all maritime crimes.
“Our aim is to get the Nigerian waters free from any crimes and we are working hard to achieve that. All the security agencies are giving us the maximum cooperation because we cannot do it alone. We are also appealing to the stakeholders to give us a helping hand by reporting all the incidents so that together we can succeed in this.
“The issue of piracy and sea robbery on our sea is a global issue and what we are doing now as you are aware is that the federal government has signed the contract of provision of platforms for us to arrest this situation also known as the blue project.
“We have received 85 per cent of the assets, which include two special mission vessels, 17 interceptor vessels, two special mission helicopters and C41s. We have been going around other agencies including the Nigerian Navy, police and others that will help in ensuring that we maintain security.
“Under the SPOMO Act, we have arrested 10 in Lagos, they are still under trial in the federal high court and we hope before the end of October, we will see the result of that. We also arrested nine in Port Harcourt and out of nine, three admitted guilty and they have been sentenced while the six will continue with the trial. We have seven in Calabar, which case will come up by month end. We are headway but we are yet to get there,”the NIMASA DG said.
In her welcome address, the Minister of State for Transportation, Senator Gbemisola Saraki, said the event provided an opportunity for the country to focus attention on the crucial role of the maritime industry in the attainment of the SDGs.
Saraki said the maritime sector was replete with both opportunities and challenges, noting that the country must find sustainable ways of profitable utilisation of its huge maritime resources.
Senior Special Assistant to President Buhari on Sustainable Development Goals, Princess Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire, in her own remarks, emphasised the importance of sustainable use of the seas and oceans. Orelope-Adefulire said a sustainable blue economy would unlock the full economic opportunities of the oceans, seas, lakes, rivers and other water resources through investment, while protecting the environment for future generations.
Also, the governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, stated that the maritime industry is pivotal to Nigeria’s attainment of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), saying the country must put in place deliberate measures for the optimal utilisation of its enormous maritime potential. The governor, who was represented by his deputy, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, commended the federal government for its plan to move containers across the country with barges, stressing that it would bring about more efficiency and ease pressure on the roads.