Maritime stakeholders task FG on port infrastructure

Lagos Maritime Expo

Lagos Maritime Expo

Some exhibitors at the just-concluded Lagos Maritime Expo (NIMAREX) have suggested that the Federal Government should improve on port infrastructure, to boost maritime trade.

An Exhibitor, Mr Moses Macaulay, a shipping operator working with RANGK Ltd, urged the Federal Government to improve on port infrastructure. “The port infrastructure we have is not adequate but the Federal Government is trying. “Government should try and extend the type of modern port facilities in Onne port to other ports, including Lagos ports,” Macaulay said.

Mr Dike Osita, Head, Chartering, Destiny Maritime and Shipping Ltd expressed concern about the constant gridlock in Apapa and Tin-Can port access roads. Osita said the perennial gridlock along the Lagos port access roads had affected the company’s income.

He, however, urged the Federal Government to invest in rail transportation to boost inter-modal transportation of goods and to also decongest the access roads to the ports.

Miss Juliet Orji, Marketing/Public Relations Officer, West Atlantic Shipyard, (WAS), said full participation by stakeholders in future maritime expos would create room for a full grasp of activities in the industry.

“Presently, Nigeria has not tapped the opportunities in the maritime sector and by the time we are all involved in the expo, it will solve the employment problem in the country,” Orji said.

In his message to the opening of the expo, a former of Head State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd.), suggested a road map on how to tap the maritime potential of the nation.

Abubakar said the road map would transform Nigerian ports to be the hub of the West Africa sub-region.

The former head of state, who was represented by Vice Admiral Samuel Afolayan (rtd.), said Nigeria had over 400 nautical miles and large human resources.

He urged Nigerians to take advantage of the maritime potential, adding that 80 per cent of the nation’s maritime resources had yet to be tapped.

Mr Ayorinde Adedoyin, Chairman, Planning Committee of NIMAREX, said the 2015 edition of the expo was targeted at throwing up solutions toward enhancing the economic fortunes of the nation.

“The deliberation will be in the light of the international economic situation which has adversely affected Nigeria’s monolithic economy primed on crude,” Adedoyin said.

Mr Hassan Bello, the Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), on his part, urged the Federal Government to provide the enabling environment for the growth of the maritime industry.

Bello said at the three-day maritime expo that investors were operating under an unfavourable climate, adding that there was no power supply for the terminal operators.

“The access roads for evacuation of cargo through the ports and other terminals are extremely difficult to go through.

“It is our duty to make it clear to the government that this is the time it needs to step in comprehensively so that the maritime industry will make its expected contributions to the economy,” he said.

In a message to the Expo, Dr Patrick Akpobolokemi, the Director-General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), said the agency was willing to partner with all stakeholders toward the growth of the industry.

Akpobolokemi, who was represented by Mr Callistus Obi, Executive Director, Maritime Labour and Cabotage Services of NIMASA, said: “There must be development of indigenous capacity because without the development of indigenous capacity, we will remain where we are.

“The crew on-board vessels is a critical issue NIMASA is working toward to make sure Nigeria has enough seafarers. That is why we are organising the National Seafarers Development Programme.

“NIMASA has also established a maritime university and also commenced maritime courses in some universities, to build indigenous capacity,” Obi said.

He said NIMASA would look into the operational difficulties in the implementation of the Cabotage Act, to develop indigenous vessel acquisition capacity.

The Managing Director of NPA, Prince Sanusi Ado Bayero, urged maritime practitioners to emulate other nations by utilising the nation’s maritime endowments to develop the economy.

Bayero told participants at the maritime expo (NIMAREX) that nations like Egypt, Singapore and Indonesia developed their maritime endowments.

The NPA chief said maritime practitioners played a leading role as potential catalysts for the development of the nation’s economy, adding that the downward trend in global oil prices had affected national development.

Bayero urged Nigerians to take full advantage of the abundant maritime endowments and the avalanche of growth opportunities in the maritime sector.

“There is no gainsaying that most great nations of the world delivered their greatness from the endowments of such states.

“Early civilisation of states like Egypt derived her prowess and globally-acclaimed wealth and prosperity from the blessings of the River Nile.

“The tradition has been sustaining Egypt till date as one of the greatest maritime nations of the world.

“Singapore is known as solely reliant on her maritime endowments which have been developed to the extent that the country is reputed to be the world’s bunkering destination,” the NPA chief said.

He said that Indonesia was reputed for her high production of seafarers who were all over the world, manning vessels of different configurations and sizes.

The NPA chief, therefore, saluted the resilience of the organisers of NIMAREX for sustaining the standard and quality of the conference over the years.

Also during the week, Prof. Innocent Ogwude, National President, Institute of Transport Administration of Nigeria, suggested a detailed master plan of Nigerian ports for the transformation of the ports to regional maritime centres.

Ogwude, in a paper entitled “Maritime Cluster and the National Economy: Policy Perspectives,” presented at the expo, called for a reduction of tariffs on transit cargo, creating a shippers’ friendly port system, and creating incentives for private operations.

He suggested a complete clean-up of official procedures and legislation, including Customs rules.

“It is the aspiration of the Federal Government to grow a hub port in West and Central Africa, given its geographical advantage of a central location, the volume of trade generated, and the oil and gas rich neighbourhood of the Gulf of Guinea,” the don said.

He said Nigeria needed to grow her port complex to the level of an international maritime centre, comparable to Hong Kong, Singapore, Rotterdam and London.

Ogwude said to achieve the aspiration, Nigeria had embarked on the development of deep seaports at Olokola, Ondo-Ogun States, Lekki, Lagos State, and Ibom, Akwa Ibom.

The theme of the expo was: “Regenerating economic growth through the maritime sector”.

By Pita Ochai

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