From Anthony Nwachukwu, Lagos
More knocks have continued to greet the loss of the Nigerian National Shipping Line (NNSL) and the nation’s lack of urgency in addressing the need for a national carrier, as the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) disclosed that the country loses about $9.1 billion yearly on freight revenue to foreign ships.
Lamenting the lack of progress by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to achieve flag carriers, even with the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF) not serving its intended purpose, the NSC Executive Secretary, Mr. Hassan Bello, said that foreign shipping lines were steadily draining Nigeria’s would-have-been revenue and opportunities.
According to Bello, “between 2004 and 2017 Nigeria recorded a total traffic of 25,256 vessels, with total gross freight of $39 billion, but earned a paltry $1 billion as levy for NIMASA. Each year we lose $9.1 billion in freight to foreign ships.”
He regretted that such huge revenue loss would have meant greater revenue for the government, employment for citizens, setting up of associated industries, ship building and repairs, involvement of indigenous financial institutions like banks and insurance firms, and “even the pride of having ships flying the Nigerian flag.”
To remedy these anomalies, “we need to have a national carrier because of the profound impact it will have on our economy. Nigerians don’t operate any (dry cargo) ship at all; for wet cargo, Nigerians don’t lift crude.
Bello noted that having considered this imbalance very dangerous to the economy, the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi, set up a committee chaired by the NSC to lead the private sector and the committee started with a Memorandum of Understanding with the Singaporean shipping company, PIL, about three years ago.
However, “the operating atmosphere in Nigeria is murky and not profitable (for shipping) because there are many obstacles, including lack of incentives, infrastructure and government support. The unwillingness or inability of Nigeria’s private sector to support this very important enterprise is another issue.”
Nevertheless, the national fleet implementation committee has retraced its steps, was able to get the audience of the Vice President and addressed the Economic Management Team on the vision. This project, if got right, means much more earnings for freight.”
According to him, a lot of reforms is needed, including the nation’s flag administration and ship registry, “in line with international standard so that we could attract people to register ships in Nigeria. We need vessel repairs and building, so that we don’t tow our ships to Singapore or Ghana for repairs. That will be a drain on the business.
“We need to reform our nautical colleges, especially MAN (Maritime Academy of Nigeria), Oron, to produce the best cadets, and so that cadets produced would have sea-time experience using Nigerian ships.
“If we have investments and are able to establish the fleet, that means NIMASA will accord that fleet the status of national carrier, and if this is done, it means they will have first priority in cargo – project cargo, Nigerian cargo, cargo belonging to federal, state and LGAs.”