By Dr. Eugene Nweke
(Being A New Year 2023 Shared Professional Thoughts With The Maritime Practitioners).
May I seize the occasion of this new year 2023 to crave the reading understanding of the stakeholders to re-echo the following salient matters of fundamental importance to our maritime industry development. The import of this professional craving is that the Nigeria Maritime Industry can no longer be zapped, edged and subtly stagnated than necessary in the face of the global maritime dynamics and competitive maritime nations.
For instance, today, the security threats within the Gulf of Guinea(GoG) is likened to the herdsman protecting his herd from wolves until it is fattened for slaughter, so it is when a carrier schedule to sail and navigate through the gulf of guinea , the Master mariner and crews, are self armed , and still commissions the services of a security provider, to render escort services to the larger merchant vessel and “protect it from pirates”.
It is on this premise that, I resort to talk about the Maritime Industry and our Tub of Truth”, stating it from my professional knowledge and experience, as follows:
ON HIGH OCEAN FREIGHT TO OUR PORT: It is pertinent to note that, while the Atlantic Ocean remains an open deep blues and not a SUEZ OR PANAMA CANALS resemblance. The subtle activities of the wild, untrustworthy and sponsored pirates, shipping cartels with their vagaries of conspiracies and hidden interests ( of groups and nations involved in the international shipping crimes), that thrives within the gulf of guinea is more sophisticated than envisaged, thereby, subjecting the ocean passage of merchant vessels to uneasiness and uncertainties, constituting a risk and cost factor being inculcated into the component of ocean freight, prepaid by the Nigerian shippers.
It is on record that, the difference in ocean shipping costs from Europe or China to the ports within other neighboring countries and Nigeria ranges from $400 to $1000 depending on the nature of cargo and the distance of the named port under carriage.
Available findings and reports suggests that sailing through the gulf, is with “Pirates at Heart”. This is because, the activities at the gulf of guinea is more of a syndicated operations ably aided by international collaboration.
Wherefore, to secure the Ships while on voyage, (sailing and navigating through the gulf to named port of destinations) and the larger fraction of its contents ( merchandise) the master mariners or ship captains are inclined to trust and risks his internal security might on board or accept the stock in trade of “directly bypassing those unruly middlemen ( “incidental piracies”) to patronizing the government appointed onshore security service providers”, which also attracts a cost to the shippers.
ON THE DEEP SEA PORTS : The emergence of deep sea ports in the country promises the maximization of the marine cum shipping economies of scale. However, port competitiveness if not properly subjected to regulation by the industry economic regulator, may be hindered by two contributory cost factors ( having the capacity to stagnate the nation’s quest for regional hub status) , namely:
a). The monopolistic tendencies ( local shipping extortion and exploitation via arbitrariness in operations and charges without service function ) of the first generation private port investors ( that is, those terminal operators with shipping lines affiliates) .
b). The shipping costs factor induced by the incidences and activities of the “incidental piracies”.
ON THE ROLE OF THE NIGERIA NAVY TO THE MARITME INDUSTRY DEVELOPMENT:
To reduce the cost of shipping to Nigeria and increase the essence of maritime economies of scale, there’s need to rejig our spiritedness in relation to patriotism and nationhood. The Nigerian Navy territorial water surveillance should be in totality territorial driven.
The administrative urges to out sources any aspect of territorial water surveillance responsibilities either by way of concession or privatization should not be encouraged, rather adequate funding to guarantee total surveillance operations via the development and deployment of corresponding equipments, prompt authority controls and supervisions on the part of the government. Nigerians are expecting to see more of the development of the marine sciences and Logistics inputs on the part of the Nigeria Navy.
ON THE NAVY AND THE NIGERIAN SEAFARERS DEVELOPMENT IN NIGERIA:
For emphasis sake, the overall success of the Nigeria seafarers training, retraining in relation to the certification and acquisition of professional experiences and competitive expertise has deep link with the Navy developmental objectives.
ON THE NAVY AND THE STEEL, AUTOMOBILE AND NATIONAL TRAWLERS SECTORS DEVELOPMENT:
Equally, other sector which the Nigeria Navy developmental objectives will fast track its essence in the Maritime industry is the Steel Sector which engenders shipbuilding and by extension strengthens the automobile industry.
In addition, with a safer marine domain, our National trawlers can optimize their fishing activities without the fear and coercion of the sea puncher and pirates attacks, thereby boosting our marine agriculture and aquatic development under the blue economy concept.
ON THE NAVY AND MIDSTREAM CARGO DISCHARGE AND BUNKERING:
With a safer marine environment , the activities of midstream cargo discharge and illegal bunkering under a Patriotic Navy territorial surveillance coverage will be stemmed and it will engender a legitimate ship bunkering activities with its corresponding revenue and job creation which we had over the years lost to our neighboring countries.
▪︎ ON THE NAVY AND THE NATIONAL LEGISLATION:
Without mincing words, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency – NIMASA under the headship of Dr Bashir Jamoh had deployed commendable frantic efforts to negotiate, attain and deploy reasonable measures to curb the incidences of pirate attacks on the Nigeria bond vessel along the gulf of guinea. It has also demonstrated strong will to positively drive the Blue Economy concept.
However, without delving into the noticeable cross functions in the Agency’s enabling Act and that of the Nigeria Navy Act in relation to jurisdictions and functions, the existing collaboration is commendable, but the question of sustainability is a major concern, that cannot be fully guaranteed for varies of factors.
To this extend, the need for a strong, patriotic and totality of the Navy Administration driven by the spirit of with regards to our total surveillance coverage of our territorial waters premised on the doctrine of nationhood, can not be over emphasized.
ON THE LEGISLATIVE FUNCTIONS AND THE EXECUTIVES – MARITME REGULATORY AGENCIES :
It was noted in a public discuss, that, the legislative and the executive arms of the government are having a likened ” same childhood freedom with each other as siblings playmates” which is a defeat of the constitutional essence. In my opinion , both have to outgrow that freedom and ought to separated, as spark from tinder. The canvass here being that legislative obligation must meet the essence of the constitution federal republic, which provides for power devolution between each arms. Inter Collaboration must not be seen in the negative or as a detrimental to the large number.
Over sight functions must not be seek to be sacrificed on the altar of personal, or political party interests consideration. The transparency, prudency and accountability of the relevant maritime agencies budgetary processes should be subjected through a consumer price index supervisory departments, for reevaluation activities before submitting yearly budgets to the National Assembly.
It is does not portray the legislatures in good light, when yearly budgeted capital and recurrent expenditures were not utilized for the purpose it was meant for and subsequently returned to government confers, while so many items within seeks for attention.
There is need to further lower the bar for some agencies, so as to limit or tackle the concerns expressed by the general public with regards to over bloated yearly budget needs of some agencies. It suffices it to state that, from our education in the art of Maritime sharp trading and shipwreck survival, rescue and search, wrecks and water hyacinth removals, etc a non technical infomed legislative committee, can easily be bamboozled to believe and approve some financial budgetary permutations as presented.
ON SHIPPING INDUSTRY POLICY AND INCOTERMS APPLICATION:
In the face of growing global ships mergers and acquisition among carriers, and then the evolution of modern ships building and design ( mega vessels ) and the corresponding effects port structural designs ( deep sea ports and transhipment hubs), calls for a prompt response.
From a close observation as to how ships are being leased and stocked for extended trading across the international ship cargo markets, the inherent conspiracies between the carrier , ship brokers and cargo owners resulting to impunity of practices, compromised shipping regulations ( especially international security initiatives) and trade laws, calls for a serious national concerns and a deliberate revisit to our national shipping policy as it relates to the international trade contract terms ( incoterms)
It is obvious that the impunity associated with the Cost Insurance and Freight- CIF incoterms application, has left our international trade space and port environment a haven for reckless concealments of substandard and prohibited imports, creating serious security, social and economic challenges in the country.
ON THE FILLING THE GAP YOUNG WOMEN IN MARITIME INDUSTRY:
Indeed the Nigeria women in the shipping industry has demonstrated their effectiveness in administrative offices both public and private endeavors. However, with consideration to age factor, their rate of active participation in the industry activities is not in correspondence with their rate of mentoring young potential industry women actors, hence, the industry slogan: “Take with you any soul whose life you value to the industry limelight”
This is required because a Maritime Industry with adequate women administrators heading the Maritime agencies is a pointer to accountability and transparency and doing so with no less credible motives. The fear of flexibility consideration is neither here nor there.
ON THE CVFF DISBURSEMENT AND REACTIONS THEREFROM:
Naturally, when a Master Mariner and the crews are rescued from sea mishap, their collective prayer has always been: “May our voyage never fetch us down to the bottom of the sea”. I think that those who are agitated may have their rights to doing so, but I urge them to embrace the prism: “The next thing I knew, I knew nothing” , implying that, there comes a time we deliberately give peace a chance.
From a deeply consideration, one observed that, between the legislative hand pen ( mis interpretation of the provisions of the Cabotage Act tailored in a manner that suggests, it contrived to borrow from source without lending out ) and the collecting agency inkpot lies what is called missing links. Missing links in itself implies a gold chain in hand, whereas these inkpot bits are not missing but preserved , it takes a faithful keeper of time, reckoner of statutory position, a from time to time monitor, a goal committed getter to bridge the missing links with a formula.
The Minister of Transportation, Muazu Sambo is merely bridging the missing links for the sake of industry growth ( especially the active advancement of indigenous ship owners participation in the shipping industry), as such deems it fit to give the practitioners to return with value addition to the industry. Therefore, the Minister industry thinking that ‘IF THE CVFF IS YOURS THEY ARE YOURS” should be welcome with jaw jaw and not war war. The question on the lips of many concern industry observers has been; “At what point should the CVFF be deemed as evenly disbursed?”. The time to deploy the CVFF for positive industry development and attainments beckons.
ON THE INLAND WATER TRANSPORTATION: ( To be continued in volume 3).
Thanks for your attention, now.
Fwdr (Dr) Eugene Nweke Rff Fnis, Fffa, Fptm
Head: Sea Empowerment Research Center RGT.