The Minister of Transportation, Hon. Rotimi Amaechi has set up a committee to work towards developing the blueprint for establishing Nigerian national carriers.
The Transport Minister disclosed this while giving the key note address at the Day One of the African Maritime Conference with the theme, “Financing the African Fleet”. Amaechi said the committee is expected to report its findings within the next four weeks.
“We have set up a committee to enable us develop national carriers which will be operated by private individuals. The committee asked us to give them four weeks to submit their report and I hope their reports identify the private investors for us to engage them. I hope that by the end of the year we should be able to have a national carrier” Amaechi said.
Rotimi Amaechi stated that his first achievement as the Minister of Transport will be to restructure the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and he promised to review the Cabotage laws and the port concessioning agreement to ensure that the maritime industry operates optimally.
“When you go to foreign seaports do you feel proud to compare it to Nigeria? The maritime industry should not only provide jobs but create wealth for people. I am doing the performance audit of NIMASA and NPA. NIMASA became a money giving agency.” He said.
He maintained that the reason for the slow approach by the federal government in addressing issues was because the government was trying to stabilize the system it inherited from the previous administration.
Meanwhile, the President of African Ship-owners Association, Temi Omatseye disclosed that a Shipping Directorate is to be established in the African Union (A.U) and the association was playing a key role in its establishment.
Omatseye explained that African Ship-Owners Association was trying to get the African Union to back whatever the national ship-owners associations were doing.
“We want the A.U to back the national ship-owners, this means that whatever Nigeria is doing because it is an African thing, our bills of negotiation with the financiers and ship builders will be stronger” he said.
Omatseye also lamented the increase of Ship to Ship transfer of cargo as he queried the NNPC for diverting Nigerian bound cargo to neighbouring countries for ship to ship transfer.
“Our position is that NNPC should allow these mother vessels move to the Lagos anchorage so that our Nigerian flag carrying vessels can lift the cargo and bring them into the ports. We just want them to implement what is already a law. This is the reason most of our ship owners are in debt crisis.” he added.
However, Omatseye expressed worry that the developed world wouldn’t welcome the idea of Africans taking over maritime fleet without a strong fight because foreigners were ripping colossal figures off Africa that they wouldn’t want any African to participate actively in the industry.
Speaking further on the Nigerian Maritime University (NMU) project at Okerenkoko, Delta state, Amaechi insisted that he had made up his mind to scrap NMU because MAN Oron needed to be upgraded and according to him, NIMASA wasn’t tasked with building universities.
By Kenneth Jukpor