In a bid to realize the true potentials of the Nigerian maritime sector, the Ship Owners Association of Nigeria (SOAN) effectively utilized its 2016 Gala Night, which held in Lagos recently. The occasion was graced by leaders in the maritime industry as well as others in the oil and gas, finance as well as the Organized Private Sector(OPS).
The dignitaries who graced the occasion didn’t just attend, they seized the opportunity to network, discuss several pertinent issues in the maritime industry with other leaders. When it was time for paper presentation, the audience could see that the guest speakers had come prepared to take on headlong the challenges facing the sector.
The event also marked the launch of SOAN’s 100 Cadet Training Berths Scheme in collaboration with the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to increase the level of participation by all ship-owners in the provision of sea time opportunities for the seafarers.
One irony of the event was that the ever punctual Minister of Transportation, Hon. Rotimi Amaechi arrived when most of the stakeholders had departed. The amiable Transport Minister had promised to attend the event, although he tried to keep his promise, he only arrived when most of the guests had departed.
The conference created a suitable ambience for the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to speak on some of the challenges of ship owners with regards to the lifting of crude and other petroleum products and explained why the Federal Government has resolved to sign a crude oil supply contract with Niger Republic, in a separate interview session with MMS Plus crew.
Speaking at the event, the Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Dr. Maikanti Baru, who was represented by the Group Executive Director, Downstream, Mr. Henry Obih, noted that the maritime industry is critical to the economy of any nation, as almost all international trading activities involve shipping.
The NNPC boss who spoke on the topic: “Benefits of Establishing A National Shipping Fleet for Crude Oil Affreightment”, asserted that the establishment of a national fleet would save Nigeria some foreign exchange paid to foreign ship owners.
He said that a total of $6,165,800,104 was paid to foreign ship owners in 2015 for crude oil affreightment, regretting that some of these monies could have been saved if the nation had a national fleet for crude oil carriage.
According to him, Nigeria loses $3.5billion as a result of non-patronage of local chandlers by shipping lines in the upstream sector, adding that “these and others in dry cargoes lead to a significant loss of business annually.”
He listed the benefits of the national shipping fleet to include, increase in activities of the maritime sector, independent of foreign ships for crude oil transportation, creation of employment opportunities, among others.
“The shipping industry in Greece which is the largest in the world is mainly driven by private sector. The ship owners association should strive to grow the business of its members such that Nigerian flagged vessels are visible globally. The association should identify what government needs to put in place to make the shipping business of its members extremely successful”, Baru noted.
Meanwhile, the Governor of Lagos State, Akinwunmi Ambode, who was represented by the Lagos State Special Adviser on Commerce and Industry, Mr. Benjamin Labinjo, stressed that there is a need for convergence of ideas among stakeholders, including the Ship owners on how best to move the maritime industry forward.
Ambode assured that Lagos State government would continue to create the enabling environment through the design and implementation of appropriate policies, incentives and the provisions of the required infrastructure.
He said, “We are committed to do everything in our capacity to ease the process of doing business in Lagos, because this is the only way to attract investment to the critical sectors of the economy”.
“Let me use this opportunity to inform you that the maritime industry is set to witness a major boost with the impressive progress we have recorded on the $2.6 billion Badagry Deep Sea Project, which on completion will be the largest in Africa. We are encouraged by the interest already shown by International investors who are willing to partner with the State Government to make the project a reality” he added.
Speaking on SOAN’s agenda for 2017, Engr. Greg Ogbeifun noted that SOAN would work closely with International Oil Companies (IOCs) and NAPIMs to ensure that ship-owners operate at their desired service level and members are given fair share of the business by these organizations.
In his address at the occasion, SOAN president said that “SOAN network has within one year of her existence become an important enabler of maritime trade in Nigeria which has increased investments in the industry by ship owners owning more vessels, increased competitiveness, improved employment creation and enhanced the capacity of seafarers.”
He also stated that SOAN would partner NIMASA to ensure a conducive environment and support in order for its members to operate their vessels within the ambits of the law without undue interference.
Similarly, he also admonished NNPC to help establish a fleet to participate in crude oil and products import and exports affreightment, while urging the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), other commercial banks and the Bank of Industry (BOI) to ensure competitive interest rates for maritime players, establishment of special intervention funds and other concessions.
Meanwhile, the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB), Engr. Simbi Wabote said that he expected ship owners to carry out maintenance and repair of their vessels in Nigerian shipyards.
“The practices where some vessels sail out, sometimes to neighbouring countries for dry docking is a great disservice to our industry and must stop, except where it is evident that capacity for such repairs does not exist in Nigeria.
“I will also like to remind members of Ship-owners Association of Nigeria of the clarifications issued by the Board in January 2015 on the Marine Vessels Categorization Scheme, particularly the requirement to submit a Nigerian Content Plan for the acquisition or construction of any vessel designated for operations in the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry,” Wabote said.
Wabote revealed that 37.5% of the vessels currently operating the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry are Nigerian owned.
According to Wabote, the 2016 3rd Quarter Categorization Report indicates that 2,258 vessels currently operate in the Nigerian oil and gas industry and 235 of them were built in the country, while 848 are owned by Nigerians.
Shipping is a vital link between a country and the world and Nigeria is blessed with coastal waters, hence there is an urgent need to enhance shipping activities for revenue generation and creation of employment.
Therefore, the postulations of these leaders should be taken seriously as their ships not only ensure that the nation increases its revenue, but they also provide the opportunity for the requisite sea time training for seafarers and creates massive employment for the teeming Nigerian youths.
By Kenneth Jukpor