“Without leaps of imagination or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all is a form of planning.” – Gloria Steinem
Sometimes we forget that a plan is a document that puts structure around an idea, but without that vision to set the plan in motion, there’s really no point in following through. Taking a cue from the apt saying by Gloria, MMS Plus began collating expectations from the key players in the nation’s transport sector. The goal is to set a holistic result-driven agenda for the industry whilst highlighting the diverse observations and proffering solutions to numerous challenges faced across the transport sub-sectors.
Last week, MMS Plus reached industry players from the aviation, freight forwarders and logisticians, and road transport operators, precisely road haulage via trucks on expectations for 2021, but this week’s edition features ship owners, airport ground handling companies, seaport terminal operators, maritime lawyers, maritime workers union, among others.
Speaking with our correspondent from the perspective of a ship owner, Captain Taiwo Akinpelumi posited that the major expectation for indigenous ship owners is capacity building and support from the government to cushion the effects of the pandemic.
He expressed optimism that the emergence of Dangote refinery would boost local shipping activities this year, while noting that dry cargo shipping has also been increasing day by day.
His words: “We are hoping that in 2021 there will be better resources available to shipowners either for fleet expansion or fleet renewal. The goal is to assist the members whose businesses are comatose because that is the only way we can actually reap the benefits of this emerging market”
“We also want improvement in the area of human capacity development for seafarers so that Nigerian seafarers will not only be sufficient for us in domestic trade but also be exported for foreign exchange and rated highly across the globe. There is a need to have a well-constituted training system for seafarers. We want a major paradigm shift from the old order where the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) will make arrangements for seafarers to go abroad for training, where hard-earned money is spent on training cadets, yet there will be no provision for seatime.”
Akinpelumi explained that the provision for capacity development for indigenous ship-owners would actually assist in the training and development of seafarers in the country.
He also stressed the need to address the infrastructural gaps in the industry, especially the absence of ship building and ship repair yards which has led to capital flight as ship-owners take their vessels abroad for such services.
He appealed to concerned agencies of government in the maritime sector to focus on developing the sector because this will not only help in making Nigeria a shipping hub but also it will go a long way in curbing capital flights and wastage.
Meanwhile, speaking from the standpoint of a ground handling company, Group Managing Director, Nigerian Aviation Handling Company Plc (NAHCO Aviance) Mrs. Olatokunbo Fagbemi, called on the government to support ground handling companies with waivers, tax rebates and zero-interest loans.
She argued that the exemption on duties will assist the ground handling companies recover from the effects of the pandemic.
Fagbemi noted that last year was challenging despite having good projections for the year but with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic the company hit about 70 percent losses in its business.
“We seek government support for tax exemption as airlines are given, if we have exemption on duties it will go a long way help us, as much that can be given, we would definitely take it up and any other support government can be given to us by way of waivers or duties, tax rebates, zero-interest loans,” she said.
Fagbemi also encouraged domestic airlines to consider more cargoes, even as she lamented that Nigeria has no standard packaging format.
“I think that domestic airlines should do more cargo. We have not structured cargo well enough as a country. For example, there is no standard in Nigerian packaging. If you see packages from China, India, you know they are from those locations. If we will depend on freight as they do, it will involve lots of work,” she added.
However, Skyway Aviation Handling Company (SAHCO) which awaits the arrival of its equipment purchased last year for better service delivery, has expressed optimism for a productive business year in 2021.
The Public Relations Officer, SAHCO, Mrs. Vanessa Uansohia, noted that the company’s foremost policy is safety especially as the cases of the COVID-19 positive cases keep increasing.
“We know Covid-19 hasn’t gone, so we are primarily concerned about our safety and safety of those that come into our facility to transact their businesses. Meanwhile, we are looking forward to the arrival of some of our equipment that was purchased last year. We hope to achieve better service delivery and we will try to exceed our client’s expectations this year,” she told MMS Plus.
Describing 2020 as characterized by challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the President General of Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN), Mr. Adewale Adeyanju said that his topmost expectation for the industry was prevention of COVID-19 outbreak at the ports.
His words: “The first thing is to state that we don’t want a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic which could drag the sector backwards. We need to be very careful, adhere strictly to safety precautions and manage this pandemic because we have been told that this new version is deadlier.”
“All terminal operators and the other management cadre of companies at the ports should prepare for this second wave. There should be sufficient awareness programmes to sensitize the members of staff and those who transact with such companies. This is the best way to prevent the pandemic from spreading into the port. If it enters the port, you can be sure that millions of people that are operating in the ports would be at risk and that could be disastrous.”
He noted that MWUN has started sensitizing workers on this new wave of COVID-19 and the need to prioritize healthy and safe practices.
“Other stakeholders should also begin such sensitization moves and we are pleading with all relevant public and private organizations to support MWUN in this fight against the pandemic,” he added.
Meanwhile, a transport expert and maritime lawyer, Barr. Emmanuel Nwagbara told our correspondent that the first point of focus should be maritime security.
His words: “We are excited that the maritime contract awarded for C4i is on course and the company, HLS International Limited, has performed upto 85 percent. However, we expect that the nation should take delivery of all the assets this year. We expect that in 2021 Nigerian should be able to take delivery of the helicopter and other equipment needed to combat piracy on our territorial waters and by extension the Gulf of Guinea.”
Meanwhile, he charged the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) to work on the interstate water transport channels to ensure proper dredging and collaborate with security agencies to ensure that inland waters are safe.
According to him, a high degree of security and safety on the inland waterways would boost investors’ confidence and stimulate more private sector investment in inland transportation.
“We’re looking forward to having secure inland waterways and that also means that the inland waterways will receive attention with regards to dredging and removal of wrecks. For Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), the menace of dilapidated port access roads should be addressed while Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) should tackle the increase in shipping charges by shipping lines and mandate them to have empty container holding bays within the first half of 2021,” he added.