Recently, the Minister of Transportation, Hon. Rotimi Amaechi led the committee on national carrier to Singapore where a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the Nigerian government and the Pacific International Limited (PIL) a renowned shipping company.
The agreement covers establishment of Nigerian national fleet for dry cargoes, crude oil carriers and off shore supply vessels which will fly Nigerian flags to operate in the international Cabotage waters.
How does this initiative help to boost Nigeria’s maritime industry? What are the implications on imports and exports? How will seafarers benefit from the national fleet?
The Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) Barr. Hassan Bello, who is also the Chairman of the national fleet implementation committee aptly summarized Nigeria’s non-carrier status last week when he said, “If we don’t have ships we shouldn’t be able to say that we are a maritime nation”
However, the MoU with PIL brings a breath of fresh air to the Nigerian maritime industry and many are optimistic that the glorious days of the Nigerian National Shipping Line (NNSL) may return soon, but the proposed national fleet is going to be a private sector driven venture as the federal government can only provide an enabling environment for the investors.
The thrust of the MoU is that PIL would have 40% of the port project while Nigerian investors would have 60%. For the federal government would guarantee cargo for that shipping line and also confer the shipping line the status of a national carrier. For the private investors, going by the NIMASA Act they would be able to carry national cargo which includes all the cargoes by the federal, state and local government.
One of the biggest gainers from the influx of national fleet would be seafarers. Many of these seafarers have waited for years without any ray of hope to get an opportunity to go onboard a vessel to acquire their requisite seatime experience.
The establishment of a national fleet will also create huge employment in the nation’s maritime sector for seafarers and other associated disciplines sectors. More hands will definitely be needed to manage the fleet.
A look at the financial crisis bedeviling the nation and it is easy to see that the problems are not far from the forex challenges and one of the popular ways to reverse the trend is to reduce the volume of revenue leaving the polity. This is where the emergence of national fleet becomes very helpful as most of the income for freight on government cargo will remain in the country.
This development is one that underscores Nigeria’s intent on becoming a maritime hub in the African and now we can look towards the aviation sector as we expect the Minister of Transport to take a bold step by attaining a similar feat.