By Kenneth Jukpor
Despite featuring among the top 10 countries with the most crude oil reserves and exporting crude and other items daily, indigenous ship-owners are responsible for barely one percent of freight earnings for shipping in the country.
The Chairperson, Nigerian Ship-owners Forum, Barr. (Mrs.) Margaret Orakwusi revealed this while speaking as a representative of Seafarers’ employers at the 2021 symposium organized by the Mission To Seafarers (MTS) Lagos, last week.
Speaking at the event, themed; “Maritime Industry and Development of Nigeria – Connecting with our Heritage” Orakwusi stressed that indigenous ships were needed for shipping to thrive in the country as the lack of it had cost the local market 99.9% freight earnings in its global trade.
Orakwusi lauded the dedication of the Chairman Mission to Seafarers in Lagos State, Chief Adebayo Sarumi for prioritizing seafarers welfare with the MTS.
She also appreciated the efforts of seafarers in sustaining global trade while urging them to seize the boundless opportunities in the sector.
Orakwusi, who is also a former Chairman of Nigeria Fishing Trawler Owners Association (NIFTOA), appealed for more youths to be groomed and exposed to the sector to fill up the shortage of seafarers and meet the rising demand of trade activities, even as she encouraged government agencies and institutions to support the work of the MTS.
Meanwhile, Lagos State Government and Ondo State Government have pledged its support to the maritime sector for national economic development, whilst generating employment for Nigerian youths as both State Governors made this commitment at the event.
Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who was represented by the Commissioner for Transportation, Dr. Frederic Oladeinde noted that Lagos State accounts for a substantial portion of the maritime activities in Nigeria and the ECOWAS sub region as it is largely surrounded by water.
He added that the aquatic potentials available in Lagos exposed the State to intercontinental trade many years ago and this has contributed in making it the cosmopolitan city that attracts people and trade from across the world.
According to him, in a bid to realize the vision of efficient regional integration and infrastructure growth, there is urgent need for Lagos State Government to address the needs and challenges of developing a virile maritime sector that will boost socioeconomic growth and development for the benefit of its people and the nation, at large.
“The maritime industry is a veritable wealth generation and job creation platform that has continued to benefit many people among many other available and emerging opportunities,” he said.
Sanwo-olu stressed that the maritime sector has always been a critical factor in the socio-economic, physical and Infrastructure growth of the global economy as the earliest commercial transactions were carried out through maritime trade.
“Our administration places a premium on the opportunities available to the State due to its littoral status and we have developed strategies, programmes and initiatives that will ensure the provision of adequate infrastructure and services to enhance maritime trade and transport in the State. Indeed, water transport and commercial operations is a major factor in our administration’s agenda for the growth and development of Lagos Economy in the 21st economy,” Sanwo-Olu disclosed.
On behalf of Governor Sanwo-Olu, the Transport Commissioner commended the Mission to Seafarers for their efforts to boost the maritime sector, stating that it was significant that the aquatic potentials that opened up Lagos to intercontinental trade will continue to transform the State into a cosmopolitan city.
Meanwhile, the Governor of Ondo State, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu represented by the Secretary to the State Government, Princess Oladunni Odu commended seafarers for risking their lives to ensure the seamless flow of global trade through the maritime sector, stressing that the profession has not been given the recognition it truly deserves.
Governor Rotimi stated that the symposium was timely as the Covid-19 pandemic brought economic losses, hence an maritime sector represents an opportunity that will lead to industrial evolution with strategic support to boost the manufacturing industry and make the Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) more viable.
He urged stakeholders to go back to the drawing board to address the numerous bottlenecks encountered in the nation’s maritime sector, even as he disclosed that Ondo State has concluded plans to build a deep seaport to support and compete with the activities ongoing at Apapa and Tin Can Island Ports.
Earlier, the Chairman, Mission to Seafarers in Lagos State, Chief Adebayo Sarumi assured that the Mission will continue to work with critical stakeholders like the Lagos State Government, government agencies and private organizations to expand the maritime industry in Nigeria and the entire ECOWAS sub region.