By Martins Uba Nwamadi
Penultimate week, HadiSirika, the minister of aviation, during his budget defence at the National Assembly, revealed that the “national carrier” will start dotting the airspace by 2021. Good news.
Few months upon assuming office,ChibuikeRotimiAmaechi, minister of transportation, expressed his disappointment that Nigeria, with a robust economy and a growing population of above 200 million, maritime contributes only 1.41 percent to the gross domestic product (GDP). He felt that if the infrastructure deficits at the ports and environment could be improved and a national fleet established, it will go a long way to enhancing the development of the nation’s maritime sector, while also assisting in the economic integration of West and Central Africa sub-region.
To crystalize his vision, Amaechi constituted a dynamic, powerful super brains in the maritime, financial and development economists who have studied the successful maritime stories of the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Asian tigers into a committee. The single agenda is: Give us a blue print that will bring about flourishing national fleet.
The National Fleet Implementation Committee headed by Hassan Bello, a renowned thorough-bred industry player went to work and their submission is in the public domain.
Before I go further, lets share perspectives on the contributions of the maritime sector and how national fleet in advanced economies turn around their economies. The top five ship owners in the world are Greece, Japan, China, Germany and Singapore. In fact, no African country is rated among ship owners. This is the bane of our continent. Egypt with an estimated population of 102 million people as at 2018 had bulk carrier (14), container ship (8), general cargo (33), petroleum tanker (36) and others, about 308. The GDP contribution from the transport industry, of which maritime is a subset, decreased from 40,269.40 EGP million in the first quarter of 2020 from 41,042.80 EGP million in the fourth quarter of 2019. Transport contribution to GDP has been hovering between 5.6 percent to 7,7 percent from 2007 to 2020.
In Greece, maritime has a very great contribution to the Greek economy. Studies show that between 2000 and 2013, annual net receipts from maritime transport accounted for 3.7 percent of Greece’s GDP. Also, revenues from shipping between 2015 – 2018 exceeded an average of over $13.5 billion annually and this accounts for 6.8 percent GDP growth.
Furthermore, in the United Kingdom with a population of about 67 million, maritime contributes about $46 billion to her economy. The maritime sector in the UK is bigger than both the automotive and aerospace industries interms of its financial contribution. According to CEBR, total employment related to the maritime sector stood at more than one million jobs. Infact, maritime is central to UK’s prosperity and the government does not play with maritime sector.
South Africa has 3000 kilometres coastline in three oceans and is a major strategic shipping route. With a population of 58 million, South Africa oceans have a potential to contribute up to R177 billion to GDP while creating over one million jobs. It is estimated that by 2033, when all the expansion projects in the commercial ports are achieved, the contribution of maritime to GDP will astronomically rise.
Singapore is a leading centre for ship repair and building of maritime vessels due to its strategic location. Singapore registry of ships is ranked the fifth largest shipping registry in the world with a fleet of more than 4,400 vessels on its register.
The contribution of over 5000 maritime establishments in Singapore to GDP is estimated at seven percent and providing employment to about 96,000 people. It is a truism that every 2-3 minutes, a ship is either arriving or leaving Singapore.
From the above perspective, you will now appreciate what a robust and well developed maritime sector can bring to the economic sustainability of a nation. This is why we are calling on the turnaround and development going transportation minister,ChibuikeRotimiAmaechi, to pursue the realization of the National fleet in 2021.
A national fleet has many value additions to the economy. According to Hassan Bello, chairman, National Fleet Implementation Committee, a private sector driven national fleet will create jobs for sea farers, ship surveyors, maritime engineers and allied professionals.
“If we have a national fleet, it will not only equip our young sea farers and engineers with the requisite skills, it will also make them competitive and well sought after at the global market. Also, national fleet apart from curbing capital flight will contribute to promoting our international reputation, promoting national identity while paving way for our products to enter new markets overseas,” Bello added
Again, in the next few years, Nigeria will be home for atleast five major deep sea ports and yet we don’t have a national fleet that can drive the full potentials in our maritime domain. Amaechi’s vision has become a national vision that must be transformed into reality and 2021 offers us opportunity to expand our investment portfolio while grabbing the national fleet project which will touch positively on the economy.
In conclusion, the federal government should empower the committee to drive this vision to reality. The Government should also note that providing the enabling environment is also critical to its survival and therefore must ensure that it is driving in the same direction with the investors as patronage is key to its survival.