By Samson Echenim
A joint committee made up of officials of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), shipowners, bankers and technocrats in the maritime sector have been described as a game changer.
Mkgeorge Onyung, president of Shipowners Assocaiation of Nigeria (SOAN) told business a.m. in Abuja, that the committee which is led by Temisan Omatseye, a former director-general of NIMASA would find a lasting solution to the hydra-headed challenges of growing Nigeria’s maritime industry.
According to him, the committee will among other responsibilities, come up with ways to make the indigenous shipowners take over cabotage trading completely.
He said, “For 15 years the Cabotage Act has been with us without effect, but now we thank God that NIMASA has admitted that there must be a limit. It (NIMASA) has issued marine notices about some ships that will be banned in the next five years. Again, it has constituted a joint committee of NIMASA officials and maritime industry stakeholders and I am one of the members of the committee, with a few other ship owners.
“The truth is that the issue of Nigerians taking over cabotage trade is at the front burner of NIMASA’s activities right now and that committee is headed by a former DG of NIMASA, Temisan Omatseye. We are going end all problems of cabotage. The committee also has bankers, and we are engaging all stakeholders in this committee. So, for cabotage, I cannot say what happened in the past but what we are saying now is that we as shipowners, NIMASA and other members of the committee, we are going to make cabotage work. That is a national assignment and it is a game changer.”
According to him, the next phase of ship ownership in Nigeria would be something big, with ship repair yards and human capacity being planned for a revolutionary sector change
He continued, “So, what we are saying is that in the past, we have had the Nigerian National Shipping Line (NNSL) and that shipping line, all its ships disappear because there were no shipyards to even maintain the ships. That is not all the reason the ships disappeared but the most important reason that made them disappear was that everywhere they went for dry docking those they were owing simply went there and arrested the vessels.
“In order to ensure that even after we establish our national fleet, we have to also take the shipbuilding and ship repair seriously so that we repair our ships here. We gain by ending capital flight and by providing millions of jobs. For every maritime job, there are seven secondary jobs created. So, it is all good business. It is good for business. We are talking about government being able to understand this and so on.
“We shipowners, want to show a beam of light to the industry. We need to know that we have the capacity to change this country and that is why we are having this conference. Even our oil exploration and sale is reliant on shipping. Oil is about a small fraction of global business. If you don’t have ships, oil will go nowhere. It will take time, but I’m glad that government agencies such as the NIMASA, the NCDMB and other regulators are now getting serious.”