By Samson Echenim
The need to raise investment in the indigenous shipping industry, through improved financing and means to enhance shipping capacity in Nigeria has propelled the country’s ship owners, under the auspices of Ship Owners Association of Nigeria (SOAN) to initiate a shipping expo exhibition.
Mkgeorge Onyung, president of SOAN recently at a press briefing in Lagos, announced the fine-tuning of the shipping expo exhibition, whose delivery will create significant employment and investment opportunities.
Themed, “The Ocean Blue Economy and National Development”, Onyung said the Lagos International Shipping Expo scheduled to hold on November 27 and 28, had been structured to enable Nigerians explore opportunities in the blue economy, as well as genuinely boost the nation’s economy.
Although he lauded moves by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), to end waivers on foreign vessels operating in Nigeria’s cabotage trading, the SOAN boss expressed dissatisfaction with the condition of indigenous ship owners, saying that despite bearing the huge chunk of the risks in the industry, the ship owners were yet to be reckoned with in the maritime industry.
“We are taking our business in a new dimension. As Nigerian ship owners, we have decided to entrench a culture of proactive capacity building and acquisition, as we see this as the most vibrant approach towards taking the country to the next level,” he said.
Onyung stressed that Nigeria has the capacity to maintain some of the world’s shipbuilding and repair yards, adding that there was a need to “open up for acquisition.”
“Within the next five years, the Nigerian content will be in the region of $3.5 billion and in order to enjoy these benefits, we need to upgrade our capacity. The upcoming conference will open opportunities to collaborate toward shipbuilding opportunities in Nigeria,” Onyung noted.
He continued, “We are not happy watching many countries with lesser capacity doing far better with their maritime and shipping than Nigeria. If Singapore which has no steel rolling mills, is still able to build ships, why not Nigeria? Rome was not built in a day, but we also know it was not built in a million years. We the ship owners are now ready and determined to assist the implementation of the Cabotage law.
“Our Cabotage law has been with us for 15 years now; we’ll see it as contribution to ensuring that we open the doors for people to understand what cabotage really means and the opportunities in it. NIMASA has established a committee between the agency and stakeholders to look into the challenges affecting the waivers in the last five years.”
He said the association was working toward decongesting the Lagos ports by reviving the other ports in the country to create more jobs for Nigerians.
With Nigeria blessed with over 840 kiloliters of nautical miles of coastline and nearly 10,000 kilometers of inland water ways, the ship owner said that if Norwegians who annually had their waters frozen for eight months still owned as much as about 20 percent of internationally trading ships, then Nigeria with fresh waters all through the year has no excuse for not committing to serious manpower development and ship acquisition.