By Samson Echenim
The Ship Owners Association of Nigeria (SOAN) has reiterated its determination to grab the nation’s $3.5 billion freight value from foreign vessels which currently lift wet cargoes from the international oil companies (IOCs) bases.
MkGeorgeOnyung, president of SOAN said his group was already engaging banks and international funding sources for aid in the area of ship acquisition as they reposition to engage meaningfully in crude oil and gas freighting in Nigerian waters.
Onyung said at a recent media briefing that the association’s maiden international shipping expo billed for 27-28 November, 2019 in Lagos would be a turning point for Nigerian shipowners, as clear-cut solutions to challenges and myriads of problems being faced by the indigenous shipping industry, such as ship acquisition financing and patronage by the IOCs would be reached at the summit.
He said, “This event is the first of its kind and is focused on action plans, including policy direction, ship building and ship acquisition financing. Themed ‘Global economy and national development’, the event will bring together shipping stakeholders from around the world. Participants will come from Africa, Asia, Europe and America.
“Shipping is 90 percent of global trade. The banks and other players take the remaining 10 percent. What this means is that shipping is a big business and we in SOAN can no longer watch while foreigners take all the business from us. If you are not shipping, you are not shopping. We want to tell the world that the shipowners in Nigeria are now ready for business.”
According to Onyung, many investors are expected from giant shipping nations to get sensitisation about opportunities for investment that abounds in Nigeria’s maritime sector.
“We have noted the various policies being put in place by regulators such as, the cessation of waivers in the next five years. This policy will attract ship builders from Asia and they are coming here to exhibit at our expo. Building the maritime sector is not rocket science and we are determined now to make the difference.
“We have different professions in the maritime sector, making it vast and wide enough for every player. The blue economy has a lot of potential. The ocean has so much potential and more than three times larger than land. The Nigerian blue ocean economy is virgin. We are made to understand that over $3.5 billion worth of trade value is derivable in our waters in the next five years. There is a lot in maritime including tourism, which we have not even thought of investing in.
“We will also come up with a programme to guide government on policies. If a government wants development, maritime is the sector to work on. We are happy with the handover of maritime to GbemiSaraki, who is the minister of state for Transportation by the minister of Transport, RotimiAmaechi. She is hardworking and able to deliver.”
Eno Williams, first vice president of SOAN who gave details of the event’s programme said many industry juggernauts, including experts, private sector investors and regulators would be speaking on several issues bothering on the sector’s development.
He said, “This is time for us to make a statement in the industry. It is time for us to take our rightful place in the industry. We have several organisations and government agencies we are partnering with. The regulators are major stakeholders that are partnering with us, including oil companies. Apart from the exhibitions, we have programmes lying out for us to tell the world about the Nigerian maritime industry potential.
“We have topical issues for technical session. We are expecting the IOCs, the NNPC, NLNG, NIMASA, SNEPCO, Chevron, Shell, top government functionaries, including the minister of Transportation, and we will also be finding lasting solution to maritime insecurity. The Niger Delta has been a case study. Maritime security is a serious issue in Nigeria. You will hear from those who are affected. It will end with a gala night at the end of day 2.”