• Monday, June 24, 2024
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Aftermath of achieving zero piracy attacks: Maritime investor says more investments coming into sector in Nigeria

Aftermath of achieving zero piracy attacks: Maritime investor says more investments coming into sector in Nigeria

Investments are now said to flow into the maritime industry in Nigeria following the 24 months of zero piracy attacks as well as the delisting of Nigeria in the international piracy hotlist.

A shipping magnet and maritime investor, Emi Membere-Otaji, a medical doctor and entrepreneurs who is the CEO of Port Harcourt-based Elschon Nigeria Limited, disclosed this to newsmen at the graduation ceremony of the 2024 batch of the Advanced Combat Training at the 5 Battalion (Military) Base in Elele near Port Harcourt on Thursday, June 6, 2024. The training is to gain status and competence for the world-class operations to protect Nigeria’s blue economy by defending the nation’s territorial waters. The Deep Blue Project (DBP) was started in 2019 to fight piracy and terror in the waters.

Membere-Otaji, a onetime commissioner (health) in Rivers State and president of the Port Harcourt City Chambers (PHHCIMA), also represents the Nigerian Chamber of Shipping as council member. The Nigerian Chamber of Shipping is a member of the Nigerian Chamber of Commerce (NACIMA) to which he is the deputy president.

The member of the International Chamber of Shipping and ship owner said the event at Elele meant a lot to the international shipping chambers.

Membere-Otaji who reminded newsmen that shippers and shipowners were critical stakeholders, noted that what the Ministry of Defence, the Nigerian Maritime Management and Safety Agency (NIMASA) were doing with the Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy was very important to those actually in the waters as shippers and shipowners.

He said their claims of winning the battle against piracy were true, not just theory. “It is actual because, as I was talking to the Executive Director of NIMASA, we are major stakeholders because we are talking about our access, our ships. We are talking about our crew, and our assets and so far, so good. It is not just the statistics from the international maritime bureau (IMB) and international chamber of commerce (those are the two groups that classified Nigeria as a maritime insecure hotspot)/ So, it is not just theory but we are seeing it and feeling their impact.”

Though the international waters around Nigeria may be becoming safer, many however wondered about the situation in the inland waterways that lead to the continental shelf.

Membere-Otaji said: “I can tell you again, because I operate both on the offshore maritime space and the inland maritime space, my company, Elshcon Nigeria Limited, operates in the two spaces. Also I can tell you for free, because while you have piracy in the offshore, it is robbery in the inland waters and all that. We call it robbery and it is mostly in the creeks, but I can tell you that this too has significantly reduced as well.”

He however said ships and vessels carry their own security as back up in the inland waterways just to be careful. “This is because it is easier to attack a vessel in the inland waterways because they are small creeks unlike the offshore that is open. The attacks are less.”

On how this affects investments in the maritime space, the Kalabari chief said piracy and robbery were some of the drawbacks of investing in the maritime and shipping space. “You know that there are many others, I mean there are other factors but as far as that aspect is concerned, a normal investor would want to say, oh, I want to bring more assets or a new entrant can say, look, I want to join that business.

“Those who are already in it can say, look I want to add more assets, because hitherto I can tell you, you get scared because these ships go and you don’t know what will happen. You just don’t know when they will abduct the crew and they’ve picked our crew, all of us. We have been abducted for many years. We have been victims, both on the offshore space and the inland space and my company has been victim.”

He said his workers have been kidnapped, and that piracy had happened and again. He disclosed how most ships move now that the coastal routes seem safer. For instance he said, if one was going to say Ghana, the captains plot and enter several miles into the ocean instead of the coastal line that is shorter. He said this is to avoid insecurity.

“You’ll go several miles into the ocean before you come back, you know what that means, fuel, sailing time. Now, with this increased confidence, our captains are beginning to say oh, no problem. He will programme his vessel to pass coastal line instead of going in and out of the Ocean. So, a lot of those things (attacks) have gone.”