• Friday, March 01, 2024
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BusinessDay

Maritime: The Untapped Industry in Nigeria

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The Nigerian maritime industry is untapped, having been estimated to be bigger in size than the oil and gas sector, yet Nigeria seems not to have realised the hidden treasure in the sector.

Nigeria with a population of over 170 million people, is an import dependent country, with very high destination of cargo, accounting for over 70 percent of goods imported into the West and Central African sub region.

Nigeria’s maritime industry excluding crude oil, accounts for about 120 million tonne mile which is about 0.13 percent of the world total and yet is already playing a very significant role in the nation’s economy, second only to petroleum. The maritime industry worldwide, represents a vital area of economic activity, which plays an overwhelming role in any nation’s economy.

Apart from focusing on being a major foreign exchange earner, the maritime industry of any nation should generate substantial employment opportunities and boost national income and GDP.

Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) 

NIMASA is the apex regulatory agency of the maritime industry in the country. The agency was created from the merger of the National Maritime Authority and Joint Maritime Labour Industrial council on  August 1, 2006.

NIMASA is responsible for regulating the activities within the Nigerian Maritime Zone so as to ensure that Nigerian flagged ships comply with the highest standards in accordance with the requirements of international convention and national safety regulations. All the major international maritime conventions are ratified by Nigeria and enforced by NIMASA. In addition to the regulatory role of NIMASA, it is also responsible for marketing Nigeria in shipping matters which include the promotion of growth in registered tonnage and encourage the establishment of ship owning and ship management companies in Nigeria.

Crude oil theft

Crude oil theft is any activity relating to the sabotage of crude oil, facilities or installations in form of illegal bunkering, pipeline vandalism, fuel scooping, illegal refining and transport and oil terrorism. Illegal oil bunkering is the most commonly known form of oil theft and it involves direct tapping of oil.

The Nigerian Navy confirmed that the nation is loosing the sum of $20 billion yearly to crude oil theft. The country has lost an estimated average of 55,210 barrels per day or monthly average of 1,656,281 barrels in 2013, according to Austen Oyagha, director, Nigerian Navy Transformation.

This amount could have provided massive infrastructure, employment and provide social amenities like clean water, basic health care and schools and stronger cash reserves needed to finance development in the country.

Capacity Building

In view of the significance of adequate capacity, capacity building for economic and social development is crucial, particularly in the maritime industry as a result of its national security implication.

Capacity building in the maritime industry is so important because the world depends on merchant ships to transport over 80 percent by weight of the total cargo exchanged in World Trade.

The present global economics could not exist without ocean shipping as two-third of the earths surface is covered by water. Ships now transport more than 5 billion tonnes of cargo each year and the total annual tonne miles covered by merchant vessels exceeds 10 trillion worldwide. Ships facilitate trade and are a very crucial component of a nation’s competitiveness in international markets.

Experts believe that the President Goodluck Jonathan administration deserves commendation, in such areas as NIMASA’s capacity building efforts. The agency sponsored about 1,400 cadets abroad in 2013 to join another 1,000 trainees, some of who have now graduated.

In 2013, the Federal Government “out-lawed” midstream discharges, which was never a codified law. It was alleged to be one reliable source of illegal entry of drugs, arms and ammunition, among others in the country.

Nigeria has always counted its human capital as one of its strategic assets and as such evolved various funding mechanisms for professional training. However, a gap analysis of the dearth of professionalism in the maritime industry has been attributed to lack of an integrated training with prerequisite sea time in line with the Standards for Certification of Seafarers and Watch keeping (STWC 95).

In the past, the  Nigerian National Shipping Line (NNSL) provided the needed sea time for all cadre of mariners and this was periodically infused to shore training. Maritime related courses have a huge training cost and must thus be supported by various organizations in Nigeria namely Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF), and NIMASA Training Fund. These scholarship programs must create a special funding mechanism for the maritime industry with internship periods. Internships could be tied into the Local Content initiative of the Federal Government and projected into feeding the professional shortfall in the marine industry.