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Nigeria should rather develop local shipping than invest in IMO Council seat – Akinola

Rather than invest hundreds of millions of naira into seeking a seat in the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Council, Nigeria needs to pay more attention to developing local shipping capacity and seafaring profession, Bolaji Akinola, a maritime analyst, has said.

According to him, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) in the past 10 years, has been ‘wasteful and relentless’ in the chase for election into Category C of the IMO Council.

“Today, we can count the number of Nigerian shipping companies that are still in operation, and hard times are also confronting Nigerian seafarers, as most of them are either unemployed or underemployed. Nigeria has a backlog of more than 5,000 cadets awaiting sea-time experience. These lads have finished the first phase of their trainings towards becoming seafarers but are stuck in the middle, unable to secure jobs or return to school to conclude their studies because there are no Nigerian ships that can take them onboard for the mandatory one-year sea-time experience,” he said.

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He however decried the fact that Nigeria is the only country among the world top 20 producers of crude oil that does not have a national shipping line, and relies on foreign interests to ship its crude oil to the international market.

Akinola, who doubles as the CEO of Ships & Ports, blamed this on the failure of NIMASA to implement the Coastal and Inland Shipping Act 2003 also known as the Cabotage Act, which was enacted with the aim of developing indigenous shipping and creating jobs for Nigerian seafarers.

He said the proper implementation of the Cabotage Act would have ensured the growth of ship building, repairs and maintenance industry in Nigeria, and ultimately creates jobs for army of unemployed youths.

Akinola, who noted that NIMASA spends millions of dollars every two years chasing this ‘zero-value pipe dream’, said the agency is at it again trying to spend huge sums on travels and lobbies – all ‘jamboree in the name of IMO Council election’.

He pointed out the need for Nigeria to reflect on why other IMO Member States reject its constant bid for election into the Council.

“Nigeria will continue to find it difficult to get elected into the IMO Council as long as it fails to develop its indigenous shipping and to implement the report of the IMO Member State Audit Scheme (IMSAS), which harped on the need for the agency to develop working systems rather than overreliance on the discretion of its personnel. There are more pressing issues facing our maritime industry that require the urgent attention of NIMASA,” Akinola explains.

IMO Council is categorised into A, B and C countries. Category A comprises of 10 countries with the largest interest in providing international shipping services while Category B is made up of another 10 countries with the largest interest in international seaborne trade.

The category C comprises of 20 nations not elected under (a) or (b) above, but has special interests in maritime transport or navigation and whose election will ensure the representation of all major geographic areas of the world.

In the past 30 years, Nigeria has been elected into the IMO Council only three times – in 2000, 2007 and 2009. Every other attempt to return to the Council since 2009 has been rebuffed by other IMO Member States.

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