• Thursday, July 18, 2024
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How Nigeria can become major player in $161bn maritime market – Lekki Port COO

How Nigeria can become major player in $164bn maritime trade – Lekki Port COO

Laurence Smith, chief operating officer of the Lekki Port, has identified export and effective collaboration among key operators within the Nigerian port ecosystem as critical factors for Nigeria to become a major player in the global trade space.

He stated this at the recent BusinessDay Maritime Conference, themed, ‘Nigerian Maritime: Unlocking Potential, Overcoming Challenges.’

The global maritime market reached $161 billion in 2024, according to Fortune Business Insights, a research-based organisation.

Smith described the maritime sector as a crucial artery of the Nigerian economy positioned to drive growth, create jobs, and connect the country to the global market.

According to him, Africa’s most populous nation is still not able to leverage its human capital to develop export trade, which if actualised would create jobs, revenue, and wealth for the citizens. He noted that Nigeria’s import-export trend has remained imbalanced and unchanged in the last 12 years.

“With over 220 million population, Nigeria has been recording export volume of about 1.5 million to 1.8 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) over the last 12 years, which is very low compared to the UK which is recording exports of about 20 million TEUs with just 60 million people.

“We have been advocating for a strong economy and strong export business. Nigeria has been struggling to diversify its economy by promoting export-oriented industries, including manufacturing, agriculture, mining, and this, has limited the ability of the country to generate revenue from export,” Smith said.

He said the delivery of Lekki Port by its promoters, Tolaram and China Harbour Engineering Company, exemplifies what can be achieved with strategic investment in modern infrastructure.

“Due to the enhanced capacity of Lekki Port, it was able to receive the CMA-CGM SCANDOLA, the largest vessel to berth in Nigerian waters,” he said.

While applauding the Nigerian Ports Authority for investing hundreds of dollars to upgrade its facilities, he urged all other government agencies located in the ports to devise a long-term strategy for multimodal evacuation of cargo.

With the right investments in infrastructure, security, and regulatory reforms, he said, the maritime sector holds the potential to become a powerhouse of economic growth and development for the country.

Smith was supported by Yang Xixiong, operations director of Lekki Port who was a panelist on the panel session titled, ‘Overcoming Trade Barriers and Unlocking Economic Growth.’

Adegboyega Oyetola, minister of Marine and Blue Economy, who was the special guest of Honour at the conference, assured the participants that the Federal Government is committed to improving the ease of doing business in the maritime sector.

Oyetola said the ministry was making efforts to ensure efficient trade processing at the ports towards enhanced ease of doing business ranking and revenue generation.

Also speaking, Mohammed Bello-Koko, managing director/CEO, Nigerian Ports Authority, said the authority and the Nigeria Customs Service would collaborate to actualise 24-hour port operations and ensure cargo owners take delivery of their consignments without delays.

He said the move would help to remove non-tariff trade barriers that hinder trade in Nigerian ports.