Stakeholders at the recently held Nigeria International Maritime Summit (NIMS) 2021 advocated approval of the draft National Maritime Transport Policy (NMTP). The stakeholders were of the opinion that the policy would help Nigeria to harness its maritime potential.

Maritime transportation is an essential component of any programme for sustainable development because the world relies on a safe, secure and efficient international shipping industry even as the industry is also crucial to the proper operation of any country’s economy and a fundamental part of a nation’s transport infrastructure.

Today, maritime industry is worth about $14 trillion globally, with countries like Netherland, USA, Singapore, China, among others, reaping the chunk of the money.

Unfortunately, Nigeria is not able to take full advantage of the potential in the industry due to absence of NMTP guiding activities in the sector.

No African nation has emerged as a maritime superpower and none, including Nigerian, is among top 20 shipping nations.

Appreciating the need for a policy as a guiding principle in the industry, the Federal Government recently brought stakeholders to deliberate on a draft National Maritime Transport Policy before a final document is released.

The move by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to carry out an audit exercise of the Nigerian maritime sub-sector prompted the Federal Government to revamp the document that has been on the shelf at the Federal Ministry of Transport for over 20 years.

The National Maritime Transport Policy, for which stakeholders have been clamouring since nearly two decades, needs urgent approval in order to enhance the inflow of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and the ability of maritime sector to compete internationally.

Stakeholders at NIMS said the policy would create and establish thematic areas for which the maritime sector would thrive on and set Nigeria on the path to become a maritime hub in Africa, while providing a lawful freedom to achieve both long term and short-term goals for the sector.

However, the Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, (NIMASA), Dr Bashir Jamoh, hinted that there is need for the nation to sustain the current level of security in the country’s coastal waters, adding that the Federal Government has granted physical incentives for the sector.

He said considering the latest report from International Maritime Bureau (IMB) for second quarter of 2021, the level of piracy in Nigeria has reduced considerably, noting that security was paramount to tap the potential accrued from the sector to the overall well being of the nation.

He said the nation should tap from the industry that is globally worth $14 trillion annually, $38 billion daily and $1.5 million per hour, and wondering why the National Transportation Policy has not been approved.

Also speaking, former Director General of Abuja MOU and Managing Partner of Paul Usoro &Co, Mrs Mfon Usoro, said that opportunities and incentives given by shipping nations to their ship owners should be reciprocated in Nigeria.

Usoro, who is also the chairperson of the NIMS 2021, said the summit focused the attention of policy makers, regulators and the industry operators on a critical segment that some consider the bedrock for economic growth, the centerpiece for commerce, security and indeed livelihood.

“It is so unfortunate that no African nation has emerged as a maritime superpower; they are not on the list of the top 20 shipping nations. We are not even aspiring to be among these shipping nations. We need to address the domestic and external impediments, we need the transportation policy, ” she said.

Meanwhile, the Chairman, House Committee on Maritime Safety, Education and Administration, Lynda Chuba-Ikpeazu, said the maritime sector is pivotal to the development of any nation.

According to her, while Nigeria is blessed with a young demography of human capital and a coastline of almost 900 kilometres, rich in biodiversity, it is still struggling to be a maritime nation.

Chuba-Ikpeazu added that the Nigerian maritime sector, with its untapped potential, is capable of driving sustainable economic growth if the right actions are taken and implemented.

She, however, acknowledged that the National Assembly was already paying attention to strengthen the maritime sector by redeeming the legislations on Cabotage matter and shipping among others, while working with the Federal Ministry of Transportation and NIMASA to actualise the intent of this legislations.

“We will be engaging stakeholders for their inputs to ensure these legislative Initiatives begin to reflect the industry’s expectations and realities,” Chuba-Ikpeazu said.

Meanwhile, a maritime lawyer, Emeka Akabogu, said the idea behind the program was to harness potential available in the maritime industry.

“We have been in the space of potential for a very long time, and we think that the abundance of the industry needs to be represented in the output, and this can only happen if we get a cohesive framework with which it can happen. We have gotten a lot of resources in individual sectors, but it can only be resourceful if they are harnessed to achieve a market,” he said.

The acting Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Mohammed Bello-Koko, said there was a pressing need to convert the potential of Nigeria’s maritime endowment to action.

According to him, Nigeria needs to be the maritime logistics hub for sustainable port services in Africa.

He said the competitiveness of the nation’s ports rests on how well the nation deploys its assets, not just to the service of its markets, but also to address the needs of the region, especially with the landlocked countries with whom the nation shares its borders.