‘FG, stakeholders to automate processes for maritime sector growth’
.Says maritime bank will provide new financing window
By Udeme Clement
“The Federal Government is putting measures in place to automate all shipping and administrative processes needed to enhance the growth and development of the maritime sector, in line with the Presidential order on the Ease of Doing Business in Nigeria. This becomes important to reduce subjectivity and corruption, thereby promoting transparency in the Nigerian maritime industry”.
This was one of the major agreements reached in the communique issued at a one-day maritime Stakeholders’ interactive forum held in Warri, Delta State, with the theme; “Implementation of Executive Order One (1) – Ease of Doing Business in a secure maritime environment”.
According to the 18-point communique, Stakeholders agreed that in order to achieve accelerated growth in the sector, the Ministry and its Agencies should explore alternative financing windows, such as the establishment of Maritime Bank, to address the financing gap created by the unsuitability of lending rates of Nigerian banks for shipping business; consider reviving NIMAREX as a platform for bridging the gap between the Nigerian shipping industry and prospective international investors, to provide fresh impetus for growth.
The communique stated, “The Ministry and its Agencies should take urgent steps to address the challenge of under-declaration of cargo by ships calling at Nigerian ports to block revenue leakage. Also, the Ministry and its Agencies should ensure urgent dredging of Escravos Bar to facilitate access of large dry cargo vessels into Warri ports”.
On the issue of safety and security of maritime space, the document added, “Stakeholders were also of the view that the Ministry and its Agencies should collaborate with maritime communities with a view to relying on their local knowledge as well as intelligence for fighting maritime crimes like piracy, sea robbery and vessel hijack”.
The need for manpower development and capacity building was discussed as the communique urged, “The Ministry and its Agencies should consider a return to the former system whereby the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), National Inland Waterways Agency (NIWA) and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) all contributed to the training of Master Mariners, who are currently counted at 180 with above 75 percent being above the retirement age”.
The issue of Apapa gridlock and access road challenges was not left out as stakeholders charged, “The Ministries and its Agencies should consider establishing transit parks for trucks waiting to access the ports and implement an automated call-up system that prevents their proliferation around the ports”.
Other areas highlighted, “The Ministry and its Agencies should consider establishing Complaints Desks and online feedback platforms to promote the ease of doing business in Nigerian maritime industry”.
Corroborating the Stakeholders yearnings as stated in the communique, the Director General NIMASA Dr. Dakuku Peterside stated that the Federal Government through the Ministry of Transportation and other Agencies under the Ministry will continue to work hard at ensuring less human contacts with processes in the maritime sector to promote transparency.
His words, “The Federal Ministry of Transportation shapes the policy that drives the industry and we are servants in the industry; hence we will join hands with all Stakeholders to build this industry, in order to provide economic opportunities for our people. I therefore charge you all to shape opinions that will help Nigerians know that some people are working hard to take the maritime sector to the next level”.
In the same vein, the Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Barrister Hassan Bello and the Managing Director of NPA, Ms. Hadiza Bala Usman unanimously agreed that automation of all processes and collaboration with all Stakeholders are keys to realising a robust maritime sector, which also demands the support of all industry players.