By Adegboyega Oni
The Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers Council, Barrister Hassan Bello has stated that information and verification process in the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) is problematic and non-existent and this has constituted one of the major human factors that slow down growth of shipping in the country.
Barrister Hassan Bello backed his assertion by quoting the Lloyds Register’s assessment of the NIMASA thus: ‘the advice and guidance for ship owners, operators, seafarers and interested parties which is an integral part of any developed administration is almost non-existent in NIMASA.’
Bello, who was speaking recently at the 20th anniversary of the League of Maritime Editors and Publishers in Lagos, added that the Nigerian Seafarers Development Programme (NSDP) could only cover the first process in the seafarers training without provision for the second phase of the training chain.
He maintained that lack of berthing facilities for ocean going ships pose serious challenge to the training of Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron cadets to become officers.
According to him, ‘’there are technical and human capacity challenges confronting the maritime industry. Information and verification process in NIMASA is problematic in the least. For instance, the Lloyds Register’s assessment of the Agency stated that ‘The Advice and Guidance for ship owners, operators, seafarers and interested parties which is an integral part of any developed administration is almost non-existent’
‘’The Nigerian Seafarers Development Programme (NSDP) only covers the first process in the seafarers training i.e. training at maritime institution without provision for the second phase of the training chain i.e. gaining required sea time onboard vessels for mandatory time periods. Lack of berthing facilities on ocean going ships pose serious challenge to the training of MAN Oron cadets to become officers.’’
Other human factors, Bello also noted that Nigerian ships owners and maritime operators face a lot of financial constraints in spite of the fact that the industry is endowed with enormous possibilities that are waiting to be maximized, saying that the difficulty in accessing funds by indigenous shipping business owners has posed a huge threat to the sector.
Among the financial challenges facing the sector as listed by Bello were absence of adequate tax relief period, lack of investment capital, absence of exemption from customs duties, absence of benchmarking with other progressive maritime states absence of long term concessional funding, withholding tax on interest/dividends, and Dollar accounting etc.
He added that uncertainties, lack of guarantees and assurances on investment which had in the past resulted in the high debt profile of maritime industry in the financial sector of the economy.
On the way out, Bello has this to say ‘’If however we do not put in place the mechanisms of change like the fleet committee is recommending we shall continue drifting on to a nation pampered by the rest of the world of shipping through progressive revenue from levies, tariffs and gratis rather than from quality services, intellectual sales, innovations, expertise and trading strategies.
‘’As a sovereign nation, our inability to sustain the carriage of a share of cargo we generate into the world market is obviously a weakness and lack of valued capacity. The solution to this weakness is the establishment of indigenous fleet. The policy of a nation to carry a fair share of the cargo it generates into the world market should be followed up with valued capacity to provide friendly environment and comparative advantage in relevant services.
‘’The truth is that there is no country that does not have some form of protectionist and favoritism policy for its shipping industry. For instance, the Oxford Economics Research Group, in assessing the economic value of shipping and maritime activity in Europe in 2016 noted that the economic contribution of the EU shipping industry could have been 50 per cent lower in 2012 without state aid measures.’’