Why Nigeria lost $45 billion to foreign shipping lines

L-R: Dr. Edmund Chilaka, Prof David Aworawo, Prof Iyiola Oni, Captain Emmanuel Ihenacho, Mr. Pier Luigi Carrodano, Engineer Greg Ogbeifun and Captain Tajudeen Alao at the book launch in Lagos on Thursday.

The absence of a national shipping line or Nigerian shipping lines is said to have cost Nigeria a lot of misfortunes – whopping $45 billion freight cost to foreign shipping lines between 2015 and 2019, the collapse of 22 ship repair yards, hundreds of thousands of job losses, the dominance of Nigerian sea by foreign lines with over 26,000 foreign ships berthed at Nigerian ports between 2015 and 2019, among others.

Since the demise of the Nigerian National Shipping Lines (NNSL), Nigeria has been in delusion as to where to start again – a new shipping line – as many efforts to do so have met brick walls. But the Executive Secretary of Nigerian Shippers’ Council Mr. Hassan Bello helped to provide an answer “Nigeria has to provide a foundation, infrastructure for the private sector to grow national shipping line.”

At the launch of a book that chronicles the success and fall of NNSL and its counterpart in Ghana, Black Star Line, in Lagos yesterday, Mr. Hassan Bello who is also a member of the Nigerian Fleet Implementation Committee (NFIC) noted that the government is concerned and disturbed by this poor port statistics and felt the country deserves a shipping line and decided to set up NFIC to midwife the process to avoid the past mistakes that led to the demise of NNSL.

The title of the book is The Rise, Fall and Liquidation of Africa’s Pioneer Carriers – Nigerian National Shipping Line and Black Star Line. It is authored by Dr. Edmund Chilaka.

According to Hassan Bello, “it is because of the great importance of shipping to any nation that the Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Ameachi, constituted the Nigerian Fleet Implementation Committee … to actualize the establishment of a Nigerian fleet that would be wholly private-sector owned and operated with the government providing the required support. This is a departure from what used to obtain during the NNSL era.

“The decision to constitute the committee was to avoid the failures and pitfalls of past attempts, diversify, and address the imbalance in the Nigerian shipping sector to enable the country to play a significant role in the carriage of its import and export cargo.

“There are myriad of challenges that have hampered the development of the Nigeria fleet over the years thereby giving opportunities for foreign vessels to dominate our shipping trade. These challenges included but not limited to the following – ship registration issues, absence of incentives for the maritime industry, trade terms: Nigerian export are shipped “Free on Board” (FOB) while its imports are shipped “Cost Insurance Freight (CIF), human capacity issues, and absence of institutional framework.”  

Bello, who was represented by Mr. Celestine Akujobi, Deputy Director, Consumer Affairs Department of Nigerian Shippers’ Council, commended the book and the author, saying “I would like to sincerely commend the efforts and courage of the author, Dr. Edmund Chilaka, for embarking on such an arduous task of delving into such uncharted waters to unravel the causes of the failure these ventures that were supposed to bring enormous economic gain to the two countries and Africa as a whole.           

 “The book gives an insight into the demise of national carriers in Nigeria and Ghana and serves as a guide to avoid mistakes that led to the unfortunate loss of the national carriers.”

The book launch was chaired by Captain Emmanuel Ihenacho, Managing Director of Genesis Shipping, who stressed that NNSL had everything going on well for it and which would have made Nigeria a great shipping nation but corruption and mismanagement did the harm and led to its death. He counseled that anyone going into the shipping business must know the type of ships and shapes of engines, the size of business, and others. He commended the authored, Edmund Chilaka for the good work, saying that the book would serve as a guide to would-be shipping investors.

While speaking at the launch, Mr. Pier Luigi Carrodano, Group Managing Director of Comet Group of Companies, who represented the Chairman, Chief Musa Dnajuma, commended the author for a well-researched work of “this nature bridges the information gap for the practice of a knowledge-based industry in Nigeria’s maritime trade.”   

The book was reviewed by Professor David Aworawo, Head of History Department, University of Lagos. Professor S.I. Oni, Director, Centre for Multimodal Transport Studies, University of Lagos, stressed the need for data collection by maritime agencies and stakeholders to guide the growth of the industry. He maintained that the sector is too far from the gown in terms of research, saying that the centre is designed with the purpose of providing researches that will build the industry. He enjoined maritime stakeholders to support the university and the centre.

Thanking everyone who graced the launch, Dr. Edmund Chilaka said “the book launch presents a forum for reflection on the path Nigeria has travelled in sea trade since colonial times. Overall, the liquidation of NNSL need not be a funeral.”

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