Maritime stakeholders seek Govt’s deliberate support for shipping sector in Nigeria

Right-Left: The Representative of the Managing Director (NPA)/ General Manager Corporate & Strategic Communications (C&SC) Engr. Jatto .A. Adams receiving a corporate award for transparency and Infrastructural Development in Nigerian Ports from the Executive Secretary of Nigerian Shippers Council Hassan Bello during the event.

A cross section of key stakeholders in Nigeria’s maritime industry have called on the government to consider policies and some incentives that could grow the shipping sector for the benefit of operators and the nation’s economy.

The various stakeholders made their call at the 20th Anniversary Lecture/Awards and Patrons’ Investiture ceremony held on Thursday in Lagos by the League of Maritime Editors, with the theme “Indigenous Fleet Development, What Options?”
Barr Hassan Bello, the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) and Guest Speaker on the occasion, advocated for a deliberate government policy that would provide national incentives to encourage indigenous fleet development in the nation’s shipping industry.
He emphasised the need to institutionalise such incentives for the sector, to gain and sustain investors’ trust and ensure protection from political influence.
The incentives, Bello said, should be “comparatively simple, but reliable ship registration procedure” which is efficient and full of integrity.
He said the incentives should also include:  “a very strong safety administration system and procedures in support and protection of the registered ships, a systematic approach to the establishment of merchant shipping security and administration that provide confidence in shipping trade and understanding of the international shipping community;
Establish a reliable statistical data for the manning of flag ships and well coordinated training, examination and certification of seafarer in Nigeria; strategic plan and implementation procedures to ensure availability of cargo for interested indigenes; concern for ships’ repair and husbandry; reasonable protectionism for national fleet in operational procedures even when such requirements are not statutory or institutionalized; reliable communications and assistance to fleet; all entities concerning the carriage of national cargo should develop common interest on the sustainable success of the policy.
Bello pointed out that such enabling environment of national incentives would go a long way in fostering growth and development of the indigenous fleet in Nigeria.
Bello disclosed that the Nigerian Fleet Implementation Committee which he chairs, has so far identified zero import duty on vessels, tonnage tax as among the incentives necessary for the growth of indigenous fleet.
He added that the Committee is currently discussing the need to abolish temporary importation permit, shipping sector support fund of about -2%per annum/9%, waiver of export tariff for use of Nigerian vessels and right of first refusal for National Carriers in the procurement process for cargo.
Bello also said the Committee is discussing the issuance of work permit only upon verification of unavailability of ratings or officers, change of Nigeria’s crude oil policy, CAC to adopt FIRS’s zero duty for ship finance registration and preferential berthing privileges.
He further disclosed that the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo has so far expressed delight at the prospect of the country trying to find ways to return to international shipping and has directed the NFIC and the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC) to review the proposal and work out the details of incentives stating a holistic and credible approach to address the issues and represent for consideration and approval.
With the directive from the VP, Bello said the Committee has held meetings with the NIPC to work out the modalities for the granting and implementation of incentives to achieve the development and sustainability of the national fleet.
He said the Vice President equally charged his Committee to identify partnerships, benefits and the role of the private sector in achieving the Nigerian fleet project.
Chairman of the occasion, Capt. Emmanuel Iheanacho described the incentives being sought by the National Fleet Implementation Committee headed by Bello as what would turn around the nation’s shipping industry.
Commending Bello for the depth of knowledge in his paper as it covered a series of options available in indigenous fleet development, however warned against government appointing the Chief Executive Officer (CEP) in the case of public private partnership (PPP) leading to establishment of a fleet company because of the experience of the Nigerian National Shipping Line (NNSL).
In its presentation, the League of Maritime Editors and Publishers, also called for capacity building support in the nation’s maritime media industry.
President of the League, Mr Kingsley Anaroke in his welcome address on the occasion of seminar said the need for the support become necessary as the maritime media, mainly publishers share the fate being suffered by the Nigerian indigenous ship owners.
He said while the ship owners were currently suffering as a result of lack of funds to acquire fleet, the maritime media publishers have been faced with capacity development issues, including the resources needed for investigative and developmental journalism.
According to him, so much is needed in undertaking research, adding that the situation is worsened by lack of patronage by the agencies of government in the sector.
Anaroke said that this is even worrisome since maritime media is inundated with series of press releases being churned out by the agencies and which are published.
He said, “The point being made here is that maritime media publishers are critical stakeholders in the sector and should be treated as such. With about 65 Magazines, newspapers and online independent publishers in the sector, they have a combined workforce of over 255 members of staff with almost zero advert patronage on the average monthly from the maritime agencies and operators yet they have been adjudged as the most active in Africa.”
The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) , Sifax Group and Comet Shipping received corporate awards from the League for their contributions in the industry.
Individual recipients of awards were the founder of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Chief Boniface Aniebonam ,and the former President of  the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agent (ANLCA) , Prince Olayiwola Shittu.