By Godfrey Bivbere
As the year 2013 finally roll away welcoming 2014, operators in the maritime industry are divided over the prospect of the industry as it affects the nation’s economy.
While some are of the view that the sector will experience a brighter fortune as a result of the building block already in place, other says that the future is bleak because government policies will result in the reversal of little achievements made in the past.
Executive Secretary and Chief Executive Officer, CEO, of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, NSC, Hassan Bello, said that the sector is bound to experience an increase in port operations, a position he attributed to the developments in the transport sector in general.
Bello explained that the development of transport infrastructure in the transport sector, the rail, road and air, coupled with the reforms in port operations, movement of goods from the ports will become faster.
He also noted that faster cargo clearance from the port will lead to faster ship turn around time and increase in cargo traffic.
According to him, “Development of transport infrastructure, like the inland waterways which are complimented by the rail as well as the Truck Transit Park (TTP) is some of the infrastructures that will come on stream in 2014. Overall, the contribution of the transport sector to the Nigerian economy will be more tangible and noticeable in the 2014.
“Inland waterways is also a veritable medium of transport, we are likely going to see a multi-model transport in the New Year.”
Chairman House Committee on Marine Transport, Ifeyeanyi Ugwuanyi, on his part told Financial Vanguard that the House will be looking at all maritime bills presently before it and sector laws expected to reviewed, to enable the environment for development of the industry.
However, the National President of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA, Prince Olayiwola Shittu, warned operators to brace up for “a long night” ahead in the New Year because of recent of policies.
Shittu noted that these recent policies will reverse the gains made in the industry with the concessioning of the nation’s ports. The concession of the port he continued has resulted in increased cargo handling equipment, speedy cargo clearance of goods before the exercise etc.
According to him, the recent import policy as it concerns rice, fish and most especially automobile indicates that government does not think before they act.
The ANLCA boss opined that the new policy will lead to reduction of the operations of the terminal operators and the long run, reduction in staff strength. Shittu noted government should have ensured that the automobile plants were in place, up and running before commencing the implementation of the policy.
He further said that the maritime industry has always been on the receiving end in terms of policies of government. According to him, other sectors of the nation’s economy have enjoyed one form of intervention or the other with a view of improving the fortunes of such sectors.
He also pointed out that transactions in the maritime industry are conducted in naira and dollar and wondered what government expected them to do when a hundred dollars ($100) is heading for two hundred naira (N200).
In his words, “Operators in the maritime industry are in for a long night of inactivity in the industry.”
National Secretary of Nigeria Ship-owners Association, (NISA). Captain Niyi Labinjo, lamented the implementation of the Cabotage Act which is meant to protect the interest of local ship owners.
Labinjo explained that government seem to be more interested in the waiver clause then the enforcement of the Act because of the number of waivers so far granted. He said that the Act was intended to increase human capacity, ship ownership and technology but stressed that these have not been met.
He pointed out that a situation where the nation’s maritime administration, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, abandons its core function of growth and development for revenue generation does not augur well for the industry.
He says he sees no hope for the sector in 2014 and that he cannot make any projection because there is nothing on ground present on which projections for the New Year could be made. Speaking further, the NISA scribe also said even NIMASA cannot do any projection on its core function because this will be based on ship owners’ performance.