Maritime stakeholders thought the myriad of challenges facing the port system will end by year 2021 and operators can heave a sigh of relief.
They believed challenges such as lack of port automation, overtime cargo fueling congestion at seaports, non refund of container deposit fee by shipping companies, non-disbursement of Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund (CVFF), resuscitation of National Shipping Line, introduction of Maritime Bank, and increased shipping surcharge by foreign shipping companies, will be solved by relevant agencies and authorities in the sector.
However, some stakeholders, e.g indigenous shipowners had lamented that foreign-operated vessels that engaged in Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation’s (NNPC’s) marine service contracts, accounted for over 90 per cent of the Cabotage trade, thus creating an uneven operating environment detrimental to the growth of indigenous tonnage.
Some initiatives introduced by other agencies of government such as: Lagos -Onitsha barging initiative, enforcement of night voyage on the nation’s inland waterways, the collection of Practitioners’ Operating Fee (POF) proposed by the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) and the Council for Regulations of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN), respectively refused to see light of day as they faded off in the idea stage.
Some of the initiatives introduced in 2021, like the electronic call-up system, solved the perrenial gridlock on the port access road. The deployment of deep blue project also reduced maritime crimes on the nation’s coastal water and Gulf of Guinea (GoG).
This year there is a call for federal government to address the challenges facing indigenous ship owners. These challenges include unfavourable policies of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) as regards shipping of petroleum products in the downstream sector of the oil and gas industry, in favour of foreign vessels – a situation that encourages massive capital flight.
A representative of the Congregation of Registered Freight Forwarders Practitioners In Nigeria (CREFFPON), Comrade Edwin Chukwudire Obi, seeks a holistic approach to solving the challenges facing the sector.
This group wants the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), to educate Nigerians on Blue Evonomy and its enormous potentials for the nation’s economy.
Obi, who also complained about the cost of doing business in the nation’s ports, said the Nigerian Port is very expensive, adding that the cost of doing business in the seaport doesn’t add up towards a healthy economy, adding something must be done about it in 2022.
He said, “The Blue Economy project should be communicated further to the stakeholders, especially, in the area of research and human capacity development, as enshrined in the AIM-Strategy content development.
“The cost of doing business in Nigeria Ports is still very expensive and does not add up to a healthy economy. Today, ports within the region have positioned themselves to transhipment hub and ready for prompt participation in the African Continental Free Trade Area regime.
“Already, there are reports of the diversion of the Nigerian bound imports to Lome, Cotonu, Cameroun, Ghana, etc. Their recent cargo throughputs increases is a confirmation of this development,’’ he said.