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Maritime stakeholders task FG on shipping development

Maritime Stakeholders have expressed their concerns about the various infrastructure deficiencies that are impeding the development of shipping in Nigeria. They have called upon the government and other relevant stakeholders to support the growth of the shipping sector in the country.

During the 5th edition of the Taiwo Afolabi Annual Maritime (TAAM) Conference held at the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Temisan Omatseye, the former Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), delivered the lead paper.

He described the administration of war risk premiums in the shipping industry as the largest fraud in the world.

Omatseye, who is also the pioneer President of the African Shipowners Association, revealed that Nigeria was paying approximately $400 million annually for this insurance as of 2010.

However, there were no recorded claims to substantiate the need for such high insurance premiums.

He pointed out that certain individuals simply collected these funds from institutions like Lloyd’s of London and the Joint War Risk Committee. Notably, the rates charged to Nigeria were four times higher than those levied on vessels heading to war-torn Afghanistan in 2010.

In response to these challenges, Omatseye advocated for the establishment of ship repair and building infrastructure, suggesting that these areas be designated as Free Trade Zones (FTZs).

Furthermore, he recommended offering incentives to Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) to set up shops within these shipbuilding FTZs.

Omatseye also emphasized the importance of completing the Ajaokuta steel complex and providing support for the rolling mills and machine tools industry to manufacture necessary spare parts for the shipping sector.

Regarding manpower training, Omatseye proposed policies for training shipping industry professionals, including officers and able seamen, and making the remittances of seafarers tax-free.

He also emphasized the need for welders with international certification to be trained in Nigeria.

Ms Funmi Folorunso, the Secretary General of the African Shipowners Association, acknowledged that while Nigeria has ships, they may not meet the required specifications for current trade demands.

She expressed regret that ship owners in Nigeria have placed excessive reliance on the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund (CVFF) while suggesting that alternative funding sources exist.

Folorunso stressed the importance of setting an agenda for the next government and incorporating perspectives from past leaders, current stakeholders, and future operators and students.

Dr.EmekaAkabogu, the Principal Counsel of Akabogu and Associates and Convener of the Nigerian International Maritime Summit (NIMS), expressed his concern about the neglect of critical issues by regulators within the maritime sector.

He questioned the prolonged non-disbursement of the CVFF by the government and the lack of utilization of the Maritime Fund, which is designated for sector development in the NIMASA Act.

Akabogu also highlighted the importance of both hard infrastructure (ports, ships, access roads) and soft infrastructure (policy implementation and cargo facilitation) for the overall maritime industry.

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