By John Iwori
The former Chairman of the Board of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Alhaji Ahmed Tijani Ramalan has tasked the Federal Government on the establishment of a national shipping carrier that would address the present challenges in the in the shipping sector of the economy as well as the oil and gas industry.
Ramalan who stated this in a chat with journalists in Lagos said that the re-establishment of a national shipping carrier was imperative in view of Nigeria’s quest to realise the objectives of Local Content Act and reinvigorate the maritime sector of the economy.
The erstwhile Chairman of NIMASA Board expressed dismay that despite the fact that Nigeria is the largest producer of crude oil in Africa with a capacity for 2.5 million barrels per day, the nation does not really participate in the exploration, development, production and shipment of the black gold.
On why this is so, Ramalan who is vastly knowledgeable in the maritime industry said: “This is mainly due to a lack of a developed shipping infrastructure and fleet that are domiciled in Nigeria. Nigeria is the only oil producing country that does not have her own national fleet, whereas Angola which recently joined the ranking of oil producing countries has a fleet for her deliveries”.
He noted that the absence of a national shipping carrier had prevented Nigeria from reaping the full benefits of her being an oil producing nation for decades.
He explained that there was a symbiotic relationship between shipping and the oil and gas industry, just as he pointed out that the absence of a national carrier was a drawback that denied Nigeria maximum benefits from its position as a ranking producer of crude oil in the African continent.
He however acknowledged that the development of a shipping industry and fleet acquisition requird substantial capital.
He advised the Federal Government to kick-start the development of the shipping sector and fleet acquisition and expansion through NIMASA and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
Ramalan maintained that Nigeria was not doing enough as an oil producing nation, just as he submitted: “Nigeria could and should participate actively in the exploration and shipping of her crude oil as well as in competitive participation in its refining”.
Ramalan argued that there was no need to enact another Act in the National Assembly as existing laws were enough to address the present challenges in the sector.
His words: “The three Acts of the National Assembly, namely: NIMASA Act, Cabotage Act and the Local Content Act were sufficient to reverse the trend in collaboration with the NNPC. There is urgent need for this new administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, through NNPC and NIMASA to take a bold position on indigenous participation in lifting of crude oil. To achieve this, the Federal Government should promote a national shipping carrier through public private partnership (PPP), using a special purpose vehicle (SPV) like the NLNG model to own and control at least 10 per cent equity in vessels handling Nigeria’s crude oil export. This is strategically sensible and will reduce Nigeria’s complete dependence on foreign vessels to freight her oil to customers around the world”.