As Nigerians continue to hold the short end of the stick in the shipping sector of the economy, not less than $2.2 billion is lost to foreign ship owners.
Though the provisions of the Inland and Coastal Shipping 2003 otherwise called Cabotage is hinged on Nigerians owning vessels, crew them and repair them in dockyards owned by Nigerians the indiscriminate issuance of waiver by the Federal Ministry of Transportation over the years have among other factors denied Nigerians from deriving maximum benefits from the Act.
This has led to calls by stakeholders in the maritime industry for a review of the Act which borrowed substantially from the Jones Act in the United States of America (USA).
Erstwhile Government Inspector and Sole Administrator of the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN), Oron, Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Olu Akinsoji, who disclosed the huge loss of Nigerians in the shipping sector said there was need to plug the loopholes being exploited by foreign ship owners if the Federal Government quest to diversify the economy could become a reality.
Giving an insight into the huge loss, Akinsoji, said: “Almost 70 to 77 crude oil vessels load oil monthly out of Nigeria. The foreign ship owners do not employ Nigerians and they do not pay tax. To make matters worse the lack of a national shipping line had affected the development of Nigerian youths in world sea trade”.
He argued that Nigeria could earn as much as $2.2 billion if half of the ships that come into the country were Nigerian ships.
His words: If 50 per cent of the over 5,000 ships came to Nigeria in 2014 were Nigerian ships, crewed by Nigerians, say 20 Nigerians per ship, and earning $3,000 per person, Nigeria would have made $2.2 billion apart from the freight that is accruable by carrying Nigerian cargo. The human elements, the seafarer that would have worked on those ships would have earned $2.2 billion and every family of that seafarer would have benefited from the cargo. These are the kinds of losses that we are incurring by not having ships that are carrying our cargo. All the international cargo we generate is carried by foreign ships. We do not have a ship in international waters carrying dry cargo”.
Adding his voice to the clamour for the resuscitation of a national shipping carrier in order to address some of the ills in the shipping sector of the economy, the Executive Secretary and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NCS), Mr. Hassan Bello stated that the re-floating of the national shipping line would have tremendous influence on the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country and boost international trade.
Bello who is also the Chairman of the Ministerial Committee on National Carrier argued that the shipping line would also help to diversify Nigeria’s economy and grow the nation’s insurance, banking and maritime sectors.
His words: “The idea of Nigeria owning ships is an economic decision and is an avenue for the diversification of the economy. This is because it will generate income, foreign exchange and there will be no more capital flight.
“It will also create employment and wealth. If Nigeria own ships, then the fleet will grow and there will be growth in other related industry like ship repairs, dockyard, and employment of our cadets who are marine engineers and surveyors.”
Bello expressed dismay that the absence of a national shipping line since the collapse of the defunct Nigerian National Shipping Line Limited (NNSL) in the mid 90 had resulted in huge foreign exchange losses to the country.