Doing Business in a Secure Maritime Environment

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Eromosele Abiodun reviews the resolutions reached at the recently held maritime stakeholders’ forum organised by Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency and the possible impact on the maritime sector

The Executive Order on the Ease of Doing Business (EDB) was meant to reduce documentation for business transactions at the ports and border stations from about 14 to eight documents.

It was also geared towards making government agencies synchronise their activities to enable them have a one-stop-shop.

However, acute corruption, infrastructure decay, too many government agencies duplicating the same functions, bad access port roads and absence of scanners have been identified as bane of the executive order.
The federal government had towards the end of last year reduced import, export documentation requirements to ease business.

Other measures announced by the Minister Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun include the reduction of documentation requirements from 10 to seven for exports and from 14 to eight for imports.
Adeosun said that additional responsibilities had been given to the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and the shipping lines/other carriers.

Government’s attention in this regard, she stated, was principally focused on measures to ensure reduction in time spent on processing of export and also to ensure 24-hour clearance of cargo imported into the country.
The minister announced that the NCS shall coordinate the mandatory joint examination and Sign-Off Form, within the official working hours, including Saturdays.

“NCS shall make available the shipping manifests to other examination agencies as soon as they are received, to enable enough time for risk assessment. Nigeria Integrated Customs Information Systems (NICIS) should be strengthened to accommodate more agencies.

“Shipping lines shall transmit to the NCS and the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), the cargo manifest, before leaving the last Ports of Call to Nigeria and shall ensure that Nigeria-bound containerised cargoes are palletised, “Adeosun said.

Implementation of Executive Order
Meanwhile, stakeholders are of the view that the policy is failing due to several things that are not in place and inability of the federal government to do what is necessary to put things right.
To put things right, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) organised a forum for stakeholders to deliberate and find solutions.

Tagged: “Implementation of Executive Order 1,” the forum was arranged to aggregate stakeholder consensus for the promulgation of policies designed to promote effective maritime governance in Nigeria.
According to NIMASA, the interactive forum was convened to provide a platform for exchange of ideas by the Ministry of Transportation, its agencies and industry stakeholders on government policies, processes and their immediate and potential impact.

The ultimate aim of the initiative, it added, is to ensure ownership of Government policies by the people most likely to be affected by the policies.
In a communiqué released at the end of the meeting, stakeholders agreed that the Ministry of Transportation and its agencies should explore alternate financing windows such as the establishment of Maritime Bank to address the financing gap created by the unsuitability of lending rates of Nigerian banks for the shipping business; that the Ministry of Transportation and its Agencies should promote the automation of all shipping related administrative processes to reduce human subjectivity and corruption.

They also stated that the Ministry of Transportation and its agencies should consider reviving NIMAREX as a platform for bridging the gap between the Nigerian shipping industry and prospective international investors so as to provide impetus for growth and investment.

Stakeholders submitted that the Ministry of Transportation and its agencies should liaise with relevant Ministries and Agencies in Trade and investment sector with a view to reducing the tax burden and other ancillary costs borne by the indigenous shipping investor.

They urged NIMASA to take careful stock of available indigenous tonnage and their current state of health so as to be empirically guided in the determination of the lingering Cabotage waiver issues.

Need for Concerted Effort
Stakeholders agreed that the Ministry of Transportation should consider inviting the Finance and Trade Ministries alongside the Customs Service to subsequent stakeholders’ forum with a view to benefitting from their input on key issues.

The Ministry of Transportation was urged to take urgent steps to address the challenge of under-declaration of cargo by ships calling at Nigerian ports to plug the substantial revenue leakage thus created.
Government agencies were asked to consider a return to the former system whereby NPA, NIWA and NIMASA all contributed to the training of Master Mariners who are currently counted at 180 with above 75 per cent being above the retirement age.

Agencies were asked to take note of the rising reliance of water transportation due to the port access challenge around the Lagos areas and take steps to regulate same and propose means of encouraging its development as a viable business model.

Stakeholders urged the Ministry of Transportation and its agencies to consider establishing Complaints Desks and online feedback platforms to promote the ease of doing business in Nigerian maritime industry.
They called on the Ministry of Transportation to cause the urgent dredging of the Escravos Bar to facilitate the access of large dry cargo vessels into Warri ports.

The communiqué further reads: “That the ministry and its Agencies should implement measures to stop the engagement of unqualified foreign marine technical personnel on Government and private projects and ships in Nigeria at the detriment of qualified Nigerian marine Engineers and Surveyors. That the Nigerian Ports Authority should consider the urgent review of published draught of ports in Nigeria as experience has shown that some of the published draught are incorrect and this discourages shipping traffic.

“That as a panacea to the Apapa traffic gridlock and access road challenges, the Ministry and its Agencies should consider establishing transit parks for trucks waiting to access the ports and implement an automated call-up system that prevents their proliferation around the ports. That the Ministry of Transportation and its agencies should collaborate with the maritime Communities with a view to relying on their local knowledge and intelligence for fighting maritime crimes like piracy, sea robbery and vessel hijack.”

It added, “That the Ministry and its Agencies should step up Environmental Impact Assessment of Government projects on the littoral communities with a view to alleviating their deleterious effects where necessary, and; that the Ministry and its Agencies should consider engaging with the maritime communities on practical means of reducing maritime criminal activities and the acceptability of same by the communities.”

Maritime Security Contract
Speaking at the event, the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi revealed that certain individuals and vested interest profiting from the insecurity in the Niger Delta are frustrating the execution of the $198 million maritime security contract approved by President Muhammadu Buhari.

According to Amaechi, “Reason why vessels will not come to the Eastern ports is because there is war in insurance due to insecurity in the ports here. The war insurance means if the goods cost N10,000 in Lagos, it will cost N20,000 here because there is extra cost on it due to Insecurity issues. Even as a minister, I can’t enter a boat ride from Warri to Port Harcourt due to insecurity issues, but I can move around Lagos at any time of the day.

“I once asked a former Governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi, why people from Anambra don’t import through Port Harcourt port, and he said it cost less to import from Lagos and move to Onitsha even with the price they pay on the road. It is cheaper to import from Lagos to Aba, yet Aba to Port Harcourt is 30 minute drive.

“For ship owners, you need to do a petition to Mr. President. The President approved a contract of $195 million for maritime security, but there are people in the system sabotaging the contract because it will restore security in the water. I won’t say who they are until it gets out of control. We are still battling for the contract to take place, but if it get out of place, W‎e will name them publicly, including the security people involved.

“There are people who make billions of Dollars from the insecurity on the water, so they don’t want security on the water because if we secure the water, all their rubbish will go. There are business who provide vessel for oil companies in the name of providing security. The moment we secure the water, they are out of jobs?”
Also speaking, the Director General of NIMASA, Dakuku Peterside disclosed that talks between the agency and the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) are in advanced stage to provide 100 brand new cabotage vessels for indigenous operators in the oil and gas sector.

The NIMASA DG explained that the maritime sector is a multi-stakeholder industry adding, “the maritime sector plays a very important role in the growth of the Nigerian economy. It may occur to you that without the maritime sector today in Nigeria, we cannot fund the budget of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“In the maritime industry, all agencies are equally important, but it is only when we work in synergy that we can accomplish great results. For us at NIMASA, we have our eyes on the goal, and that is why that, even the modest achievements we have achieved overtime as being down to collaborations with our different stakeholders. It is a pointer to this that we sent 298 cadets to do sea-time training in Egypt and the United Kingdom.”

According to Peterside, “the maritime sector plays a very important role in the growth of the Nigerian economy. It may occur to you that without the maritime sector today in Nigeria, we cannot fund the budget of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. In the maritime industry, all agencies are equally important, but it is only when we work in synergy that we can accomplish great results.

“It is also a fact that because of the new cabotage compliance strategy, today and in the past six months, we have over 200 seafarers onboard different cabotage vessels. What of our collaboration with the NCDMB, which is at its advanced stage, and will lead to the engagement of over 100 brand new cabotage vessels in the oil and gas industry.
Reacting to the development, Mrs Margaret Orakwusi noted that if these waivers were not granted, the presence of foreign operators in the nation’s coastal waters will not be as it is currently is.