By Eromosele Abiodun
The federal government has been urged to harness its huge maritime potential as the sector offers huge opportunities for the country to shore up its Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The National Chairman of the Nigerian Institute of Marine Engineers and Naval Aechitects (NIMENA), Mr Henry Unuigbe, stated this in Lagos while speaking at the 7th annual conference/annual general meeting of the institute in Lagos.
According to him, “With a long coastline of about 420 nautical miles and a maritime space of about 83,903 nm, Nigeria is unarguably an important maritime nation and well placed to explore the opportunities therein. However, the country has not been able to fully take advantage of the industry potentials to grow it to the benefit of Nigerians.
“The present economic situation in Nigeria calls for concerted efforts notwithstanding the lack of action on the outcome from similar efforts in the past. “We must continue to engage ourselves on how the challenges before us can be overcome. When we do this, history will ever remain kind to us.”
Ships, Unuigbe stated, remain an important asset in maritime activities and oil and gas operation, adding that Nigeria must leverage on her position as a maritime nation and take strategic steps to stimulate growth in the industry.
“The Nigerian ship-owner is plagued with outdated maritime assets and limited access to capital. Those lucky to have access for the acquisition of ships do so via a double digit interest arrangement that end up -in most cases on a sad note.
“There is no doubt that this has greatly hindered development and growth in the industry. The challenge the Nigerian ship-owner faces in this regard once again brings to fore the question: Why are we not building ships”?
“It may interest you to know that NlMENA had since provided answers to this this question in previous conferences,” he said.
He stated that in a period of economic challenges of any nation, patriotic and great minds take altruistic steps and offer their contributions to save their fatherland.
“Rather than seat on the fence, they step out boldly and contribute to nation building. Truly, Nigeria cannot shy away from shipbuilding as its benefits are unimaginable. Continuous neglect of the shipbuilding sub sector will not augur well for our dear nation.
“While it is acknowledged that investment in shipbuilding is humongous, government must create the enabling environment including putting sustainable policies in place in order to attract investment in this area, “he said.
He pointed out that ship repair yards are essential part of the infrastructure needed to support shipping.
“There is no doubt that this critical infrastructure is presently insufficient and not capable of meeting the industry demand.
“Without adequate and suitable repair yards, ship-owners will have no choice than to take their ships elsewhere for their maintenance and in most cases at a relatively higher cost. The economy suffers as a result of this.
“How do we then ensure that the right steps are taken to reverse the situation for the benefit of our economy? Our erudite scholar, one of the guest speakers, is here to provide answers to this question.
“There is no doubt that improvement in cargo throughput in our ports has the potential to contribute to the stimulation of our’ economy. Existing infrastructure in and around our ports have been seriously challenged with its attendant impact on the efficiency in port operations.
“While we recognise recent report of improvement in cargo throughput in our ports, it remains facts that more work needs to be done. it is also a fact that some ports presently have low record of utilisation, part of which is due to preference for other ports.
“This singular factor accounts significantly for the unpleasant traffic gridlock in port across roads in Lagos loading to huge loss of man hour and the concomitant effect on the economy, “he said.