The Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Hassan Bello, has decried the poor contribution of the shipping sector to the nation’s gross domestic products (GDP) and has called on the federal government to expedite action on the establishment of a national fleet to reverse the trend.
He stated this in Lagos as Nigeria joined the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and other maritime nation’s of the world to celebrate this year’s Day of the Seafarers with the theme, “On Board with Gender Equality.”
According to him, “Some of the benefits Nigeria will derive from a national fleet will be to stem and preserve the outflow of foreign exchange for the carriage of the nation’s cargos. Enhance the development of the Nigerian maritime industry with significant contribution to the GDP. At present, shipping contributes a paltry 0.05 per cent to GDP. In other countries such as Greece, it is 3.6 per cent and the United Kingdom 0.2 per cent.”
Establishment of a national fleet, he added, will massively support the federal government’s economic diversification drive by stimulating the rise of various ancillary services, creating wealth and providing employment to Nigerians.
Bello disclosed that the country spent about $9 billion as freight on wet and dry cargo due to lack of national fleet in 2015.
“In the international carriage of goods, Nigeria does not have a single ship, so all what we have been doing is slave for foreign ships. About $9 billion and rising is what we pay, not for Nigerian ships but ships elsewhere. Imagine what the earnings of freight will do, if these are Nigerian ships? When we talk of Nigerian ships, we are also talking about our Nigerian banks, insurance companies, mariners, seafarers, surveyors and our seamen. All these are not gaining because we don’t have ships. So the issue is not actually whether women are going to be employed but on what ships. We need to have those ships before women are employed,” he said.
He added: “The national fleet issue is also important to us. We ought to have Nigerians owning and operating ships, we have lost a lot of money on freight to foreign companies, billions of dollars, if we are the ones having that, the billions we earn in freight will at least have effect on our economic growth, employment and open up ancillary services. We are talking about ship yards, ship repair yards; we are also talking about our flag administration, nautical colleges, having trained seafarers to do that.
“The national fleet is three-year so that we can have it in Nigeria, but to do that, there are so many so laws and policies that you have to review that is what the fleet is doing, there are also incentives we have to offer private sector. Don’t forget that the national fleet is private sector led, government will not put a kobo, but the government will have to look at laws, policies that militate against investment especially in that sector. We are talking about tax holidays and relaxing of certain procedures, and overall conducive atmosphere for that investment to thrive.”
Bello, while calling for more participation of women in seafaring, also informed that only about two per cent of the world seafarers are women.
“The reason for the low percentage of women in seafaring is understandable. It ranges from the harsh working environment in the sea to issues such as sexual harassment, gender discrimination and inappropriate comments. Section 17 of the Nigeria constitution states that every citizen should have equal right before the law, despite this catalytic provision, it has not been easy for women to fight gender discrimination, ”he said.
Also speaking, President, World Maritime University, in Malmo, Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry expressed serious concern that though women participation in shipping and maritime industry remain critical, women participation and empowerment has remained as abysmally as low as it was 25 years ago.