The President of the Ship Owners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Dr Mkgeorge Onyung, has stressed the need for capacity building by ship owners to benefit from opportunities in the Nigerian oil and gas industry.
He said the abolition of cabotage waivers in the next five years throws up a lot of opportunities in the area of ship-building yards, ship repair yards and acquisitions of assets, adding that the industry spend within the next five years was estimated to be in the region of $3.5 billion.
He stated this over the weekend, during a chat with newsmen to announce SOAN’s upcoming Shipping Expo Exhibition, whose delivery, he said, would create significant employment and investment opportunities.
In order to enjoy the benefit, Onyung said there was an urgent need for ship owners to upgrade their capacity.
He said the Expo with the theme: “The Ocean Blue Economy and National Development,” was chosen to enable Nigeria explore opportunities in the blue economy, as well as genuinely boost the nation’s economy.
He frowned on the fact that ship-owners in spite of the huge risk and investment in the Ocean business were still perceived as ‘participants’ and ‘stakeholders’ in a business they should be ranked first, and posited that SOAN would henceforth adopt measures and build concepts as ‘shareholders’, in the overall interest of the nation.
Onyung lauded the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), for its five-phased cessation of waivers, stressing that the gesture would no doubt open a new window of investment for the country, as well as significant employment opportunities; even as he assured that the ship owners would synergize with the agency and other relevant stakeholders to ensure that NIMASA actually midwife the initiative.
Expatiating on the immediate vision of the body, the SOAN President said ship owners have decided to entrench a culture of proactive capacity building and acquisition, adding that it was the most vibrant approach towards taking the country to the next level.
He pointed out that it was instructive that if Singapore which has no Steel Rolling Mills, is still able to build ships, why not Nigeria adding, “Rome was not built in a day; but we also know it was not built in a million years!”
“Our Cabotage Law has been with us for 15 years now; we’ll see it as contribution to ensuring that we open the doors for people to understand what Cabotage really means and the opportunities in it. The NIMASA had established a committee between the agency and stakeholders to look into the challenges affecting the waivers in the last five years.
“We must have both ship building and ship repair yard in Nigeria, there is need to open up for acquisition. Within the next five years, the Nigeria Content will be in the region of 3.5 billion dollars and in order to enjoy these benefits, we need to upgrade our capacity. The upcoming conference will open opportunities to collaborate toward ship building opportunities in Nigeria,” Onyung said.
He said SOAN was working toward decongesting the Lagos ports by reviving the other ports in the country to create more jobs for Nigerians.
Onyung, said Nigeria was blessed with over 840 kilolitres of Nautical miles of coastline and nearly 10,000 kilometers of Inland waters, adding that if Norwegian who annually had their waters frozen for eight months still owned as much as about 20 percent of internationally trading ships, then Nigeria with fresh waters all through the year has no excuse for not committing to serious manpower development and ship acquisition.
The SOAN boss said all ship owners in Nigeria have been working tirelessly towards ensuring that Cabotage Act is made effective in the country.
He emphasised the need for Nigerians to expand shipping capacity, and take advantage of NIMASA’s marine notice, established to ban substandard ships from coming into the country, in addition to a gradual but consistent phase out of certain category of vessels.