‘Strategic Framework, Innovation Necessary for Maritime Industry Growth’

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Executive Vice Chairman of SIFAX Group, Dr. Taiwo Afolabi

Eromosele Abiodun

The Executive Vice Chairman of SIFAX Group, Dr. Taiwo Afolabi, has stressed the need to adopt a framework that guarantees innovation and sustainable solutions in order to achieve greater level of growth in Nigeria’s maritime industry.

Afolabi, who made this know while speaking at the fourth edition of the Taiwo Afolabi Annual Maritime Conference, noted that doing so would address the problems in the industry.

He said a strong implementation mechanism for the various policies and reforms was necessary to accelerate growth.

Afolabi, who was represented by the Group Managing Director of SIFAX, Mr. Adekunle Oyinloye, said: “Nigeria’s maritime industry has over time seen various policies such as the port concession reforms, truck standardisation policies, Cabotage law, maritime safety laws and several others with the sole aim of eliciting growth in the sector.

“But, may I say that while some of these policies have catapulted the industry to its next level growth, a strong implementation mechanism is strongly needed.”
He further noted that reforms in the sector must go beyond the ports, adding that a holistic approach, including legislation, infrastructure, transportation, security and funding among others, must be adopted.

He added: “I will like to appeal to the federal government and its relevant agencies to further fortify the nation’s coastal areas and maritime boundaries against maritime crimes. I will not fail to give kudos to NIMASA and other agencies for getting the presidency to assent to the anti-piracy bill recently. It should not just end here alone; there should be a campaign for more funding for maritime security.

“The insecurity on the waterway has led to shipping lines introducing war risk surcharges on consignments heading to Nigeria.”

Afolabi, said operators in constant engagement with regulatory agencies should proffer reforms for sustainable growth in the maritime sector.
“As operators, I challenge all of us seated here today to come up with innovative solutions that will sustain the growth of the sector, an implementation and feedback mechanism to see the process through to the end,” he said.

Also speaking, the Executive Secretary/CEO, Nigerian Shippers Council(NSC), Hassan Bello said the federal government was constantly ready through the various ministries and agencies to continually engage all stakeholders in the industry.

“First, I must commend the organisers of this event and add that we are ready to partner with all stakeholders including the universities in order to make sure that the maritime sector achieves its mandate. We believe that constant dialogue through a forum like this will help us bridge the missing links in the sector and move the sector to its next level growth, ”he said.

On his part, Chairman, Nigerian Ports Consultative Council, Kunle Folarin stated that Nigeria’s maritime industry has endowments that could transform the industry to becoming a leader in Africa if properly tapped and utilised.

He said: “Nigeria’s maritime domain consists of 932 nautical miles of coastline, 12 nautical territorial waters, 200 nautical miles of Exclusive Economic Zones, international indigenous shipping average of 5,307 vessel calls per annum, 572 kilometres of inland waterways, 16 functioning ports, eight littoral states, 28 port terminals under concession and thousands of professionals in the port and maritime industry.

“These endowments give us the edge to become the leading light in Africa. Government and all stakeholders must set a deliberate agenda on how these endowments can be properly harnessed to sustain the growth already achieved in the maritime industry. There is a new economic agenda for the maritime industry. This new agenda can be successfully executed with sustained port reforms and local participation policies.” Folarin submitted that the Nigerian government must create a caveat for Nigerian involvement in the profitable areas of the maritime sector.

He added: “We must have a caveat that says that Nigerians must be involved or even monopolise the sector. There is so much of dependency syndrome in this country. If we say government should create an enabling environment, yes. If you say government should encourage indigenous participation in getting the benefits of our endowment, yes. But if these do not happen, what do we do?”