The Chairman of National Fleet Implementation Committee, Mr Hassan Bello has disclosed that Nigeria recorded a loss of over $120 billion in gross freight paid to foreign vessels owners, between 2014 and 2018.
Bello, who is the Executive Secretary/Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC),stated this when members of Shipowners Association of Nigeria (SOAN) paid a working visit to the committee’s secretariat in Lagos.
He also stated that there was no development of ship building and ship repair yards capabilities within the period under review, adding that the committee has presented the fiscal incentives for shipping development to Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo and the economic management team.
The vice president, he stated, had directed the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC) to work with the committee and other relevant ministries and MDAs to harmonise the requests and represent for consideration and approval.
According to him, “We have lost billions of dollars for payment of freight to foreign shipping companies. We know how fundamentally that would have reflected on our economy and the involvement of the insurance and banking companies. That is aside the effect on our cadet, the way we train them; certify them to have effect on many other industries.
“Now Nigeria is supposed to be maritime country, but how can we achieve that in a maritime industry that do not have ships, which take the ownership, operations, flagging of the ship?
“We have all the advantages, we have one hundred and eighty kilometres of coast line, we have mentioned a lot of this, but of what use is this when you do not take control of that very means of transportation. The maritime industry is a place of employment-the employment content is better imagined, even the oil and gas sector rest actually on the ownership and operation of vessels.”
He added: “We need to also change a lot of our laws and policies, and this we have started doing; today is a very important and significant day for Nigeria Shippers Council and the board of fleet implementation committee because we are talking to the right people.”
He called on the ship owners to support the committee to achieve its aim adding that contribution from the ship owners will go a long way in the plan by government to reform the industry for positive contribution to the economy.
“We want you to support our efforts, we want you to come and make representation, we have traversed the whole country doing a lot of things. National fleet for me is a two to three-year project which must be taken very seriously by both the government and the investors. The reason been that we could have had one or two ship and christened them, carrying national flag from the fleets committee; but this would fissile out the efforts of the committee am really very grateful to the president for bringing your members to come,”he said.
Giving insight into how the committee started, he said: “On June 2016, the Minister of Transportation established the Nigeria fleet committee. The committee submitted its report and typical of the Minister he immediately set up the implementation committee and asked the Nigeria Shippers Council to chair it.
“So what we are doing now is to prepare the institutional framework for the establishment of a sustainable Nigerian fleet, as we have developed strategies that would be certified by the private sector to invest in ship ownership, to register the ship in Nigeria registry; this is another important aspect.
“We set out to action plan to encourage development of ship building and repair facilities and we are to provide guidelines for establishment of maritime manpower capacity; identify areas the government can support the shipping industry and provide practical guidelines for attainment of the mandate to midwife the implementation of the recommendation of the committee. I tell you about any other thing that would ensure smooth take-off of the operations of Nigerian fleet.”
He added that the benefit of having a national fleet was that it would enhance the development of the Nigeria maritime industry and ensure significant contribution to the GDP.
“At present shipping contribute 0.5 per cent to the GDP in other countries such as Greece is about 3.6 per cent. We must support the federal government economic diversification drive by stimulating the rise of various ancillary industries and provide employment for Nigerians.”