Advancing Ocean Health to Boost Economy


Eromosele Abiodun writes on the contributions of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency to the economy

A recent report by the African Development Bank (AFDB) revealed that a significant decline in Africa’s poverty will require the continent’s gross domestic product (GDP) to grow at an overall average of seven per cent. In order to achieve this goal, experts believe it is of paramount importance that Africa’s international trade continues and strengthens its current development.

To do this, analysts contended that Africa must make effective use of its oceans and seas. Oceans, seas and coastal areas form an integrated and essential component of the Earth’s ecosystem and are critical to sustainable development.

They cover more than two-thirds of the earth’s surface and contain 97 per cent of the planet’s water. Oceans contribute to poverty eradication by creating sustainable livelihoods and decent work. Over three billion people depend on marine and coastal resources for their livelihoods. In addition, oceans are crucial for global food security and human health. They are also the primary regulator of the global climate, an important sink for greenhouse gases and they provide us with water and the oxygen we breathe. Finally, oceans host huge reservoirs of biodiversity.

In order for oceans, seas and marine resources to successfully contribute to human well-being, ecosystem integrity, with properly functioning biogeochemical and physical processes, is required. This requires systems that have not suffered serious or irreversible harm. Ecosystem integrity allows for the provision of so-called supporting ecosystem services which, in turn, are the bases of important regulating, provisioning and cultural ecosystem services that are of crucial importance for humans. Whereas the benefits provided by oceans, seas and marine resources are important to all people, the poor, indigenous peoples, and vulnerable groups with a high dependency on natural resources and ecosystem services may have their well-being especially tied to these benefits.

The link between oceans, seas and marine resources and human well-being is not one-sided. While an increase in human well-being is frequently generated at the cost of ecosystem integrity, it can also potentially reduce the negative anthropocentric impacts on the marine environment, for example due to a more sustainable use of resources, changes in production and consumption patterns and improved management and control of human activities. In order for this to happen, good governance and an enabling environment are however required.

NIMASA Takes Initiative
While the steps necessary to take advantage of the enormous resources on the ocean and seas have not been taken in the past, the management of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) is striving to change the narrative. To NIMASA, the blue economy, if well harnessed, is capable of replacing crude oil as Nigeria’s major sour of revenue. To support the economic diversification drive of the federal government, NIMASA has launched deliberate efforts to ramp up the role of the ocean economy. The agency has also set up strategies to rid the marine environment of obstacles to navigation and investment. So as the continent marked African Day of Seas and Oceans on July 25, last year to highlight the need for sustainable use of the marine resources, it was a time for the agency to rally the whole country to discuss how to reap the full benefits of its vast maritime endowments. It used the occasion to emphasise the problems caused by polluted waterway and to underscore NIMASA’s determination to improve the health of the waters.

In the last few months, the agency has taken proactive steps to ensure clean waters for navigation and investment. It has inaugurated Marine Litter Marshals to assist in ridding the oceans of unwanted waste materials that can degrade the environment and impede navigation.

The Director General of NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Peterside believes there is a symbiotic relationship between the health of the oceans and the health of the people and the economy of the country. Clean waters, he averred recently, also means increase in economic activities – fishing, other aquatic activities.
Consequently, NIMASA has also, in conjunction with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Global Partnership Action (GPA), developed a national action plan on marine litter.

Port State Control
Following its performance in the last one year, the Abuja MoU has rated NIMASA, Nigeria’s maritime industry regulator, as first in Flag State Administration and Port State Control in West and Central Africa, in its latest report.

The intensified inspection of ships calling at the country’s ports to ensure they comply with international conventions, which earned Nigeria the top ranking, has meant drastically reduced number of substandard vessels coming into the country.

To get the initiative going, Port State Control Officers specially trained for the exercise and many seafarers have also been trained under the Nigerian Seafarers Development Programme (NSDP).

The feat fulfils one of the five pillars of the reform strategy unveiled Peterside at the inception of his tenure in 2016. The five pillars include: Survey, Inspection and Certification Transformation programme; Environment, Security and Search and Rescue Transformation programme; Capacity Building and Promotional Initiatives; Digital Transformation Strategy; and Structural and Cultural reforms, which entails changes to work ethic and attitude of staff.
It also fulfils Nigeria’s obligations under the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watch keeping for Seafarers (STCW). Certification exams conducted at MAN, Oron, among others.

Experts believe the firm pursuit of measures to rid the country’s waters of substandard vessels will help to make the maritime industry more competitive and attractive to investors, to the ultimate benefit of the national economy.

Poster Regulator
Today, the sector boasts significant improvements in several critical areas. Some of its achievements include: a well burnished image, leads in port state control, revenue contribution to federal purse, it is first to have a distinct antipiracy law in West/Central Africa. Others are: domestication of international instruments, first to install sulphur emission monitoring equipment on vessel, industry has also achieved reduced piracy, and a coordinated effort to end Cabotage waivers.

It is also important to state that the industry now boasts a comprehensive security strategy, the Deep Blue Project. NIMASA has brought Nigeria increased continental and international relevance, this culminated in the election of its boss as the Chairman of the Association of African Maritime Administration (AAMA) and Chair of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Correspondence Group on Marine Litter and Micro Plastics.
The agency has continued to work to ensure ratification of relevant international conventions on cleaner marine environment, and recently sent about six instruments to the government for ratification.

Stakeholders Awards
In order to keep its promise of rewarding hard work and to encourage stakeholders in the maritime sector, NIMASA in 2018 started what it called the NIMASA Corporate Dinner and Awards Night.

The event which has become an annual programme is to encourage industry players to keep striving to ensure global best practices are imbibed in their various activities, attract more investors that will help open up the blue economy and to also ensure compliance to maritime regulations, thereby making Nigeria a force to reckon with in the comity of maritime nations.

Tomorrow in Lagos, the agency will host stakeholders and present awards to those who have imbibed best practices in the day-to -day running of the sector.
The categories to be awarded include: Most compliant ISPS offshore and onshore facility; Best terminal and jetty operator; Best maritime training institution; Best shipping company (marine environment management).
Others are: Overall shipping company; Best cabotage operator; Company with largest combined tonnages and Best maritime financing banks among other categories of awards.
Also, the award ceremony will reward staff who have contributed meritoriously to the service agency ranging from fifteen to thirty years.
Speaking to newsmen recently, Peterside said: “Our existence as an agency is largely dependent on our stakeholders; without which we cannot achieve anything. Of a truth, there have been times of disparagements, sanctions and enforcement; all these were geared towards ensuring the right thing is done and laid down rules and regulations are adhered to. The Agency is therefore poised to reward hard work and encourage more investments in the maritime sector by appreciating those who have done well.

Service Delivery
Speaking on service delivery by the agency, he said the introduction of the Final Billing system has put to rest the issues of double billing and over/under billing with the creation of a platform for dispute resolution.
The system, he said, ensures appropriate closure on all vessel transactions within a period of two weeks after departure adding that this has led to improved customer satisfaction.

“Equally, we have made major strides in the drive for improved maritime domain awareness. With the use of satellite surveillance technologies, in combination with intelligence systems, we are able to identify, with a consistent 365 days and a five-year profile, all vessels that visit our Exclusive Economic Zone. We are further able to identify vessels that are believed to be engaging in suspicious activities and take appropriate actions.
“Also last year, we facilitated the participation of indigenous operators at international maritime expos and Trade Fairs creating the much needed link between the local operators and their foreign counterparts. The aim was to move from opportunities to realities. A remarkable success story in this regard is the facilitation of the match-making of indigenous operators with foreign partners for various international engagements, “he said.

The NIMASA DG added: “Currently, a portal is being created on the Agency’s website where the list of all categories of maritime operators and services provided would be hosted for match-making and direct contact by business interests around the world. This brings visibility and credibility to indigenous operators being projected by the Maritime Administration in Nigeria.

“Equally, we have secured the buy-in of some state Governments into the public sector cargo support initiative of the agency. Extending engagements on maritime with other state governors.”