SHIP-OWNERS Association of Nigeria, (SOAN) has proposed a maritime master plan for the Common wealth member states with a view to enhancing maritime and shipping activities within the region and beyond.
Speaking at the recently concluded 2015 Commonwealth Business Forum (CBF) hosted by the European Island nation of Malta, President of SOAN, Engr Greg Ogbeifun said that the plan will also create the enabling environment for international investments in every facet of the maritime domain within member-nations.
Ogeifun whose presentation titled ‘The Shipping and Maritime Industry in Nigeria: Opportunities highlighted the present state of the maritime domain and shipping activities in Nigeria and the huge opportunities offered for investments and growth by this major contributor to the national economy. He invited foreign investors to tap into these opportunities to expand the frontiers of their businesses. The maritime environment in Nigeria, according to Ogbeifun, will continue to be a veritable platform for transportation, global commerce, resource exploitation and recreation.
He said “The Nigerian maritime sector will remain relevant for the economic prosperity and development of most nations because of its abundant mineral resources and huge maritime ecosystem. Ogbeifun told participants at the forum that Nigeria’s maritime sector remains the nation’s economic Centre of gravity with 80 per cent of the national budget based on revenues from crude oil and gas exports, taxes and royalties.
“This, therefore, underlines the fact that Nigeria’s maritime industry will remain attractive as a sector that will continue to generate interest on account of its resource potentials.” he added
He also debunked negative media reports in the local and international media portraying Nigeria as a ‘no-go area’ for foreign investors owing to a number of concocted and unsubstantiated reasons proffered by people with various interests that are known to be largely selfish. Nigeria, through SOAN, also made a strong argument that it has become inevitable that developed nations within the Commonwealth family must partner with the poorer and developing ones in whatever ways possible to drive investments and development in them for the overall advantage of the people.
As the largest market in the African continent and the biggest economy in the sub-Saharan Africa, Nigeria accounts for over 65 per cent of total sea-borne traffic in volume and value in the West and Central Africa. He explained that following the enactment of Nigeria Cabotage law there has been a growth and development domestic water-borne transportation. The Cabotage law according to Ogbeifun has also brought about an increase in the demand for cargoes and persons to be transported between the country’s ports and inland waterways by ships and ferries, a development that has prompted calls that modern, safe, reliable and efficient domestic water-borne transportation be expanded for the benefit of the people, shippers, their businesses and the economy.
Explaining furthers, he said that in the first quarter of 2015, a total of 5,139 ocean-going vessels with a total Gross Tonnage (GT) of 61,990,999 called at Nigerian ports compared. This is compared with the GT of 57,034,338 recorded in 2014.
“The GT of crude oil tankers recorded in the period under review showed a 12.21% increase over the equivalent period in 2014. Such a number of vessels trading on Nigerian waters and the volume of maritime activities in the country demands vibrant ship repair and dry dock facilities to provide essential services to the vessels where and when necessary. Presently, these services are inadequate both in number, capacity and capability.
“Therefore, this calls for the development of a robust ship-building and repair industry that would make ships and marine platforms acquisition, repair and maintenance affordable.”