2018: What a year!

We all had the premonition that 2018 would be though, but no one thought it would be as though as it turned out to be.

As Nigeria’s leading maritime media organisation, we are conscious of the issues that dominated the nation’s maritime landscape, even in the years before 2018, and we dare say that they remained with us even as we look forward to 2019.

Even though it was predicted, not everyone thought seriously that it would be as bad as it turned out to. Certainly, 2017 gave a lot of hurting punches to maritime industry stakeholders, but 2018 was far punchier than the previous years.

From the importers to clearing agents, to ship owners, haulage operators, stevedoring companies, the story is the same. It is perhaps worse for those who either work or live in the port city of Apapa and its environs.

For the importers, the agony of 2018 was the dwindling strength of the Naira vis a vis  other currencies , especially, the Dollar, Euro and Pound Sterling. For the customs licensed agents, it was the usually cumbersome and high cost of cargo clearance, for the ship owners it was the same old story of lack of patronage and dominance of foreign ship owners.  For the owners/drivers of articulated vehicles that are used for dry and wet cargo haulage, 2018 was worse. For residents, port users and all who either work or have businesses in Apapa, 2018 was full of pains!

Just like in 2017, when government mounted pressure on the maritime sector for revenue owing dwindling earnings from crude oil, attention was on the sector for revenue for the government in 2018.

 Even though the value of Naira stabilized marginally in 2018, when compared with what obtained in 2017, it was still difficult for importers.

From an exchange rate of about N280 to 1$ in 2015, to N480 by the end of 2016, down to N360 in 2017, the Naira hovered around N366 to $1in 2018. The same ratio applies to Euro and Pound Sterling which navigated around N420 and N460, respectively in 2018.

For an import-dependent economy, the Nigerian importer was confronted with a terribly unfriendly import policy, especially the continued shut-out of 41 items from the official foreign exchange window.

We had hoped that crises in the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) would go with 2018, and yes it did, with a new governing council now effectively in place. The industry will surely remember the Minister of Transportation; Mr Rotimi Amaechi and the leadership of the freight forwarding associations for this.

We have lost count of how many times we have written about the state of the two approaches to Lagos ports, we have lost count of how many efforts that have been made to direct attention to the failed access into Lagos ports.

Yes, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo flew over Apapa in a chopper, thereafter called a meeting of some strategic stakeholders, promises were made. It is only in 2018 that a bit of action is being seen on these roads.

Even though 2017 ended without a solution to the Apapa roads and traffic; it can indeed be said that 2018 gives us hope that we are not stuck with the problem that has turned a once-bubbling city into a failed port city.

Going by records of previous years, we had hoped that piracy and sea robbery would reduce in 2018, but they didn’t.  Nigeria still rank tops in the Gulf of Guinea and enjoys an unenviable position on the global piracy rating scale. 

For freight forwarders, apart from the peace which CRFFN now enjoys, the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) entered 2018 with hope that the exit of Prince Olayiwola Shittu as President would translate to a continuation of his good deeds. But, how wrong they are, the association is factionalised.  Certainly, this is not what the immediate past President (Shittu) would love to leave as legacy for an association that he elevated from near-obscurity. It is our hope that the issues will be resolved before it festers, hopefully before 2019.

If we continue to pick on agencies and subsectors, there will be no space to touch on all. Suffice it to stress here that, some did well, while others didn’t do well. 

By our assessment, topping the list of the agencies that did well in 2018 is the Nigeria Shippers’ Council, the Nigerian Ports Authourity and the Nigeria Customs Service. 

For us at First Mediacon Network Limited (owners of Shipping Position Daily newspaper and Shipping Position Live on Star FM), is a remarkable year.

As usual, we are appreciative of our advertisers and all those who diligently buy our newspaper and those who listen to us on Radio. 

It is our prayer that our industry will be better next year. 

May you all have a merry Christmas celebrations and a prosperous 2019. Amen!