2019:  Little to cheer, but……          

Just like we predicted that 2019 would not be any better that the years before it, the outgoing year didn’t prove us or stakeholders wrong. 

The issues that dominated the industry remain constant, perhaps in some cases becoming more daring.

We all had the premonition that 2019 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 this, and we dare say that they remained with us even as we look forward to 2020.

Even though it was predicted, not everyone thought seriously that it would be as bad as it turned out to be. Certainly, 2018 gave a lot of hurting punches to maritime industry stakeholders, but 2019 was far punchier than the previous years. Ask ship owners, terminal operators, freight forwarders, even shipping lines which have had to bear the brunch of escalating piracy.

Of course, the highest common denominator in our collective anguish is the approaches to virtually all the nation’s seaports; from Lagos to Onne, to Warri and others, the story is the same; that of pains.

Arguably, Lagos ports users had the hardest punch as the chaotic traffic situation escalated to an all-time crescendo, leading to congestion as container laden trucks could not even leave the ports, and berthed ships hadn’t enough space to discharge.

Apart from port users, 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 2019 was not about the strength of the Naira vis a vis  other currencies , especially, the Dollar, Euro and Pound Sterling, it was how to get their cargoes out of the ports.

For the customs licensed agents, it was the usually cumbersome and high cost of cargo clearance, for the indigenous 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, 2019 was worse. 

Just like in 2018, 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 2019. Of course, to meet this target, the Nigeria Customs Service looked for money from all sources, including the unprecedented closure of shop and marts of automobile dealers.

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 prayed that the crises in the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) would go with 2019, and yes it did, with a new governing council now effectively in place, and a Registrar now in charge of the Council, the industry will surely remember the Minister of Transportation; Mr Rotimi Amaechi and the leadership of the freight forwarding associations for this.

No doubt, the CRFFN is one of the good news of 2019, it is our hope that he tempo will not go down

Going by records of previous years, we had hoped that piracy and sea robbery would reduce in 2019, 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 2019 with hope that the in-fighting that has almost killed the association would end. About this time in 2018, and on this page, we had written that we hoped the crises would end with 2019. Yes, our prayers were answered, only a few weeks ago, the issues were resolved and steps taken towards total reconciliation.

This is not the avenue to do agency-by-agency appraisal. 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 as well. 

As we sign-off for 2019, we, at First Mediacon Network Limited (owners of Shipping Position Daily newspaper and Shipping Position Live on Star FM), hereby acknowledge that 2019 is indeed a remarkable year.

We also seize this opportunity to thank our advertisers and all those who diligently buy our newspaper and those who listen to us on Radio. We also thank those who diligently support us, but crave to remain unknown. 

May you all have Merry Christmas celebrations and a prosperous 2020. Amen!