As a maritime media organisation, we had our own high expectations that the Nigerian maritime industry would fare better in 2009, we had high hopes that some (if not all)) of the myriads of problems that are bedeviling the sector would receive attention. Whether 2009 has been a good year or not, is a matter of perception and subjectivity.
We had written at about this time last year that the maritime sector largely drifted in 2008, recording no spectacular achievements, that is, apart from the Regional Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre and the inauguration of the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria. We had also observed that the creation of a regulator for technical and commercial activities in the nation’s seaports is being unnecessarily delayed.
By and large, in 2009, we didn’t have to worry about the rescue centre which is now functioning very effectively; we however needed to worry about the freight forwarders council which was largely embattled on many fronts throughout 2009.
But as the curtains gradually draws on year 2009, it is our observation that the maritime sector faced more challenges than it did in 2008. We will like to ouch on a few of these issues; not in any particular order.
It is heartwarming that the disagreement over the establishment of a regulator for the port system has been resolved following the outcome of a recent business/technical session which the House of Representatives committee on marine transport hosted in Abuja. At the meeting which was attended by a few players in the sector, it was agreed that a body to be known as Independent Port Regulatory Commission would be set up as an integral part of the new Ports Act.
The year 2009 saw the change of leadership at the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency. While recognizing the right of government to appoint into offices whosoever it so wishes, we will like to equally observe that the frequency of change in leadership at the apex maritime regulatory agency is a disservice to the industry. We advise that year 2010 and the years to come should witness a more stable tenureship.
May we also observe that the impact of NIMASA has remained largely unfelt by its immediate stakeholders whose operations the Cabotage Act is expected to boost; neither has the agency been able to address the rising spate of fake seafarers.
Perhaps, the darkest spot on the nation’s maritime domain is he inglorious high rating on the piracy scale. He outgoing year saw Nigeria experiencing more deadly attacks than ever, so much so that the authoritative International Maritime Bureau submitted in its end of the report that “Nigerian coast is worst in the world” and that majority of the piracy attacks are unreported.
Equating Nigeria sadly, with war-torn Somalia, the bureau says that “whilst Somalia is, rightly, getting a lot of media attention for its piracy problems, a worrying trend is emerging off the coast of Nigeria. We have noted a higher level of violence in attacks off Nigeria than any other region in the world.”
Beyond piracy and related issues, we think that year 2009 will be remembered as the year when Nigerian shipowners under the aegis of Indigenous Shipowners’ Association decided to take their destiny into their hands by arresting foreign flagged vessels for allegedly violating the provisions of Cabotage owing to he apparent failure of NIMASA to enforce the Act.
Without necessarily doing a sub-sector-by- sub -sector analysis of year 2009, it is indeed a more fulfilling year for the Nigerian maritime sector.
And as usual, for us in the Shipping Position family, we can boldly say that like 2008, year 2009 is indeed our year. Not only were we able to remain a respected member of the shipping community, we were able to add value to what we do by putting together what has now become the reference material for maritime industry stakeholders.
At the close of 2008, we celebrated the public presentation of our book, Contemporary issues in the maritime industry, as year 2009 is rolling by, we celebrate the making of history. We are the brain behind the maritime industry non- governmental organisation; the Maritime Industry Advocacy Initiative (MAIN), which within a few month of its registration has started fulfilling its objectives.
As 2009 gradually winds down, we are resolute in our determination that come 2010, your soar- away Shipping Position Weekly will be better.
From all of us, the prayer is for you to have a fun-filled Christmas celebrations and for you to have a prosperous 2009. Amen.
Our strength lies in our faith in God Almighty.
See you in January, 2010. Amen.