For the umpteenth time, the Federal Government has again lamented the low- level of indigenous participation in shipping business in Nigeria; especially in Cabotage operations.
Transport minister, Alhaji Ibrahim Isa Bio who made this observation recently while receiving the report of the ministerial committee that reviewed the Cabotage law, consequently tasked the indigenous operators on how to take advantage of the almost five years old law.
Receiving the report of the committee which is headed by Senator Ugochukwu Uba, the minister assured that he would see to the implementation of the committee’s recommendations.
He stressed further that any aspect of the recommendations that requires legislation would be forwarded to the National Assembly to ensure that the law meets the aspirations of Nigerian shipping practitioners.
Acknowledging that the purpose of the Cabotage law was to encourage Nigerians to own vessels and participate more effectively in coastal shipping, the minister however lamented that since its passage in 2003, the Cabotage law has failed to meet the expectations of indigenous players.
According to the minister, foreign ship owners are taking advantage of weakness on the part of the implementing agency to dominate the nation’s shipping sector to the detriment of indigenous operators.
Lamenting that Nigeria had lost speed and focus in its initial aspiration to be a maritime nation, he compared the nation with Malaysia saying that “we started almost the same time with Malaysia, while Malaysian vessels have grown from seven to one hundred and twenty, Nigeria which started with 20 vessels has gone down to zero. This is very unfortunate and should not be allowed to continue like that. We should use the opportunity of this Cabotage law to encourage our indigenous shippers to own their own vessels.”
Submitting the report earlier, Senator Uba had told the minister that Nigeria is endowed as a shipping nation boasting of almost 1000 kilometres of coastline and about 10,000 kilometres of inland waterways, with thriving petro-based local shipping freight needs.
Senator Uba who is a former chairman of the Senate committee on marine transport also said that it was regrettable that her maritime sector has been dominated by foreign merchant fleet , saying that the essence of enacting Cabotage law was to remove the dominance.