Demola Irinyemi (IFFN)
I will say that the maritime industry has recorded some significant strides since 1999, but I also consider it unfortunate that political interests have impeded the industry’s development because of selfish considerations. However, on the ports side, there is a change in status as NPA now functions as landlord rather than as a master stevedore to engender improvement in terminal operations, thereby making our ports more competitive in this sub-region. NIMASA, on the other hand, is doing well to reposition the maritime industry, though it still needs to work towards proper implementation of the Cabotage Act. Nigerian Shippers’ Council is also doing well as it keeps creating platforms to protect the interest of the Nigerian shippers. It is also championing the cause of establishment of Inland Container Depots in the six geo-political zones in the country. The Council will do better if it is given the opportunity to transmute to National Transport Commission. I want to say that we should vigorously pursue and ensure the implementation of genuine policies that will lead to a variable maritime industry.
Major H.A. Ajetunmobi (GM, Facilities, Ports and Cargo)
The development of the maritime industry within the era of democracy can be looked at in different dimensions, first democracy ushered in privatization where the private sector has been brought into the industry as what obtained against before and the results has been very good, in terms of cargo throughput, revenue generation, speed of delivery and the turn around time of vessels. It has been good news all through, the statistics are there, so it’s not as if one is being sentimental about it.
In terms of infrastructural growth and the reversal of infrastructural decay, all the terminal operators are in more or less a competition to modernize and upgrade infrastructures in their respective terminals, there is a heavy capital investment in the area of plants and equipment, state- of- the- art cargo handling equipment is being acquired by terminal operators.
On the other side, some may argue that all these improvements and impacts have come at a great cost, yes. I want to say that maybe port cost has not come down considerably as some people have envisaged, that might be so for sometime because most terminal are still busy investing and reinvesting, they are yet to recoup these investments, so until that starts manifesting, it may take some time before it affects port cost, maybe that is what we can see as one of the difficulties.
Jegede Rotinwa (Clearing agent)
Within 10 years of democratic rule, there have been quite a number of improvements and developments concerning ports activities, there has been increase in the number of ships coming into the ports under democratic rule. Also, with the advent of e-payment system at the Customs Processing Centres, it has become much easier to transact business with the Customs. Above all; the most significant development that has happened to the industry under democratic rule is the port concession.
However, there are still some problems at the point of delivery that need to be addressed in order to further make the ports efficient. Some of the terminal operators still lack needed equipment to enhance efficient cargo delivery. Other areas that need to be improved upon is the bonded terminals; their charges are too high, most of them don’t have equipment at all and this calls for a lot of concerns.
I will say that I am personally disappointed that the industry has not developed significantly as expected. Nigeria is a very large market and a very powerful maritime nation in the West and Central African sub region and given the fact that sea borne cargo in Nigeria is the largest in the sub-region, I expected to see a viable maritime industry in our country but this has not been the case. The number one major problem is that we don’t have a viable merchant marine fleet and that means Nigeria does not have ships to carry goods and that is the saddest part with regards to the industry, the government has not empowered indigenous outfits to own ships and meanwhile, when we talk about representation on the IMO seat, it depends on vessel ownership and the level of sea born trade you generate.
I do appreciate the fact that the past governments have tried to make some efforts but its yet to see the light of day, talk about the Cabotage regime which is not functional.
On the other hand, privatization has really transformed the industry; it has brought a lot of efficiency in the ports, reduced bureaucracy and created a lot of employment opportunities.
Chukwuma Obi (Importer)
The maritime industry has done well within the 10 years of returning to democratic ruled. Following the port concession and other developments; we have had a good working condition and a more secured port, compared to the days of NPA.
It will be good to mention however that one of the problems the industry still has is that we do not have control especially over foreign ships and also the Cabotage law that was enacted and which is not working, other areas that we still need to work on is the area of frequent congestion at the ports, the government does not seems to have a lasting solution to that yet.
Chuks Okereafor (Five Star Logistics, Tin can)
There has been a rapid growth in the maritime industry in the sense that the government, haven seen the extent of revolution taking place in the maritime world, Obasanjo was able to travel round the world and he saw what was happening in other countries. First there was privatization when they allowed the private sector to come into the ports system, but that did not work out.
Also, when government saw what is obtainable in other countries, they now consider concession in order to allow for a better output, since then, there has been a lot of improvement in terms of cargo throughput, level of investments in the ports, quality of service and professional planning being applied by different terminal operators.
Formally, there was nothing like PTML, but today we can see what is happening and the level of extensions at the ports and even at the tank farms.
However, irrespective of whatever achievements that might have occurred in the past 10 years, there is still room for more, we still need to improve on them.