It is the first edition of Shipping Position Daily for the year, and we welcome you back into our world, even as we thank you for keeping faith with us. Welcome to 2024!
In this part of the world as with elsewhere, the norm is to be hopeful that each new year will be better than the previous one.
So, even as the issues of the previous years have remained prevalent and dominant, the tendency to be pessimistic is indeed high.
Certainly, this year portends a lot of anticipations for the Nigerian maritime industry. It is expected because of some actions of the previous year, which are likely to impact on the industry, positively or otherwise.
The Nigerian maritime industry, just like others contended and indeed struggled with other sectors to cope with the challenges of 2023, there were indeed some issues that had their own identities. There were issues such as bad port access roads, scarcity and soaring cost of forex for importation, extortion, and a plethora of others.
It is shocking that for the sixth year running, the fears that we nursed and indeed predicted have refused to abate. Rather, in 2023 they became more pronounced and reinforced.
From shippers to clearing agents, to ship owners, haulage operators, stevedoring companies, the story was the same. It was perhaps worse for those who either work or live in the port city of Apapa and its environs, who had to contend with debilitating traffic.
While it is true that the roads had been fixed, they were rendered useless because of the activities of non-state actors and articulated vehicles.
For the importers, the agony of 2023 was still about accessibility and cost of foreign exchange, which at a point climbed to as high as N1,200 to $1 in the parallel market. 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 and the non-disbursement of the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund. For the owners/drivers of articulated vehicles that are used for dry and wet cargo haulage, 2022 was not quite different from previous years. But for those who patronized them, it was a bit better, because it cost less.
Despite the electronic call-up system of the NPA, trucking business still remained an avenue for extortion by certain interests, even in 2023.
Just like in the previous years when government mounted pressure on the maritime sector for revenue, owing to the drop in earnings from crude oil, attention was on the sector for revenue for the government in 2023.
As we begin the journey into 2024, we are conscious of the fact that expectations are high on account of the birth (in 2023) of the Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy, headed by the immediate past Governor of Osun State; Mr Adegboyega Oyetola.
No doubt, the ministry will have to hit the ground in 2024. This is because, nothing was noticeable last year, and that is apart from a few visits to the minister and meetings with some stakeholders.
The Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy Ministry superintends NIMASA, Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC); Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA); National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), MAN Oron, and the CRFFN. These are agencies that are already saddled with their respective challenges, which predate the birth of the new ministry.
The Minister proposed to spend N10.9bn in 2024 and he said the proposed budget is aimed at facilitating the oversight and monitoring of government policies within the marine and blue economy domain.
He has also highlighted that the ministry is pursuing its goal of generating 20 billion dollars annually, while aiming to create two million jobs on a yearly basis through strategic development within the sector.
The minister said that his plan was to transform the Marine and Blue Economy sector into a significant contributor to the nation’s economy.
“In Nigeria, experts further noted that the untapped potential within the Marine and Blue Economy sector is estimated to be a staggering $296 billion.
Oyetola also said that government was also considering the re-establishment of a National Shipping Line, through a strategic PPP arrangement.
The minister said that the move was aimed at capturing a substantial share of the estimated $10 billion annual ship charter market within the country.
We took the pain to highlight these KPIs as put forward by the Minister, because it is on this that the industry will benchmark his achievements, even as the year has commenced.
Yes, the heads of these agencies have signed a Performance Bond with the Minister. So all eyes are on him and his team to change the narratives and begin to cause the changes that we expect.
As a maritime media organisation, we are happy about the decline in attack on ships coming into Nigeria. We commend both NIMASA and the Nigeria Navy for this feat. Our waters are safer now than they were in previous years.
It is our hope that in 2024, NIMASA will work more seriously towards ensuring that the feat is sustained. Between the Minister and the DG of NIMASA, the disbursement of the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund should be achieved in 2024.
Our ‘wish list’ ought to be longer, but we are conscious of the fact that the Minister is presiding over a new Ministry, as such, patience is needed. But 2024 will throw challenges at him and the heads of agencies.
We pray that indeed 2024 will usher in a new era of positivity for the industry in general. We pray it turns to be a great and impactful year for us. Amen