Dr. Muda Yusuf (Former DG, LCCI)
The maritime industry faced a very difficult year, first from the view of the pandemic and economic recession which affected the global supply chain (import and export). That was a major global issue.
We had the challenge of infrastructure. This covers the challenge of the access roads in and out of the major ports and also challenges within the ports. The capacity of the ports att to handle the ever-increasing volume of international import and export, the capacity of the key stakeholders (terminal operators and shipping companies).
We had challenges of lack of application of technology. As of the end of the year, even we still don’t have functioning scanners at the ports. So we continue to result to a physical examination which contributes a major bottleneck to ease of doing business at the ports. There are too many documentations and challenges with all the agencies at the port and issues of extortion slowing down the process of cargo handling. There are issues around the foreign exchange. You cannot do international business without foreign exchange.
On the whole, there is a need to accelerate reforms in the maritime sector especially in the area of cargo clearing and also critical stakeholders at the port, and the need for us to create an enabling environment in the maritime sector.
Aminu Umar (Former President, NISA)
2021 was a little bit better than 2020 in terms of shipping activities. We have seen an increase in terms of the movement of cargoes. However, the freight rate in 2021 has been not too impressive when you compare it to the beginning of 2020, especially for tankers. The dry cargo is doing well in 2021. They are enjoying a very high freight rate; particularly the dry cargo ship owners. The freight has been very good especially for the bulk cargo carriers. In terms of piracy, we have seen fewer attacks. Although we had some in 2021 we can say it is a little bit better than past years. In terms of government policies, we have seen some very good achievements this year. For the first time, we had zero duty announced to ships which have been approved at the last quarter of 2021. We have also seen the launching of the Deep Blue project which is for security.
We were hoping to see the disbursement of Cabotage fund, but unfortunately, the CVFF fund has not been disbursed. I believe that will go into next year. By and large, this year has been a little bit better than the past years. 2021 is a good year (although not too good) for shipping in Nigeria.
Captain Tajudeen Alao (President, Master Mariners)
Coming from 2020 from the COVID lockdown, things are picking up. We’re coming from a zero level up to where we are today. Looking at the close of the year, even though there is another variant of the pandemic, I think shipping has picked up. Internationally, the freight rate is going up. More ships are being ordered from the shipyard. With the deployment of the Deep Blue assets this year, we hope and with collaboration with international community piracy will be curtailed. The Government needs to take deliberate actions to prop up, release the shipping fund loan, and don’t divert it to any other place so that it can boost trading business.
Captain Warredi Enuisouh (Secretary-General MASPAN)
The industry is still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic and Africa was able to handle it well. There were no adverse crew COVID-19 related incidents, port health was on their toes and did the right thing. However, the Gulf of Guinea saw the advent of a new- sea robbery and piracy response project – Deep Blue Project. Stakeholders had a lot of hope and faith in it as it brandished itself alongside the Nigerian Navy’s Falcon Eye, NPA’s C3i and the NIMASA’s C4i.
One would have thought that with this much disproportionate accumulation of response assets and force, sea robbery and piracy would be history in the region. Unfortunately, we never tested any of them in anger as the presence of foreign Navies in our waters was first announced by the Russian Navy in response to a piracy attack and another by the Danish Navy, all happening in Nigeria’s Search and Rescue Region of Responsibility.
It was stated that in Quarter 3, the 27 attacks were within the anchorage and port limits which makes one wonder that, if we cannot handle what is happening within the anchorage, how can we go out to sea and rescue a ship in distress?
One thing is becoming clear to me. These foreign Navies were invited to come and help us as we are helpless. Whoever invited them is not talking. And that explains why we don’t deploy our assets.
Engr. Bob Yuosou (President, Merchant Navy)
I will say Nigeria did not do badly in the sense that looking at pandemic from 2019, 2020, operations have become slow not only in the maritime sector but also in the global economy. This has affected maritime operations negatively. It also affected oil price too. I will say we didn’t do very well and we did not do very badly because in terms of the government relationship with the international body looking the IMO seat which we lost. We lost because of the inability of the government to do the right thing at the right time and place the right people at the right places.
We should look at our mistakes and make necessary corrections individually and the government at large, so that next year will be better for all of us. If we are giants in Africa, we should be giants in all areas. But because of our lack of internal organization arrangement we lost. I will say there is still life, and next year will be better than this year. I pray that the government should learn from our past errors and mistakes; put our house in order so that we get our rightful place in future years.
Dr. Segun Musa (Deputy National President, NAGAFF)
2021 has been more or less a year of challenges in the maritime industry. Unfortunately, we just came out of the pandemic and the government has not been ensuring that measures that will improve the operations and efficiency of the maritime industry were in place. Some policies are not facilitating trade in the maritime industry. If I am to rate the performance of the maritime industry, I can say it is far below 10 percent for 2021. This is because most of the industries under the 2021 assessment collapsed. We have not achieved any meaningful results in 2021.
We are only hopeful that government will try as much as possible to do due diligence that will enhance performance, trade facilitation, and improvement in the sector for 2022. 2021 was a failure in the maritime industry. The Deep Blue project was also a wastage and failure because it was staged up without any content by promoting ideologies that have no bases. While preparing for 2022, we should begin to look at policies and regulations that will drive the maritime industry especially trade facilitation and not just revenue collection.
Rev. Alex Nwokedi (National Financial Secretary, AREFFN)
When we talk about the maritime industry, we’re talking about the economy, because the industry is a major player. Without the maritime industry, the economy will not record any growth. There have been ups and downs but we must continue to match forward. There is nothing wrong with import and export especially when we have them at par with each other. What makes it bad is when the other is higher. There is no way any country can be dependent on its own. Every country has a comparative advantage over the other in terms of trade.
By and large, the economy is on the low globally putting the maritime industry into perspective. Freight forwarders have been complaining that things are not working. The commitment of the government to see that the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway is given a facelift so that there will be easy access to the port. So many government policies have not been fully implemented. Government measures and incentives have never worked in full capacity due to a lack of implementation, foresight, and commitment by the leaders. In all the maritime industry can bring rated 50 percent.
Comrade Stephen Ibeh (National President, T-PACI)
There’s no improvement in the maritime industry in 2021. This is because there is less shipment of all the general cargo and less export outside Nigeria. This is a very serious issue. That is why the shipment from China has skyrocketed from $5,000 or $6,000 to $15,000 – $20,000 for a container because there is less export and the ships are going back empty. Based on this, you’re charged for both to and fro. The cause of all these is due to bad policies and corruption. The nation is on its knee about to collapse. Despite the efforts made by the government and critical stakeholders, we still have some saboteurs thwarting such efforts. The government and its officials cannot solve these problems alone, we look forward to a better maritime industry next year, but the right things should be put in place.
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