With its long coastline, unique location, large oil and gas deposit, large and growing population, among others, the Nigerian shipping industry holds the prospect of generating trillions of buck annually into the government coffers, but sadly, this potential remains untapped.
Today, an estimated 90 per cent of the world’s goods are transported by sea every year even as the total value of the annual world shipping trade had reached more than $18 billion.
However, shipping’s ability to offer economic and efficient long distance transport puts it at the centre of the world economy. Each year, the shipping industry transports nearly 11 billion tons of goods, which include crude oil, iron ore and grain. These shipments would not be possible by road, rail or air.
However, the shipping sector also remains the most effective way to move complex goods and raw materials around the world. This also makes it one of the highest employers of labour and revenue earner.
Presently, Nigeria is said to be losing an estimated $10.5 billion in revenue annually due to its inability to harness its potential in the shipping industry. Ironically, Nigeria is also reputed as the highest importer of Norwegian fish.
Daily Sun investigations show that Nigeria is not taking full advantage of its offshore maritime potential. These include services that involve movement of cargos such as wet cargo like petroleum products as well as the shipping of bulk cargos such as rice, cement, among others. Daily Sun learnt that in offshore marine cargo business, Nigeria is not having more than 15 to 16 per cent participation in terms of market share. “In the real shipping of cargo, Nigeria does not have more than 4 to 5 per cent of the business.
Stakeholders at different fora advised the Federal Government to pay adequate attention to the shipping industry and unlock its potential in a bid to ensure its economy diversification is achieved. A shipping expert, George Olamilekan, said Nigeria needs strong political will to harness the $10.5 billion potential in the shipping industry that is eluding the nation, saying that without strong commitment from the government, the shipping industry will continue to be in shackles.
“Our maritime sector is vast and full of potential especially the shipping aspect of the sector. Our shipping business can generate more than $20 billion annually and create numerous jobs for Nigerians if we put our house in order. There is need for government to study what other countries have done that made their shipping industry efficient and viable.
“There are a lot of opportunities embedded in the shipping industry that we need to tap as a maritime nation. For instance, shipping has capacity to provide opportunity for inland water way transport, coastal and high sea trading, which made it possible for Nigerians to develop skill for fish and shrimps trawling enterprise,” he said.
He stated that shipping has engendered employment for sizeable number of Nigerian in various maritime related occupations, adding that it generates much-needed foreign exchange to the Nigerian economy in form of ship repairs, levies, taxes, port fees and charges among others.
Speaking with Daily Sun, Advisory Head/CEO, Kamany Marine Services Limited, Charles Okorefe, said that there are so many things, challenges and hurdles that has to be crossed.
According to him, first and foremost is the question of shipping policy in Nigeria! How robust and developed is the shipping policy in Nigeria? “What are the indices for growth in the shipping industry? That was a report few days ago that containers coming from China now are surcharged $1000 extra. What does that mean? It tells you that the Nigeria shipping environment has challenges.
Our ports do not give that kind of friendliness that necessitates quick turnaround of vessels. So in anticipation of their vessels being delayed, containers that are coming here are being surcharged,” he said.
He noted that another issue is the dumping of containers, which has become a common phenomenon in Nigeria because of congestion, empty containers cannot go into the port and truck drivers carrying them everywhere without access to the ports and delaying their businesses. He said what they do is simply dump them and that is why empty containers are littering everywhere, adding that in most cases, there is no return-cargo and no nation can run a shipping business without return-cargo.
“These are some of the major challenges. You will see the port at Apapa and Tin Can which are the major functional ports in Nigeria. Look at the challenges these two ports have, not to talk of the other ports in central areas that are not functioning at all or not functioning optimally.
“Congestion is a major problem that leads to delay in ship turnaround time and also problems of dumping empty containers, making it impossible for the return cargo to be effected in most cases and the shipping companies are losing money on those containers not being returned.
“In some areas, you even found scarcity of containers to even ship goods in most ports now because containers are stuck in most cases in ports like Nigerian ports. These are major challenges,” he explained.
In the area of policy, he emphasised that Nigeria does not have clear-cut policy to guide the nation’s ports and the shipping business.
“We are talking about Nigerian Shippers Council as the economic regulator of the ports. Are they functional? Are they even accepted by other agencies of government like NIMASA, NPA and NIWA? So these are contending issues that are weighing down on the maritime industry in Nigeria especially the shipping and port businesses.
“The potential is there to even generate more than $10.5 billion that people are talking about. But is our house in order? The answer is no. Forever they are still working on Apapa Road, which is a major problem for access cargo dwelling time in port.
– The Sun