The Anatomy of Government Neglect in Nigerian Maritime Industry

By Abayomi, Adekanmi Alexander | Africa Policy Journal, January 1, 2016 | Go to article overview

The Anatomy of Government Neglect in Nigerian Maritime Industry


Abayomi, Adekanmi Alexander, Africa Policy Journal


Introduction

The 2015 Nigerian Maritime Expo (NIMAREX) left Nigerians with numerous reflections, including the unpleasant state of Nigerian seafarers, ineffective implementation of Coastal and Inland Shipping (Cabotage) Act 2003, and foreign dominance of Nigerian coastal shipping. These reflections and other challenges confronting the industry are products of government neglect. They also require serious attention because Nigeria's maritime industry is strategic to the nation's economy. Apart from Nigeria being an exporting nation, largely due to oil production, the nation's population and importing policies also make it one of the biggest markets for foreign goods. Nigerian relationships with shipping and trade are tremendous. Totals of 5,139 and 1,131 ocean-bound vessels called at the Nigerian Ports in the first quarters of 2015 and 2016, respectively, and cargo recorded during the first quarters of 2015 and 2016 was 49,604,516 metric tons and 43,347,523 metric tons, respectively (Nigerian Ports Authority). In a statistical bulletin, the Central Bank of Nigeria reported that about eighty percent of goods consumed in Nigeria are imported. Nigeria is a coastal state. It is endowed with a coastline of about 870 kilometers and about 3,000 kilometers of inland waterways with vast exclusive economic zone. Moreover, the nation still needs to complement these endowments with investments in human capital and infrastructural renewal, ship acquisition programs, scientific policies, and automated port operations in order to fall in tandem with Goldman Sachs. Goldman Sachs identified Nigeria as one of countries with the potential to join newly industrialised nations like Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.

To show how insignificant the industry is to the government, the Central Bank of Nigeria announced plans to provide financial assistance to some sectors in 2015, but maritime sector was unscrupulously omitted from this arrangement. Despite the potentials of Nigeria's inland waterways, it still has a long history of neglect. , Government has made some efforts to make the inland waterways attractive. Recently, a section from Baro in Niger State to Warri in Delta State was 572-kilomeer dredged (National Inland Waterways Authority). With all the advancement of American inland waterways system, the U.S. is still desperately striving to improve its inland waterways system. Lamar Alexander, a Republican senator from Tennessee, introduced the American Waterworks Act in 2012, which sources funds for the improvement of the nation's inland and intra-coastal waterways.

The State of Nigerian Cabotage Legislation and Challenges Facing Nigerian Cabotage Fund

Some of the reasons the Coastal and Inland Shipping (Cabotage) Act of 2003 was enacted are to encourage domestic participation in the nation's coastal shipping and to restrict foreign access to Nigeria's domestic coastal shipping and offshore operations. Unfortunately, the Cabotage Act of 2003 has done little to actualize these objectives. To believe the Cabotage Act of 2003 will work without some basic structures and regulations in place is like hoping that a camel will pass through needle's eye. For instance, the Cabotage Act of 2003 states that only vessels wholly-owned and manned by Nigerian citizens, built and registered in Nigeria, shall engage in Nigeria's coastal territorial inland waters. These provisions are difficult to comply with because wholly-owned Nigerian vessels are extremely scarce, and are also sub-standard, low-tonnage vessels. Nigeria's ship owners are moribund with no incentive or finance to compete with foreign vessel owners; hence, they have been edged out of lucrative business opportunities in Nigeria's oil and gas industry.

Section 23(1)(e) of the Cabotage Act of 2003 provides that vessels operating on Nigerian waters shall be exclusively crewed by Nigerian citizens, except where the Minister grants a waiver. Nigerian mariners are currently perceived as mere classroom seafarers with no experience. …

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