The Director-General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr Bashir Jamoh, says the Federal Government is working on reviving the national shipping fleet with carriage rights of up to 50 per cent of all state-owned cargoes.
Jamoh made this known during his presentation on “Maritime Safety Administration and the Growth of the Nigerian Economy in the 21st Century’’ at a seminar organized by the Bureau of Public Service Reforms (BPSRs), on Thursday in Abuja.
He was represented by Mr Olu Aladenusi, Director Maritime Safety, NIMASA.
According to him, NIMASA has been modernising and reforming the Nigerian Ship Registry to support national tonnage growth and fleet development.
He said besides flag protection, the government has provided several incentives for Nigerian flagged vessels.
“Since the second quarter of 2019, Nigeria topped the chart on Port and Flag State, Control responsibilities in West and Central Africa Sub-Region.
“Significant reduction in time required to start a business in Nigeria, significant reduction in the cost of start-up business procedure, facilitation of maritime traffic through the ratification of the FAL and convention with concrete steps to its domestication,’’ he said.
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Jamoh said recent developments being pursued by the agency included an MoU with Maritime Academy India to provide sea time for cadets trained by the Agency, Nigerian Seafarer’s Development Programme (NSDP) and the training of seafarers.
The Director-General added that they were also into collaborations to further develop human capacity and manpower locally.
“To date, NIMASA has trained over 2000 Nigerians under the NSDP scheme in various Maritime Training Institutes.
“NIMASA led the first Nigerian Maritime Industry Forecast which highlighted key developments in the Nigerian economy as well as in the maritime industry.
“And offered an outlook on key parameters driving businesses in the industry in 2018 – 2019 period and has continued to champion this economic outlook to date,’’ he added.
Jamoh said the agency had improved investor relations through a matchmaking of Nigerian shipping operators with their international counterparts for ease of business negotiations and deals.
The Director-General also said they had established a national fleet and national carrier, as Nigeria has a comparative advantage in cargo generation.
He noted that about 70 per cent of all seaborne trade in West and Central Africa were husbanded in Nigeria.
Jamoh noted that there has been enhanced maritime awareness and surveillance capability to deal with issues of insecurity on Nigerian waters.
He further said that the government was working to regulate all obnoxious and multiple charges and taxes stifling the business environment.
The Director-General said the agency had significantly reviewed downwards, its benchmark freight rates, to accommodate the yearnings of the maritime business community in Nigeria.
He further stated that the agency had shown leniency in classifying the entire vessel route into five broad routes in determining its charges, which is to the advantage of shippers.
Jamoh said Nigeria has drastically cut the number of agencies at its ports from 28 to nine, adding that this has reduced significantly, the delays arising from interface with multiple agencies at the ports.
“Government has drastically cut the number of agencies at its ports and this has reduced significantly, the delays arising from interface with multiple agencies at the ports.
“There is now joint boarding of vessels by all key agencies for regulatory compliance, checks.
“The Nigerian Customs Single Window Platform is also making information sharing easy for relevant agencies of government as required under the FAL Convention.
“Government has also made starting a business faster by reducing the time needed to register a company at the Corporate Affairs Commission and allowing electronic stamping of registration documents,’’ he said.
Jamoh said the government had adopted private sector participation in resolving infrastructure deficit in the maritime sector through privatization programmes and Public-Private Partnerships.
He said other major interventions were the provision of legal framework for dealing with piracy and other maritime crimes, as well as comprehensive maritime security architecture and the Deep Blue Project recently launched by President Muhammadu Buhari.
He explained that the Deep Blue project was an Integrated National Surveillance and Waterways Protection Solution with command and control infrastructure to increase monitoring and compliance enforcement within Nigeria’s Exclusive Economic Zone.
He said it became imperative due to illegal activities that had increased and intensified in the Gulf of Guinea in recent times.
The assets of the Deep Blue included: marine assets, special mission vessels, interceptors air assets, special mission aircraft, unmanned air vessels, helicopters.
He said land assets had armoured vehicles, Intervention team; the `C4I Asset’- Command and Control, Computer; Communication and Information Centre, with a bird’s eye view of land, sea and airspace.
The DG announced that Nigeria was the first in West and Central Africa to satisfy the international requirement on Piracy Law.
He explained that these bold steps were widely commended and perceived to have forced a drop in the incidents of maritime crimes in the Gulf of Guinea since the second quarter of 2019.
Jamoh listed other areas NIMASA had Cooperation with for improved security to include: Naval Forces within the Gulf of Guinea, cooperation with the Nigerian Navy and other Security Agencies.
The Director-General said they were also into partnership with International Police Organization (Interpol) and had joint enforcement operations with the US Coast Guard.
He added that they were currently creating a legal framework to fight maritime crime.
Earlier, the Director-General, BPRSs, Mr Dasuki Arabi said the topic selected for discussion was timely and relevant in view of the crucial role the maritime sector plays in the overall development of the Nigerian economy.
According to him, piracy has been a major problem to Nigeria’s maritime and ports economy and has brought about a negative impact and deterred would-be investors in Nigeria’s shipping sector.
“There is a need for improved efficiency in maritime operations in Nigeria to improve global competitiveness.
“Agencies like Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency is saddled with the responsibility of improving predictability and transparency in maritime and ports operations.
“This will enable confidence and growth in the sector, which in turn is going to bring and increase revenue and economic development in Nigeria,’’ he said.
He noted that public services across the world have always been constrained by the reform imperative of modernisation necessary to achieve institutional vitality and readiness to confront present and future administrative challenges.
Arabi said that the Bureau was established primarily for the initiation, coordination, monitoring and ensuring full implementation of government reform policies and programmes.
He said they had monitored and collaborated with NIMASA in achieving its set objectives in the areas of service efficiency and effectiveness for positive results.
The Director-General expressed gratitude to President Buhari for the opportunity to serve as the institutional platform for sustainable reform implementation and coordination in the country.
Arabi also thanked the Secretary to the Government of the Federation who serves as Chairman of the Steering Committee on Reforms together with the Co-Chair, the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation for their continued support to the Bureau.