September 26, (THEWILL) – The Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) has advocated for increased partnership from operators in the maritime industry.
This is for them to take advantage of the various port enhancement initiatives to promote regional maritime services, export and achieve effective connectivity and trade frequency in Africa.
More so, NSC, the federal government agency which is responsible for protecting exporters and importers in Nigeria as well as its goods, is keen to support export promotion as a way of boosting the nation’s economy.
This disclosure was made by the Assistant Director, Stakeholder Services, Consumer Affairs Department at NSC, Adaora Nwonu, at the just concluded Finance Correspondents Association of Nigeria (FICAN) 2022 Annual Conference with the theme “Boosting Domestic Capacity for Sustainable Export Earnings” in Lagos.
Adaora Nwonu, who represented the agency at the yearly capacity building event of FICAN, said as part of the efforts to ensure efficient regional shipping, the automation process of the port process had attained 68 percent completion and that this would enhance export trading in the region.
“For us automation is key and among other components which include developing inland waterways. In order to have an efficient port operation, there has to be a regional shipping or carrier, so that we do not continue to rely on foreign ones. Hence, the need for us to have our own shipping line.
“That is why we are working on our own shipping line called the Sealink and we have gone quite far. But beyond that, we are also advocating for more players and we are not leaving that just to the Sealink project,” she asserted.
She admitted, however, that there are challenges in the industry. According to her, the government is aware of those challenges and, therefore, doing its best in addressing them.
The NSC official disclosed that the ports are poised for 24-hours operations in line with the Executive Order on Ease of Doing Business but users of port services sometimes cite infrastructure and security challenges as reasons for their inability to access port services at after-hours.
“The shipping industry is dynamic in nature, but then, there are certain components that thrive in shipping business all over the world. We cannot run away from the fact that we need to automate our ports and our processes,” she maintained, adding that this will rub off positively on the operation of the Inland Dry Ports.
She said the Cabotage regime being handled by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA is to encourage indigenous vessel financing.
According to her, the Cabotage regime, which is under the supervision of the Ministry of Transportation and a disbursement bank, had not gone far the way it was expected as part of the improvement of port operations.
She also claimed that the current minister of transportation had assured that the Cabotage vessel financing fund would soon become a reality.
Also, another agency at the event, Nigeria Export-Import Bank (NEXIM) disclosed that the Sub-Saharan regional shipping line, Sealink floated by a consortium, is set to commence operations before the end of this year or in the first quarter of 2023.
This revelation was made by Tayo Omioji, Head, Strategy and Communication, Nigeria at NEXIM.
He claimed that the Sealink project was conceived out of the need for Nigeria to have a regional shipping outfit.
Omioji said Nigeria currently engages the services of foreign vessels to move goods outside the country, which is expensive and has negative impacts on its foreign exchange earnings.
According to him, reliance on foreign vessels increases cost and travel time as goods are first moved from Nigeria to the point of origin of the vessels and then to the final destination.
“If we have our own shipping line, we can bring goods from outside before moving them to other countries,” he explained.
He noted that a lot has been done in terms of financing the project, though the Ebola epidemic and inability to institute partnership agreements slowed it down.
“We later thought of further expanding the scope of the project. In addition to having a shipping project that allows moving our goods on international water, we also felt that we should also find scope in inland waterways.
“We need to do more in the infrastructure to move the goods from the cities to export destinations. We need to also develop our inland waterways. We can use barges to carry goods in the absence of port materials. That was why we were finding a scope in inland waterways,” he further stated.
He disclosed that NEXIM is currently working with the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, Nigerian Navy, Nigerian Inland Waterways and others to ensure smooth execution of the project.
Mr Omioji said, “Right now, we are charting and plotting the inland waterway, so that we can use barges to move some commodities.”
It would be recalled that the Minister of Transportation, Mu’azu Sambo, recently inaugurated Nigerian Shippers’ Council Governing Board with the charge to foster a robust, accountable and result-driven economy in line with global best practices.