Stakeholders and experts in the maritime industry, who gathered at the fifth edition of the on-going Nigeria Maritime Expo (NIMAREX), holding in Eko Hotel, Lagos, have called for a sustained development in capacity building in order to enhance the industry to take its pride of place in boosting the nation’s economy.
The experts and practitioners who cut across maritime administrators, ship owners and captains, maritime lawyers as well as freight forwarders who spoke at the annual event, which kicked off Monday, were unanimous in their views that the development and growth of the sector will however depend on capacity building and professionalism.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the event with the theme: “Regenerating Economic Growth Through the Maritime Sector”, Executive Secretary, Nigeria Shippers Council, Mr. Hassan Bello said that the Nigeria’s maritime industry needed to be well organized, “the government must consciously step into the industry and provide the environment needed for growth.”
He noted that investors were working under a harsh environment with no power for terminal operators, no good access road to the port and other terminals making clearing of cargoes.
“Government needs to address some of these issues, to enable the maritime sector make its expected contributions to the national economy. Maritime is the gateway to the economy. If we have good maritime sector, our economy will grow in term of redeployment, infrastructure and we will have to depend on modern transportation, which is the key,” he said.
Chairman, NIMAREX 2015 Planning Committee, Mr. Ayo Adedoyin in his opening speech listed the challenging issues in the maritime sector as funding for vessel acquisition and tonnage building, sundry equipment procurement and ancillaries.
“We must find the trajectory to international funding and effective structuring of maritime banking funding; building developing adequate maritime infrastructural and seeking dimensional approach to enforcing our maritime domain to check economic seepages,” he said.
He said NIMAREX was planned to provide solutions toward enhancing the economic fortune of Nigeria through deliberate and ambitious exploration of huge maritime resources of the country.
President of the Nigerian Association of Master Mariners (NAMM), Captain Ade Olopoenia, in his views said the issue of well- qualified personnel to manage the industry was critical to its sustainable development.
He said that the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN) in Oron, Akwa Ibom, lacked the capacity to produce seafarers of international standard since they could not give the cadets necessary sea time training.
“The right training makes a seafarer marketable to the world, but the maritime academy does not give the cadets the required sea time training.
“It is seen that a number of youths are eager to become seafarers, but what about the right training for them?” he noted.
According to the NAMM President, Nigeria at the present has about 10,000 seafarers, which he said was inadequate to run the nation’s maritime industry.
He said Nigeria could however make huge economic gains and impact just like the Philippines does through seafarers’ development and export that rakes in as much as $4.6 billion annually.
Also speaking in similar vein, President of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders, Chief Eugene Nweke, noted that capacity building in all sub-sectors of the maritime industry remained critical.
He said it was sad to see that young officers still lacked sea time experience, which is a key requirement for international standard.
Nweke also urged government to dedicate adequate funding to development if the industry.
In his own contribution, President of the Shippers Association of Lagos State Rev Jonathan Nicole, said the Nigerian cadets could begin to get sea time training only when the ship-owners acquire vessels.
Nicole, however, said that it would take the stakeholders coming together to set up a fund that would be geared towards vessel financing.
“We can train our seafarers in the requisite sea time, so, I challenge stakeholders to come together to set up a fund to enable us acquire vessels over time.”