…Wants Nigerian shipowners to control supply chain
Temisan Omatseye, the former director-general of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has called for the restructuring of the Federal High Court of Nigeria into three specialized units.
Speaking on Friday in Lagos on the topic, ‘Measurable Stride in the Nigerian Maritime Industry: Forging a Path towards Sustainable Shipping,’ as a keynote speaker at Taiwo Afolabi Annual Maritime (TAAM) Conference 5.0, Omatseye said the High Court can be divided into Civil division, criminal division and Commercial/Admiralty division.
He said that judges appointed to handle each division must be a specialist in the respective field with a minimum of a master’s degree and 10 years of practice.
Citing an example, he said that judges who do not understand issues of admiralty adjudicate admiralty cases wrongly which ends up having a negative impact on the shipping business.
He said the failure of Nigerian shipowners to take control of the supply chain as it relates to shipping must be considered a national risk because the country cannot totally depend on foreign shipowners who basically determine the freight rates to charge and vessels to bring in or take goods out of Nigeria.
“We can categorically say that 100 percent of goods that leave and come into Nigeria that Nigerians carry only 2 percent while the remaining 98 percent is carried by foreigners.
Omatseye condemned Nigeria’s reliance on foreign vessels to carry its minerals and other exports, which their determined rates are higher than market rates making Nigeria’s goods uncompetitive in the international market.
He said that previously, a tanker that used to bring petroleum products at $20,000 per day for charter, now charges Warri $55,000 and Calabar $89,000 per day.
On the importance of having a shipping line, he cited an example with the piracy issue in the Gulf of Guinea around Somalia that made international shipping lines to increase their rates, Ethiopia which is a landlocked country maintained its own freight rate while the likes of Maersk Line increased.
“People started moving goods through Ethiopia Line and the international shipping lines were forced to drop their freight rates because they were losing money. But in Nigeria, we do not have that kind of opportunity because we do not have any ship,” he said.
He called on the Federal Government to approve and develop additional seaports as well as a national shipping line to reduce foreign dominance.
He added that Nigerian shipowners should be given the criteria to register as a national carrier in line with Section 35 of NIMASA Act. He said that this would allow them to take advantage of the federal law to carry state, local government cargo, both liquid and bulk.
“Government have done its best when it comes to laws about shipping, they are good, excellent, what we need to do is to operationalise laws that we have as Nigerians and not allow foreigners to intimidate us.
“Government should ensure the disbursement of the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund by putting in place implementable regulations,” he said.
Earlier, Taiwo Afolabi, the chairman/CEO of the SIFAX Group, said the Nigerian maritime industry could rank among the best in the world with proper funding, good policies, enabling environment, manpower and massive infrastructure development.
Represented by Bode Ojeniji, the managing director of Sky Capital, Afolabi said that a good foundation for sustainable growth and positioning had been laid by the professionally-run government agencies.
“The development of new ports and inland container depots across the country is a testament to the abiding faith of investors in the industry and the rail development linking seaports to dry ports is a game changer,” he said.
Bashir Jamoh, the director-general of NIMASA, said who was represented by Olamide Ogunsoya, director of Audit, said there were universally accepted criteria for evaluating the status of the individual country in a community of maritime nations.
He listed them to include capacity in terms of shipbuilding and repairs, banking system, available institutions for the training of certification of seafarers, and others.
“Nigeria remains a work in progress when compared to some of the global maritime powers who have mastered sea-going trade for several centuries. But Nigeria has earned the right to be taken seriously and respected at the international level. Our achievement as a regional leader remains unassailable whether in terms of volume of trade or assertion to key maritime inventions and the development of in-country capacity. The future is indeed for Nigeria shipping,” he said.