“There’s no need for Nigeria to establish a National Fleet”

…Government should rather create enabling environment for indigenous ship owners


The Federal Government has been advised to create enabling environment  and empower  indigenous ship owners to expand and compete against foreign rivals and become dominant in cabotage trade, and subsequently, in regional , and in future, deep sea shipping trade, than continue  with its idea of creating a National Fleet.

Dr. Edmund Chilaka in his book titled “The Rise, Fall and Liquidation of Africa’s Pioneer Carriers: Nigerian National Shipping Line and Black Star Line” which was launched on Thursday in Lagos, said the book has thrown open a discuss on how indigenous shipping operators could achieve better performance than toe a path that ended in failure.

Dr. Chilaka stated that “Instead, the Federal Government should take policy measures to help indigenous ship owners to grow their tonnage and improve their practice of competitive sea trading.”

The author said it was evident that private-owned enterprises survived while government-owned businesses including shipowning and operations could not survive due to “bureaucratic tendencies, and in Third World countries, these are compounded by corruption, ethnoreligious nepotism, ineptitude and mismanagement of public assets.”

He, therefore, called on the Federal Government to attend to the following petitions: “Implement the cargo reservation provisions in the NIMASA and Cabotage laws, whereby Federal and State government cargoes are reserved for pre-qualifies indigenous shipping lines.

“Restart the programme of technical and financial support to pre-qualified indigenous shipping lines to repair, retrofit, survey, and insure their ships for ocean and cabotage trade.

“Release the CVFF to qualified indigenous shipping operators; and desist from commercial operations that are outside the statutory mandate of the MDAs, such as the foray into a floating dry-dock.”

The book reviewer, Prof. David Aworawo, blamed the eventual liquidation of the NNSL on indiscipline on the path of the workers who did not show commitment to the operations and need for sustainance of the business because it was owned by the government.

He said: “As a government company, the workers were simply not committed, so there was gross indiscipline in the way they operated. For instance, there was incessant strike action by some of the workers who only thought of what they could gain, and not what the country needs to sustain the company.”

“The example of Ghana Black Star Lines was cited when they went on strike for more than six months, and by the time they came back, all the ships were dead, nobody oiled them, they couldn’t function and they were subsequently sold as scrap. As the ships were sold as scraps, the workers too didn’t have job to do again.”

Speaking, Chairman of the book launch event, Capt. Emmanuel Iheanacho, who is the CEO of Genesis Worldwide Shipping, commended Dr. Chilaka for documenting such rich history of the events that shaped indigenous shipping operations through the Nigerian National Shipping Line, and the Black Stars lines in Nigeria and Ghana respectively.

According to Iheanacho, information in the book could be a rich resource to guide investors and operators of shipping lines presently or in the future.

He said: “Out of this bad business of NNSL, we now have a historical record that people now and in the future can reference to, that if they venture into the business again, they have a good chance of achieving success.”

In his address, the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, Mr. Hassan Bellow, who was represented by the Deputy Director, Consumer Affairs Department of the Council, Mr. Celestine Akujobi, made a startling revelation of how Nigerians paid about $45 billion between 2015 and 2019 , to foreign shipping lines for freight of dry and wet cargoes.

Citing data by the Nigerian Ports Authority,  Bello revealed that between 2015 and 2019 alone, a total of 26,147 vessels called at the Nigerian ports with total dry cargo throughput of 372,000,000 metric tonnes and total wet cargo throughput of 613,000,000 metric tonnes.

He said: “If we apply the NIMASA benchmark freight rate of $92.5 per metric tonnes, for general dry cargo from Europe, total freight of more than $34 billion was paid for the period while with a benchmark freight rate of $18 per metrlc tonnes for crude oil to Europe, freight paid to foreign ship owners on crude on export was more than $11 Billion for the period.”

“This means that more than $45 Billion was paid as freight for dry and wet cargo to foreign ship owners by Nigerians from 2015-2019 alone.

“This is an economic opportunity loss to the nation as the country did not benefit anything as freight from carriage of her cargo due to absence of Nigerian fleet plying international trade.”

Bello, however, said that it was for the reason of the economic loss that a ministerial committee for a national fleet was constituted with members drawn from both the public and private sectors of the maritime industry to establish a Nigerian fleet that would be wholly private –sector  driven, while the government would provide requisite support.

He noted that over the years the development of a Nigerian fleet had suffered challenges including ship registration issues, absence of incentives for the maritime Industry, as well as faulty trade terms where Nigerian exports are shipped on Free on Board (FOB), and imports are shipped on “Cost Insurance Freight (CIF).

In his contribution, Captain Tajudeen Alao, President of the Nigerian Association of Master Mariners, said his position on the conversation is that the NNSL did not “die” but remain alive in several indigenous shipping lines that came after its liquidation.

“Before the birth of NNSL, nobody knew that Africans could own a ship. But today, indigenous practitioners and shipowners like High Chief Raymond Dokpesi, Fajemirokun, Jolapamo, Odili, Ladoja, Capt Iheanacho, Alhaji Waziri, Greg Ogbeifun among other indigenous companies emerged.”

Dr. Chilaka had earlier noted in his presentation how private enterprises in the sector flourished through government support, saying: “ During the golden years of Nigeria’s indigenous shipping trade between 1987 and 2000, more than 34 vibrant shipping lines thrived based on the support of the National Maritime Authority’s cargo allocation scheme.”



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