How #COVID-19 exposed underbelly of Nigerian maritime industry — Omatseye

How #COVID-19 exposed underbelly of Nigerian maritime industry — Omatseye

Peter Olaniyi

Mr Temisan Omatseye, an erstwhile Director-General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has explained that the ravaging #COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the many ills plaguing the nation’s shipping industry.

Omatseye, who is also the former President, African Shipowners Association (ASA), made this known on a virtual programme monitored on Tuesday in Lagos.

The former NIMASA DG, during the programme  tagged “Redefining Shipping in Nigeria: Lessons from COVID-19 Pandemic”, said that presently, the effect of COVID-19 pandemic on shipping industry was quite scary because  there are no tankers of crude oil around the world as a result of  lockdown which he said has led to the closure of industries.

He noted that the country could not shut down its wells because to reopen the wells again would cost millions of dollars, adding that some wells in Nigeria are so old that it might be impossible to restart them again.

Omatseye stated that the COVID-19 exposure was very terrible because it was no longer an issue of economics but of national security, stating that the national inflow of dollars and revenue for government was the oil and gas industry which is already affected.

“Naturally, what should happen at this time is for continuous production and storing of crude oil in vessels so that they can remain there until it is needed.

“We have the same problem like the rest of the world but the challenge in Nigeria is that we do not have the right law in place, a system that can commandeer vessels, but we cannot commandeer vessels we don’t have.

“If we had developed and owned  at least 20 to 30 vessels in Nigeria, we would have continued to produce and just use up as temporary storage until when the world gets its act together,” he said.

Omatseye said that as regards the Cabotage Act, which he described as very strong and progressive it had issues with execution. The challenge being the need for a deliberate policy for the Act to function.

He pointed out that that for countries to survive they needed to move to gas, solar and other fields but the issue was how prepared was the country towards that.

He said that the production of gas was a small part, adding that logistics, the supply chain management which make up to 60 per cent of production should be well managed.

He called for the revival of the National Shipping Line which was still an on-going concern, adding that the line does not need to own vessels.

Omatseye said that for the shipping industry to move forward, the trade terms should move from Free on Board (FOB) to Cost Insurance and Freight (CIF) so that the country would have the right of first refusal.

He called for a working relationship with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) as they own shipping lines, adding that the main focus was on its relevance to the country.

He equally called for government investment in the shipping industry, stating that their investment would go a long way in pushing the industry forward.

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