Maritime industry, key to solving nation’s economic challenges – Utomi


By Abiodun OBA


Maritime industry has been said to have the potentials of solving the nation’s economic challenges with its tremendous possibilities.

Renowned political economist, Prof. Pat Utomi, submitted during a maritime roundtable organised by the NLNG Shipping and Marine Services Limited (NSML) and Utomapp Limited.

Speaking on the theme, ‘Emerging Technology and Regulations in the Global Maritime Industry of the Future and the Impacts on the Nigerian Sector’, Utomi lamented that the sector has not been managed to realise its possibilities due to leaders and politicians who see the sector as a meal ticket.

He warned that if Nigeria does not catch up with the trends and make laws for economic competitiveness, it would continue to lag behind in the comity of nations.

“When you have an area that can transform your economy, you do not send boys to go and make money there, you find people who are capable of opening the place up and get them to go and transform your country. But because regulators and people, who lead, do not understand what they are doing, because there is a challenge of purpose. The maritime sector is seen as a place where they send people to go and make money.

“This is an industry where we can solve the problem of this economy because the possibilities are tremendous. There are so many ventures that flow out of the maritime sector,” he said.

As technological change continues to impact the future of the sector in Nigeria, Utomi highlighted some of the technologies that could influence the sector.

“These include digital platforms for ship and cargo tracking, robotics, blockchain technology, autonomous ships and unmanned ports, big data, Internet of things and artificial intelligence.

Utomi said the inefficiencies in the Nigerian port system have led to low productivity, thereby, appealing to regulators and legislators to continue to build their knowledge and liaise with industry clarity of national strategy.

Former Minister of Interior, Capt. Emmanuel Iheanacho said technology was the way to go for Nigeria to achieve a prosperous maritime sector.

According to him, technology is vastly encroaching on the delivery of maritime services. “How ready are we? How do we understand technology and what kind of technology is it projecting into the future?”

Iheanacho, who is the Managing Director of Genesis Worldwide Shipping, said Nigeria needs to start understanding and defining emerging technology that would drive the maritime sector.

He said: “For a prosperous maritime sector, technology was the way to go. It is geared towards getting better output into the input made. Goods that are carried on ships are going to be cheaper, the lives of the seafarers are safer, and the environment is projected. With these, we will not want to be behind, we want to be at the forefront of defining how this goes.”

The Managing Director of the NLNG Shipping and Marine Services Limited (NSML), Abdulkadir Ahmed, said stakeholders have significant roles to play in ensuring that Nigeria is not left behind in the new global maritime economy.

As strategic leaders and regulators of the maritime industry, he said there is a need to gain a comprehensive understanding of the complexities of the tropical issues, develop clear actions and guidelines that would guide regulators and place Nigeria on the pathway to success, through a safe, reliable and globally competitive maritime industry.

He maintained that technological advancement and regulations were critical issues fully anchored on the objectives of ensuring a safe, reliable and sustainable industry.

Ahmed said analysing the issues within the context of the applicability of the nation’s maritime industry was vital, as they are bound to change the operations and dynamics of the sector.

Specifically, while giving instances of progress made, Ahmed said the NSML, is at the vanguard of promoting the ideas of the two issues as they affect its operations as a shipping and marine services company.

To be able to operate safely and efficiently in a deeply regulated and technologically advanced maritime sector, Ahmed stressed that it is imperative that “we ‘future proof’ our people to ensure they possess the proper skills, capabilities and capacity through appropriate training and competency development programmes.”

According to him, compliance with standards and the drive for technological advancement are underpinned by the competence, capability and skill set of the people and are essential to achieving safety, efficiency and ultimately, competitiveness.

During the panel session, the panelists bemoaned the country’s overarching regulations, alleging that the regulations have no roadmap in the maritime space, among which is on how carbon emissions are measured in shipping.

According to them, solutions have been preferred on different fora but no action and implementation from the government.

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