Stakeholders in the maritime sector have expressed displeasure over the multifaceted problems confronting the sector.
According to them, the problems have affected the maximization of its huge potentials over the years.
The stakeholders, who spoke at an intervention session organised by the Senate Committee on Marine Transport in Lagos on Thursday, decried the chaotic traffic situation within Apapa and its environs, calling for an urgent solution to address the problem.
Chairman, Seaport Terminal Operators of Association of Nigeria (STOAN), Princess Vicky Haastrup blamed inconsistent policies of the government for the woes of the sector.
According to her the congestion on the port access road occasioned by bad roads, it now takes an average of 35 days for vessels to discharge.
“It makes me very sad and shows how unserious we are as a nation that the access to the port is so congested and no attention is being paid to it despite the huge potential of the industry. The problem is not because we have more cargo coming into Nigeria. As a matter of fact, the volume of cargo coming to Nigeria, compared to what volume we handled five years ago, is much less but we did not have this problem because the road was good.
“As we speak, Wharf Road has been completed but the bridge has been shut down and the contractor is not doing anything about it. Are we serious as a nation? Do they know what people coming to Apapa are going through? We are in danger in Apapa.
“Our terminal was handling about 17 ships in a month before this problem of traffic gridlock but now, we do an average of three ships per month. Ships that will take only five days to discharge is taking 30 days, sometimes 35 days presently because the terminal is full of cargo,” she lamented.
Chairman, Shipowners Forum, Mrs. Margret Onyema-Orakwusi lamented the spate of insecurity on the nation’s waterways which has led to high freight rate. She said shippers are also losing millions of naira daily due to the dilapidated port access roads.
“The cost of shipping to this country is astronomical. The cost of moving a container from Apapa to other parts of Lagos has also gone high. What we use to pay N120, 000 for is now between N900, 000 and N1.2 million. Some of us have lost perishable goods just to move them from the Wharf to various cold rooms because they have to stay in traffic for over six hours,” she said.
Orakwusi said there is an urgent need for the Federal Government to put in place measures to encourage maritime businesses to survive noting that the economy of the country rests of the private sector.
“If our businesses are killed, who then offers employment to our youths? Government must protect our businesses and the natural resources in the country so that the poachers will not have free hand,” she said.
Pioneer Chairman, Nigeria Shipowners Association (NISA), Chief Isaac Jolapamo, said the Federal Government has not shown any sign of seriousness to the development of the shipping industry as evident in its policy somersault and inconsistency.
According to him, if acquisition and management of ships could not work in the country, nothing can work.
“I have been fighting in the past one and half decades because I am very passionate about shipping development in this country. Unfortunately, we have not gone any far. We seem not to be serious about developing our shipping industry. I have already lost hope in shipping development in the country,” he said.
Meanwhile, The Nigerian Shipping sector may soon have a ministry of its own if the prayer of maritime stakeholders is answered.
The stakeholders and National Assembly members have agreed that the creation of a ministry for the sector will generate more funds for the federal government as well as phase out the myriad of problems bedevilling the industry.
The suggestion was made by Barrister Olisa Agbakoba, SAN at the Lunch with the Senate event organised by the Senate Committee on Marine Transportation held in Lagos, yesterday.
Agbakoba who wondered why the aviation industry is a full fledge ministry while the shipping industry which is bigger is submerged under ministry of transportation.
Senators Mao Ohuabunwa and Samuel Anyanwu, on behalf of other members of the committee, corroborated the suggestion pledging to table the matter in the upper chamber of the National Assembly.
According to both parties, the creation of shipping ministry will help a long way to solve majority of the problems in the industry.
Recall that the maritime industry is currently under the supervision of the Ministry of Transportation but the stakeholders maintained that the industry is big enough to stand on its own.
Agbakoba said, “I just want to say some general things. I have always wondered why the maritime sector which is bigger than aviation doesn’t have a ministry. It is always a surprise to me because I think it is a thing we must consider. Shipping is bigger than aviation
“We can have a ministry of shipping because we are a coastal state and because most coastal states do have a ministry of shipping. Aviation is a small sector and why then do we have ministry of aviation and no shipping ministry?” He queried.
Senator Mao Ohuabunwa, member of the senate committee supported the suggestion saying it is an eye opener for the senate to legislate on as well as expedite action.
He stated further that even after the passage of the bill, if the president refuses to assent to it, the senate would overrule the president because according to him, the creation would yield more income for the country.
“Things are created from legislative perspective, we will go back and put the bill and once it is accepted or even if the president refuses assent, thank God we have right to override that veto once we agree that it is something right for the industry.
“I believe with Mr Chairman, we are totally in agreement and by the grace of God, we will get that one done as soon as possible even now that we know that the shipping industry is bigger than the aviation industry and we can make more money from there
Also speaking, Senator Samuel Anyanwu aligned with the proposition, pledging that the Senate would consider the suggestion.
He added that the establishment of the ministry could actually lead to the end of the myriad of problems the maritime industry is fraught with.
He however maintained that the National Assembly would go back and legislate on the matter assuring to make substance out of it before the termination of the 8th senate.
His words, “All the problems in the maritime will be solved if there is the ministry of shipping. Our own is to go back and do our job,” he stated.
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