THE URGENT SURGE FOR GROWTH IN THE MARITIME SECTOR
The tripartite relationship involving the ships, ports and people has from time immemorial existed, speaking of the Montreal Port in Canada, the Singapore, Chinese and even the Indian ports among others with improved sense of inter-modalism and technological application which have intensified the rate of interconnectedness in their respective systems. The maritime industry in Nigeria represents a complex structure providing a number of inter related and inter connected resources such as ships in respect of pilotage, provision of berth, dredging, maintenance of navigable channels, stevedoring inter alia, ports in respect of loading and unloading of cargoes, freight and services, the Land as regards delivering cargoes to and from the connected hinterland and the human resources involved which plays significant roles in every regard. This article expatriates the significance of the maritime sector in the development of the Nigerian economy, the state of connection between the actors in the sector, reason the connection gap must be bridged and the economic importance.
The Significance of the Maritime Industry
The maritime sector is of crucial significance to the Nigerian economy. It offers the primary means of transporting goods internationally which contributes enormously to the growth and expansion of the Nigerian market. It accounts for the immense growth in Nigeria’s energy and resources, industry and trade, revenue generation and availability of finance,promotion of tourism,development of related economic activities,employment and job opportunities, institutional development, international relations as well as sciences and leisure activities. It is an integral part of the Nigerian economy and commerce and it demands innovative solutions and careful management systems to ensure its long-time sustainability.
While addressing the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Council in its 116th session at its headquarters in London, Secretary General Kitack Lim explicated the need to identify and promote best practices such as bridging the gap between the diverse actors in the maritime sector which are ships, ports, and persons that operate them. The ancient landmarks in the Nigerian maritime industry is marked with death trap gaps between these actors. Drudging is now the order of the day in the industry as a result of the perpetual inconveniences, the ships do not have any providential time at the ports also, worthy of note is the incessant delays that is being caused ships due to the deteriorating roads and bottle neck traffic that leads to these ports. All these have attendant effects on the economy.
The Panacean Elixir to Resolving The Issues of Connection
However, there is always a silver lining behind the darkest of clouds. To allow for connection, it is important that the indispensability of each player in the maritime industry must be recognized. Humanity, in the sense of government strategic actions including those of the industry workmen is key because their effects determine the state of interconnectivity among these diverse actors.
The first measure that can be applied to allow for connection between these diverse actors is Ergonomics. This is the design of the work environment to fit individuals who work there. A ship is unique because it is not only a place of work consisting of the machinery, control room, engine control room, gadget control room inter alia, it is also a home for those who work on board. For a shipping system to function effectively and efficiently, it must be designed for people who work it without any risk to their health and safety with no negative impact on their overall performance. Principles of Anthropometry for convenience purposes must also be adopted in the design of a ship throughout its lifetime. The US Coasts Guards Crew Endurance management program can also be adopted by the Nigerian maritime industry which has contributed in the improvement of performance, safety and morals of the workmen in the United States maritime industry. Medical provisions and procedures on board must also match up with international statutory requirements apart from the health education which must be given the seafarers. All these and more will go a long way in connecting the ships and the people.
Though it is biblical that the narrow way leads to life, in this sense I aptly modify that a broad way leads to life for an economy like that of Nigeria. The country has been, is still and may, if proper measures are not taken remain in the pathetic state it is. The bottle necks, deteriorating state of roads that leads to the ports are nothing to write on about. Comrade Emmanuel Nted, President General, Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria has earlier this year decried the various state of access roads leading to various ports across the country. Truck owners under the Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO) are not also finding the situation funny. Yet, it is said that the strategic position of Apapa port in the nation’s economy ought to have made its roads a priority in the plan of both Federal Ministry of Transport and the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing. This shambolic situation has led to the delays in movement of persons and cargoes to and from the ports consequently resulting in cargo diversion to neighboring ports with the epitome of this smooth interconnectivity. Statistics also shows that the incessant delays of ships in the ports spawns the revenue to fall by a colossal 50 percent. Having identified all of these challenges and consequences, it is advised that the government reconsider its past actions and adopt inter-modalism, linking the road transport networks with the railways and possibly air transport to allow for an improved sense of operating at the Nigerian seaports.
Again, it may be said that the perfect answer to any question borne out of the unceasing collisions, groundings and related is having sound ships but this assertion will be a ballpark as it has been confirmed by maritime experts that there is no such thing as a perfect ship. These occurrences are as a result of the negligence, inexperience and lack of technical know-how of the pilots and other concerned officials. For example, the Italian Costa Concordia which had on board 3,200 passengers and 1000 crew members had ran aground somewhere in the Mediterranean Sea on June 13, 2012 due to the reef it struck, maritime experts have confirmed that the ship deviated from its normal course which was as a result of human errors. Many wrecks recorded in Nigeria’s waterways have also been said to have been due to the crew falling short of standard basic rules. In this light, it is submitted subversively that the only way the people can be connected to the ships is by enhancing the technical know-how, skills and expertise of those who are in one way or the other connected with the propelling of these vessels on the water bodies through continual trainings and re-trainings.
The question of insecurity, theft and safety at the Nigerian seaports which makes the heart of investors, ship owners, operators and other stakeholders waiver is worthy of consideration, being a cardinal determinant as to achieving the height of interconnectedness we seek to attain. Commendable is the efforts of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) which by virtue of section 22 (1) and 22 (4) of the NIMASA Act 2007 and section 2 (1) of the Merchant Shipping Act 2007 have been performing their functions of Flag State and Port state control, search and rescue, removal of wrecks and derelicts and aerial and costal surveillance. The agency also carries out maritime safety, security operations and seafarers’ standard training and certifications. Moreover, a cleaner ocean policy which can reduce health hazards caused by the emission of dangerous gases from these ships like that of China can also be adopted by NIMASA and of course the continual performance of these functions will incontrovertibly bridge the distant connection gap between persons and ships.
In a broad sense, connecting ships, ports and people may augur well for the continual growth of the business, commerce and the economy. Since the commencements of the various diversification policies, the maritime industry have mutatis mutandis been recognized as one germane sector which could proffer fast track solutions to Nigeria’s dilemma. The industry has over the years proven to be productive in terms of contributing to the GDP of the nation, improving commerce, strengthening foreign relations and development of international trade which can be one goal any true government must achieve. This therefore should put the government on its toes to enact and implement various laws and policies that will be suitable for the progressive development of the industry. Worthy of note is the issue of port charges, since half loaf is better than none, it is strongly advised that the government sticks to its reduced port charges rates so as to curb cargo diversion and its attendant effects on the economy as recorded since 2013 where there has been perpetual reduction of the vessels berthing at Nigerian ports. This will serve as an incentive for investors and stakeholders to patronize the industry. All other forms of undue charges should be frowned at by the appropriate authorities. Quick clearance of goods to allow for the complex growth of businesses cannot be shoved off. The Executive Order of the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo SAN signed early this year is a laudable initiative in this regard.
In addition, the use of the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) system which would pass for quick and intelligent adjudication of disputes must be strengthened in all quarters in the maritime sector. This is underlined by the fact that not all stakeholders have interest in unnecessarily elongated litigation which is the order in the proper court of law. If the people must be connected to the ships and ports to attain economic breakthrough which can be a reality as a result of stakeholders’ investment, the ADR system is indispensable. Friendly and payable taxes, tax holidays for companies which have interest in the sector among others, consultations with experts and relevant stakeholders before policies are made,promotion and pleasant remuneration of workmen, scholarship opportunities for students who may be interested in the maritime industry perhaps to the International Maritime Law Institute, marine cadets, technological schools for the engineers employable in the nearest future are other ways in which the connection between the ships,ports and people can be strengthened all of which are the content of my requisite elixir for resolving the deploring state of Nigeria’s economy.
Having shown the critical and integral nature of the maritime sector to the Nigerian economy and explicated the fact that only the connection between the three germane actors; the ships , ports and people will allow for growth in this sector which will either directly or indirectly result in a better economy for the nation contributing to the level of employment rate, expansion of market, healthy competition, reduction of poverty rate and majorly, contribution to the Gross Domestic Product of the nation.
Ahmed Ayomide Timileyin is a student of the Faculty of Law, University of Lagos. He has a keen interest in the maritime industry and its development, tax compliance and public law. He is the leader of Good Governance, an arm of TAGGED. He writes specifically on matters relating to laws, policies and their implementations. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org