By Richards Adeniyi
The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has called for the implementation of policies that will strengthen indigenous shipping companies to make them competitive internationally.
The Director General of the agency, Mr Dakuku Peterside made the call on Friday in Enugu at the ongoing Enugu International Trade Fair.
Peterside, who was represented by the Director of Audit in the agency, Mr. Victor Onuzurike, said that there was no registered indigenous shipping company involved in international operations in the country.
The director general said that Nigeria had about 2,206 flagged coastal ships of all categories but no registered indigenous international ocean-going vessel.
He described a situation where all cargos bringing vessels into Nigeria were operated by foreigners as against economic development of the country.
Peterside, therefore, appealed for some space to be reserved for indigenous shipping companies to thrive in the international scene.
“These statistics present a very poor outlook for indigenous participation in commercial shipping business in Nigeria.
“The reality is that it will get worse without conscious government intervention,” he said.
Peterside said that it was costly to ignore the criticality of cargo availability and its implications on the development of local shipping capacity of a maritime nation.
He said that the situation had made a deliberate well-coordinated government support through public sector cargo reservation for indigenous shipping owners imperative.
“The common justification for state support is premised on the profound economic and strategic interest of a country,” he said.
He said that shipping would less likely develop without conscious government intervention by way of fiscal policy framework.
He said that such conscious move would be a catalyst to ship acquisition and by implication, rebuild Nigeria’s moribund national fleet.
“The Cabotage regime is a protectionist policy aimed at encouraging and supporting indigenous operators by insisting that the vessels that trade in the Cabotage region must be built and registered in Nigeria and manned by Nigerians,” Peterside said.
Earlier, the President of Enugu Chamber of Commerce Industries Mines and Agriculture (ECCIMA), Mr Emeka Udeze, commended NIMASA for assisting to boost the quantum of importation through shipping.
Udeze said that the agency had greatly boosted trade and commerce, adding that without the critical roles being played by NIMASA, the sector would not have been vibrant.