The multiplier effect of a vibrant maritime sector can only be imagined. If other sectors are benefiting from CBN intervention fund, why shouldn’t the maritime sector?
Dr Dakuku Adolphus Peterside, is the Director General of Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA). He is a medical doctor by training, a politician by identification and an administrator by profession. An orator and a public speaker, Peterside, in this interview, ex-rays his achievements since he was appointed the DG of one of the richest most lucrative agencies of government.
Untapped maritime potential
We are looking at it from a multi-dimensional approach. One is infrastructural development that demands that port as a primary place of business must be fully developed. A number of private initiatives are in place to develop our ports. We are also looking at financing the acquisition of assets. We are engaging with Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to create a special interest fund for maritime infrastructure development and assets acquisition.
Aside from creating a special interest rate, we are looking at the early disbursement of cabotage financing fund. We don’t want it to go the way of similar intervention funds in the past. And so we are reengineering the guidelines. We are taking a number of steps to ensure that ship owners who are investors in the sector get access to financing at single digit interest rate because we have heard several complaints that with a double-digit interest rate, we can’t be competitive among maritime nations.
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Another issue is one of building human capacity. Vessels are usually driven by human beings. If you don’t have the right knowledge base and skill you can’t grow the industry. So, we are investing in building up capacity at the lower level, middle level and higher level. We are investing in Nigerian seafarers Development Programme where we directly intervene in growing a number of seafarers so Nigeria will have enough seafarers sufficient to operate within our environment and even export to other countries. We are growing a number of our policymakers and policy operators with our Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the World Maritime University. We are also supporting the maritime establishment of the Nigerian university at Okerenkoko, as well as giving support to the Maritime Academy, Oron and the establishment of maritime institutes around the country.
We are also doing that of capacity building. This is part of building necessary partnership to grow the sector. We are building partnership with the private sector too. We are building partnership with our neighbours. We are building partnership with the security agencies so that our water will be safe. We are building partnership with members of the National Assembly to put legal framework in place to drive the industry. We are building partnership with the Ministry of Labour, Ministry of Transportation and other inter-agency partnership to ensure that we have the right framework in place, the right partnership to grow the industry. We are looking at the infrastructure development, building infrastructure; we are looking at access to financing the infrastructure we are looking at human capacity building and building necessary partnership to drive the industry. Those are the things we are looking at.
Status of Calabar Port
Calabar Port has a peculiar problem. It is a problem that is being tackled at the ministerial level with the support of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA).
The draft of Calabar Port is not good enough to receive big vessels. Beside the draft, it also has a neck that is both narrow and shallow that needs to be properly dredged to enable it receive channels that take you to Calabar Port. Calabar Port is not strictly-speaking a deep sea port. I believe that the ministry is doing something about the eastern port. The ministry has set up a committee to look at how it can deepen utilisation of the eastern port. Calabar Port is part of the eastern port. The eastern ports are Calabar Port, Onne Port, Rivers Port, including Delta Port. Recently, a contract was awarded for the dredging of Delta Port in Warri. So, I believe that a lot of efforts are being put in place to ensure that we re-engineer the eastern ports so that activities will pick up soon.
We sought for technical support from International Maritime Organisation (IMO), which has granted a number of technical support that we proposed. There are several areas where they have granted technical support, and a number of such initiatives will commence in September this year. There will be a number of in-country seminars, workshops including sending experts to Nigeria to train our people in different areas. And so, that is what we can say concerning the support from IMO which they have granted.
We have opened communication with CBN asking for a special interest rate for maritime activities including maritime assets and maritime infrastructure. We cited that a similar fund exists for the real sector, a similar fund exists for agriculture or farmers and other sectors. So why can’t we have a special intervention fund with the CBN for the maritime sector. There are many reasons we should have a special intervention fund with the CBN. The maritime sector has the capacity to create a lot of employments.
It also has the capacity to generate wealth. The multiplier effect of a vibrant maritime sector can only be imagined. And so, if other sectors are benefiting from CBN intervention fund, why shouldn’t the maritime sector benefit? And we laid out a number of ways we think they can intervene in creating a special interest rate for anybody bringing in vessel into the country to make us competitive and to develop maritime infrastructure in-country. Set up a special fund. You did it for the real sector; you did it for agriculture; you did it for other sectors. Do it for the maritime sector. It is doable. It will be for the ultimate benefit of the country.
Approval to purchase helicopter
We obtained the approval of the Federal Executive Council and the president of the country to invest in a number of maritime security assets. These assets will be managed by the Nigerian military. We are going to acquire special intervention vessels, special mission aircraft, special mission helicopters and a number of fast security vessels. When we acquire these things with a bid to tackle piracy we will work closely with our security agencies – the Nigerian Navy, the Army, the Nigerian Police and the Nigerian Airforce to operate these facilities. It will not be operated by NIMASA. NIMASA will interface with them, work closely with them. The idea is to bring down piracy to zero within our maritime space in the next one year. We are in a hurry because today Nigeria is easily regarded as the hotbed of piracy in the global maritime space. That is not acceptable to us.
How much are we looking at?
We are looking at between $185 and $195 million depending on where you are standing.
The seas and oceans provide the cheapest means of moving goods from one jurisdiction to another. Today, globally, trade to the extent of 80 per cent depends on the seas and the oceans. It also provides a means of livelihood in agriculture or aquaculture depending on what you choose. It sustains lives by reason of the environments. And so in many ways, whether seaborne trade or for the provision of protein and other sources of food, whether a sources of energy, whether a source of minerals, whether as a means of sustaining life on earth itself, the seas and oceans are very important. But for Africans, it is even more important for us because Africa is literally an island surrounded by seas and oceans.
If you look at the global map you will notice that Africa is about the biggest Island in the world.
And for Africans, it is even more important to us. And for us that are battling with our economies, it becomes an opportunity for us to explore our economy, to advance our economy, provide economic means of livelihood for our people. And so, at some point the African Union Commission declared 25th of July every year to celebrate African Day of the Seas and Oceans to draw attention to the need for the sustainable management of the seas and oceans.
If you talk of impact, we may not have made as much as we would have wanted. But it has drawn the attention of the country to the need to formulate a policy for the blue economy. The blue economy is an economy that is dependent on the seas and oceans whether for energy, mineral exploitation, whether for transportation and whatever economic activity that is dependent on the seas and oceans.
For us as a country, we never looked at it in a holistic manner. We are always looking at shipping as an isolated activity. Aquaculture or fishing as an isolated activity; energy that is derived from the sea as an isolated activity. The government for the first time is taking steps to formulate a blue economic policy that
will drive the other initiatives. For some countries they have a blue economy ministry but we don’t have. Ours is located in different ministries. Ministry of Agriculture has got fisheries, Ministry of Transportation, water transportation, the Ministry of Solid Mineral has got mineral exploitation. Of course, NIMASA anchors mineral exploitation. We have been able to raise awareness. That is something nobody can take away fro us. The country is now formulating a blue economy policy because we have raised awareness. That has now become an issue.