Open up maritime sector for business, marine engineers tell FG
Marine Engineering and Naval Architecture (MENA) Division of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) has called on the federal Government to open up the nation’s maritime industry to accommodate more local and foreign investors.
In his lead paper in a lecture entitled, ‘Accelerating the growth of Nigeria’s non oil sector in a period of economic challenges’, Engr. Commodore Uba Ajala (rtd.) said that once the nation’s maritime industry is opened up, it was capable of driving the needed diversification currently needed by the entire economy to fight recession.
He argued that time has come for emphasis to be placed on how to increase the contributions of the non- oil sector to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) especially, the maritime sector.
According to him, “having been blessed with long stretch of waterways, there were a lot that can be achieved through the proper utilization of the vast waterways in the country”.
“Basically, we are talking about how do we increase the contributions of the non-oil sector to the GDP of Nigeria especially now that we are talking about recession. We are saying open up the industry, it is the industry that can take care of the government budget, we don’t need to kill ourselves with oil. God has given us the most natural gift in the world which is the waterways. You can travel from Onitsha to Lokoja by water and so many things you can do there.
“Then we talk all the losses we are having with our neighboring countries, vessel operators are preferring their waters to our own waters which shouldn’t be and if you look at the map of Africa, you will see the strategic position that Nigeria holds. We are the giant in charge of the Gulf of Guinea that is another emerging area in the maritime industry. If you don’t have your ships and ship yards to prepare for that investment, then tomorrow it will miss you.
“What do I mean? Bigger vessels come into the Gulf of Guinea, the entire oil deserve of West Africa is not equal to what is in the Gulf of Guinea alone, that is Ghana, Nigeria, all our gas reserve put together and that is why everybody is interested in what is going on in the Gulf of Guinea. You are the giant which can really control that place because you have maximum access to that place”.
While appreciating the last regime of the former President goodluck Jonathan for acquiring two vessels one of which he said had entered the country while the second one is on its way to Nigeria from China, he recalled that the essence of acquiring those vessels was to make sure the country was capable of protecting her waterways as according to him, one cannot claim what he cannot protect.
“So, the country needs to do more, buy more offshore patrol vessels so that when we are. Talking of offloading cargoes in Nigerian waters, you can put OPVs so that at any point in time, nobody can carry out anything called kidnapping on our waters. When such thing happens, do you know what that costs the maritime industry? It increases all your rates, insurance cover goes high, it is a spiral effect”, he said.
Earlier in his opening remarks, the Chairman of MENA, Engr. Charles Otuonye observed that most Nigerians erroneously think that the only possible area of diversification in this period of economic recession in the country was agriculture saying that the maritime industry of Nigeria was huge economically perhaps next to the agricultural sector.
He said “It is a known fact that about 80%of crude oil in Nigeria is drilled from the maritime environment . Apart from oil, there are several other minerals which can be exploited/ explored from Nigerian waters. The sea water in solution contains all elements which is composed of minerals of the earth’s crust such as sodium chloride (common salt as the chief) sodium, calcium, magnesium, potassium, chlorine, sulphur, bromide, boric-acid, carbonate and bicarbonate.
“The sea is the great mother of life. Perhaps this is the right time for Nigerians to have a re-think and strategize on a robust and sustainable way to diversify our economy in the direction of maritime industry to avert further drift towards economic depression.
“In recent times, we are hearing that oil deposit in the earth’s crust is depleting or migrating and that the price of crude oil is constantly crashing but yet, it is not on record that the sea water is drying,” MENA chairman added.