Stakeholders in the Nigerian maritime sector have said maritime transportation in Nigeria and the West African sub-region is underdeveloped.
They stated this in Lagos on Tuesday during the 2023 Lagos International Maritime Week themed ‘MARPOL at 50-Pollution from Ships, Africa’s commitment to clean oceans seas, inland waters and the marine environment’, organised by organised by Zoe Maritime Resources.
LIM Week is a forum for learning, networking, and expanding scope in the maritime sector. And MARPOL is an international convention for the prevention of pollution from ships.
A former Secretary General of the Gulf of Guinea, Adenike Ukonga, lamented that Nigeria was among the 26 African countries that had ratified MARPOL, but the country could not be classified as a shipping nation even with the ratification.
She noted that many countries in Africa, though parties to MARPOL were not shipping countries.
Ukonga said that shipping transportation within the African Continent was still a major militating factor against economic development.
Ukonga said: “Maritime transportation in Nigeria and in the West and Central Africa is grossly underdeveloped. The majority of the ships providing maritime transportation services in the West and Central Africa region are from Europe, Asia, and the Far East. It is a cause of great concern to maritime industry watchers that maritime transportation with so much potential for economic emancipation and the development of the coastal countries is virtually in the hands of non-Africans and solidly in their control,” she said.
“Whereas, if the maritime transportation is well-developed, even if it is within the region, there should be ships plying these routes stopping in almost all the ports of the region with a shorter period of transportation, not exceeding two to five sailing days en route,” Ukonga noted.
She said that being party to MARPOL was a good step in the right direction, adding that at least, African countries would not be turned into the dumping ground for maritime waste, garbage, toxic and hazardous waste.
Ukonga said if Nigeria’s maritime transportation sector picked up, stakeholders would know what standards to aspire, keep, and respect for them to be competitive.
“I would like to encourage our entrepreneurs to really invest in maritime transportation, either for goods transportation or for people transportation, especially in inter-state maritime transportation.
“Our African countries are seriously missing in this sector. African countries should be involved in the regional maritime transportation sector even if we do not yet want to go to Europe or the USA or Asia or the Far East,” she added.
She said that maritime transportation would not be vibrant without security or safety.
Speaking on maritime security and safety in the GoG region, she said that the commission was involved in the important aspect of ensuring piracy attacks, robbery at sea, kidnappings, oil theft, smuggling, and trafficking in arms were addressed.
“The organisation has been a strong advocate with member states for cooperation and collaboration amongst their navies, coast guards, and other maritime security agencies to ensure the security and safety of their maritime domain. Member states are responding positively and there is now a greater cooperation and collaboration among the navies and coast guards of member states,” she said.
She, however, said there was a need for more concerted efforts to be made to encourage indigenous investors to become more interested and more involved in the maritime sector of the economy.
She urged governments of the sub-region to create an enabling environment by providing the necessary infrastructure and enacting legislation that would protect local investors.
Earlier, the Chairman of Zoe Maritime Resources Ltd, Mrs Oritsematosan Edodo-Emore, noted that the sustainable development of the ocean economy was vital to African growth.
According to her, the cleanliness of the body of waters surrounding Africa and the state of its inland waters, creeks, and rivers are critical for her survival.
“It is now 50 years since the enactment of MARPOL, which deals with the prevention of pollution of the marine environment by ships and this event seeks to examine its effect on maritime transportation, security, and others.