Repositioning maritime industry to boost investors’ confidence, attracts global trade


•Jamoh pushes for blue economy to become Nigeria’s cash cow

By Steve Agbota

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“Maritime safety, security and shipping development are important for global trade.” This is the three-point agenda of the Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Bashir Jamoh, when President Muhammadu Buhari appointed him on March 10, 2020 to lead the management team of the agency.

The three-point agenda commonly referred to as the ‘3s’ have shaped the direction of the agency and the entire maritime industry in the last three years.

Part of the aims of the ‘3s’ under Jamoh led administration was to reposition the maritime industry in a manner that enhances transparency, accountability and meaningful contribution to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as well as its economic development and to restore investors confidence.4 124 12

Jamoh’s appointment was greeted with high hopes by many industry players that the industry would regain its place in the comity of maritime nations, by attracting foreign investors to collaborate and grow the nation’s maritime sector to align with global best practices.

Jamoh, a technocrat, who has spent decades in NIMASA, knows the nitty-gritty of the sector and  hit the ground running with his team made up of top management staff of the agency with ‘3s’ agenda, which has yielded tremendous results in the area of maritime security as Nigeria recently witnessed the arrest of 27 pirates for various maritime crimes. That was the first time Nigeria made such arrest in its territorial waters and NIMASA was able to achieve prosecution of some of the pirates in the competent court of law even as Nigeria recorded zero attacks on ships in the past one and half years in the nation’s waters.

Speaking on the arrest of the pirates, Jamoh said the feat was achieved by a joint effort of NIMASA, Navy and police, adding that every agency involved shared information at different levels, which led to the arrest of the culprits.

He stated that the arrests have sent the right signal to the international community that Nigeria is taking the issue of maritime security seriously, and would not spare any resources to secure Nigeria’s territorial waters and make it safe for all legitimate maritime activities.

He declared: “Buoyed by the determination of our willing, able and ready Nigerian Navy, Marine Police, and other security agencies, Nigeria is adopting a whatever-it-takes posture in the fight against every water menace as we shall no longer fold our arms and watch trespassers perpetrate illegalities.

“We have declared zero tolerance for maritime insecurity and, fortunately for us, we now have the Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences (SPOMO) Act to deal with maritime crimes.

“To make our anti-piracy law effective, we will be investing much on intelligence gathering. If you look at the three-point agenda, we concentrated on our core mandates, the primary function of the agency is what we are looking at; revenue is secondary. Maybe before now we concentrated more on revenue, but now, with the international community getting very concerned about maritime insecurity, how can we ride primarily on revenue?”

As result, maritime international bodies such the International Martime Organisation (IMO), the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), and BIMCO, all commended NIMASA and Jamoh for adopting a new strategy in stemming criminalities in the Gulf of Guinea.

The management under Jamoh in the last three years ensures that the agency stays true to its mandate and ensures effective maritime safety administration, maritime labour regulation, marine pollution prevention and control, search and rescue, Cabotage Law enforcement, shipping development and modern ship registration, training and certification of seafarers, and maritime capacity development using modern tools that guarantee efficiency and effectiveness.

The Jamoh led administration at NIMASA has been able to motivate staff for optimal productivity. Within the last three years, over 1, 300 staff have been promoted from one grade level to another as 595 staff were promoted  in 2020, 302 were promoted in 2021 and  472 in 2022 were promoted. In 2023, 510 were promoted as well. The promotion exercise is the fourth under Jamoh led management since he assumed office in March 2020.

Daily Sun learnt that the current administration inherited a staff condition of service, which was last reviewed in 2010. Jamoh and his team secured a review taking into consideration the realities on ground. NIMASA management has shown commitment to staff capacity development as over 100 staff have benefited from long term trainings at the World Maritime University and other institutions offering training relevant to the industry.

On maritime security, Jamoh emphasised that security of the maritime domain is very critical to the day-to-day operation of the sector, adding that security helps to boost investors’ confidence.

Hence, the following key accomplishments under the current dispensation: signing into law of the SPOMO Act by President Buhari, the  launch of the deep blue project, significant reduction in piracy and kidnappings, arrests and successful prosecution of criminals, leadership of regional maritime collaboration forum to tackle insecurity and Nigeria’s removal from IMBs red list, among others.

He said the aim of the project is to establish a sustainable architecture for improved maritime safety and security through increased monitoring and compliance enforcement within Nigerias Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), with a view to effectively tackling the challenges of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.

However, Daily learnt that the Federal Government has invested so much in the deep blue project assets, which the nation’s maritime industry is feeling the impacts, especially in the area of piracy reduction.

Under Jamoh, various training for all personnel in the deep blue project on the assets and facilities are carried out. Effective implementation of the deep blue project contributing to reduction in the piracy cases with only one piracy case as at May 2022, six cases in 2021 from 35 cases in 2020 and in 2019 respectively

On signing of SPOMO Act, before 2019, Nigeria did not have separate law that tries offenders and criminals that were arrested for being involved in piracy and kidnapping. Therefore, NIMASA came up with the Suppression of Piracy and other Maritime Related Offences (SPOMO) Act which was signed by President Buhari in June 2019.

Jamoh said as at today NIMASA has secured convictions under this Act, saying this has also served as a deterrent to would-be criminals.

To further deter these criminalities on the waterways and make Nigerian youths gainfully employed, he said the agency established and engaged the Marine Litter Marshals working on the waterways.

The agency observed that shipping is critical to global trade, yet it is the most vulnerable in terms of safety.

This explains the reason the International Maritime Organization (IMO) adopted the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) convention to ensure the safety of those involved.

Consequently, empowered by enabling legislations, NIMASA takes this as a critical aspect of its job to ensure safety of ships and those on board, through proper enforcement of maritime safety conventions.

On of the major breakthrough under the management of Jamoh was removal of wrecks.

The Federal Executive Council, at the end of the last quarter of 2021, approved the wreck removals from Badagry axis up to the Tin Can Island. This project has gone very far.

Again, in the first quarter of 2022, the Federal Executive Council approved the removal of the entire wrecks also in the other zones of Nigeria, comprising western zone with headquarters in Lagos, eastern zone headquarters in Port Harcourt and then central zone headquarters in Warri. Jamoh said all these projects have achieved major milestones.

While focusing on search and rescue operations,  NIMASA engaged the Nigerian Navy Naval Dockyard in Lagos to repair its operational vessels, Millennia 1 and Millennium 2.

The NIMASA DG said today both vessels and five others are almost ready for deployment for enforcement purposes. “This will also enhance its search and rescue operation, port and flag state administration among others. In other to attend to the emergencies that may occur after a search and rescue operations, the agency has built two brand new search and base clinic of international standard at Azare Crescent, Apapa and Kirikiri.

“The agency is hopeful of commissioning it soon. The hospital is not for NIMASA or Nigeria, but original Regional States, as NIMASA is in charge of nine countries in terms of Search and Rescue. The hospital is of high international standard, it is hoped that the facility would treat all calibers of patients locally, and internationally, with the state of arts equipment the facility will possess, when completed,” he added.

At the inception of the administration, there was no single vessel for enforcement, he said today, the agency has built seven brand new bullet proofs boats and they are expected to have been completed, adding that they are being built in Spain, and it is hoped that very soon, NIMASA will receive and commission the vessel.

As soon as the vessels are commissioned, the agency has assured that there will be enhanced enforcement performance; and it plans to divide the use of the vessels; not only in Lagos, but also to other zones of the Agency. All these will cater for the issue of safety.

On Shipping development, the critical aspect of shipping development encompasses fleet expansion, shipbuilding and ship repairs. Shipping is responsible for over 90 per cent of international transportation of goods that sustain the global supply chain, which is a significant component of the global economy, enhancing import and exports of goods and services.

Jamoh said NIMASA is poised to advance shipping by ensuring a conducive environment for commercial shipping and encouraging more indigenous participation in the global shipping trade.

Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF) before Jamoh’s appointment into office has become a mirage, many past DG’s tried to disburse the fund, but it was too shrewded in secrecy with a lot of politics and bottlenecks.

However, today, President Buhari has given approval for disbursement of the fund.

Subsequently, Jamoh is holding meetings and consultations with Primary Lending Institutions (PLI) that were appointed for the disbursement which is likely to take place in second quarter 2023.

On the area of manpower development, the Agency introduced the Nigerian Seafarers Development Programme (NSDP). The NSDP development programme is a capacity development programme, initially funded by NIMASA in collaboration with some state governments, but currently wholly sponsored by NIMASA.

Under the NSDP, scores of Nigerian youths are sent abroad to the Philippines, Greece, India and Egypt for maritime training. Many of them have graduated today and are gainfully employed as seafarers.

In order to ensure that Nigerian training institutions are not abandoned, the Jamoh led administration has improved the agency’s interface with the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN) Oron. The agency’s statutory funding of the Maritime Academy of Nigeria in Oron has been on point since 2020.

MAN Oron aquired state of the art Simulators, among other state of the art facilities, this is because the funding by NIMASA has been unhindered.

This is in addition to other private maritime institutions like Charkins, they are now also coming up with a lot of accreditation of diplomas and other short-term certificates that is done locally, thereby saving foreign exchange.

In addition to this initiative, the Agency created skill acquisition centres across six geopolitical zones.

“For the South-West we have Lagos, in the South-East we have Anambra, for South-South we have Bayelsa, for North-East, we have Maiduguri, Borno state; for North-West we have Kaduna State for North Central we have Kwara.

“All these skill acquisition centers have the capacity of training younger Nigerians on different aspects of professionalism. This is to help trim the number of criminality on the territorial waters. Records therefore shows that from third quarter of 2021 until date, Nigeria has never recorded one single attack on its territorial waters,” Jamoh said.

Blue economy, according to experts, is the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs whilst preserving the health of ocean ecosystems. Today, the global blue economy worth over $24 trillion annually.

Jamoh has come out to state clearly that Nigeria must take the advantage embedded in the nation’s oceans to benefit from the $24 trillion blue economy.

He said that Nigeria’s vast under-utilised blue economy offers huge opportunities for growth and development and to overcome its present economic challenges.

Jamoh lamented the failure of Nigeria’s successive governments to explore the vast resources that the blue economy offers.

He said the blue economy could be used to knock off Nigeria’s huge debt profile, which drags its development efforts and makes poverty thrive amidst plenty, adding that sea business is in vogue globally and that Nigeria’s future lies in blue economy.

He said Nigeria has over 200 nautical miles available for fishing yet lacks in the sustainability which the blue economy offers.

“Ocean resources like fishes, shrimps and other sea foods have not been satisfactorily harnessed, just as ship repairs are done in neighbouring countries and in faraway Turkey because the facilities are lacking locally”, he said.

He stressed that Nigeria must develop appropriate policy interventions that focus on exploring and exploiting the huge opportunities of blue economy anchored on good governance.

Meanwhile, stakeholders who spoke with Daily Sun said the industry still needs a lot of reforms in terms of infrastructure and other amenities but commended the achievements made so far under the leadership of Jamoh in the industry.

Speaking with Daily Sun, a former marine engineer, Gabriel Ufok, said that the NIMASA DG has done well in the area of maritime security in curtailing pirates and other maritime insecurity and other maritime related crimes. He said due to this achievement in the area of maritime security, the international maritime organisations has removed Nigeria from the red list, which means Nigeria is no longer among the dangerous maritime nations.

On what he has not been able to achieve in three years in office, he said the DG has not been able to deploy the N50 billion floating dock acquired by his predecessor.

He said Nigeria is losing billions of naira to neighboring countries due to inability of the agency to deploy the floating dock as ship are heading to other countries to drydock their vessels.

He noted that Jamoh has made efforts to deploy the floating dock through inter-agency partnership.

“I learnt that the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), by providing  the location for the establishment of the dry-dock (the hardware); the Infrastructure Concession and Regulatory Commission (ICRC) midwifed the public-private partnership to make it bankable and viable (the software). Let’s see how the partnership will go. I believe Jamoh has what it takes to deploy the floating dock,” he added.

Also, the President of Shippers Association of Lagos (SALS), Rev. Jonathan Nicole said: “Like everybody is saying and I join them to say the NIMASA DG  did his best by introducing the green revolution in the maritime sector by curtaining some of the excesses of the pirates with the help of other countries. That is very very key.”

According to him, the second issue is that he has been stable with less problems in the system unlike some other administrators.

“The DG has been forthcoming, he’s someone you can always see if you want to see him and he’s not always traveling abroad. At least, he’s on ground to always handling a lot of problems. So far, he has been echoing people’s concerns and other people’s feelings.

“So by and large, he has tried. And then naturally when you have a new government, you don’t know the next of tones the new government brings in their own programmes. So if he’s lucky to be retained fine, if he’s not, I wish him well,” he said.

On what he has not been to do, he said the DG has not been able to get the CVFF disburse to local indigenous shipowners and that is a minus.

“We are having two conflicting figures now wether $750 million or $350 million. The House of Reps now want those figures to be harmonised. That is we are talking about integrity now.

“They should be able to give the accurate figure of what people have contributed and the arrangement for them to be disburse is wrong for them to say you put conditions because is money they are contributed.

“Is like Esusu (thrift) they contribute each period a vessel comes in and when you want to take your money back, you go to the bank and the bank don’t have to give you a condition. It is the money they saved,” he said explained.

He said what the local shipowners did was to save the money through NIMASA and it even give them interest for their savings, adding that the disbursement shouldn’t have string tide with any loan.

“They are not taking loan from NIMASA, they are asking for their money. So they should fine tune that and let those who contributed to the funds should be given their money,” he said.