The nation’s economy is currently losing opportunities to develop its maritime sector just like other maritime nations as Nigerian ship owners prefer to register their vessels in foreign registry than Nigerian registry.
In 2020, about 265 ships with 6,485,000dwt owned by Nigerian beneficials were registered in foreign registry, according to statistics from United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). These registries are owned by countries such as Liberia, Marshal Island, Singapore, Panama and among others.
Meanwhile, the size of Nigerian fleet by flag registration in the same year stood at 726 ships with 4,526,000dwt while African fleet stood at 7,433 ships.
BusinessDay check shows that growing Nigerian fleet would help to create jobs for the youth, improve Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings and increase the nation’s foreign reserve, which would lead to economic development.
Numbers from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), which shows that Nigerian total merchandise trade made up of export and import for 2019, totals N36.1 billion, and the total value of the marine component of that trade was over $33 billion which contributed about 97 percent of that merchandise trade, showing there is a market that is open for Nigerian ship owners to participate.
On the other hand, UNCTAD statistics shows that the total of African merchandise trade in 2019 stood at about $1.05 billion while Nigeria’s share in the total African merchandise trade was $10.8 billion.
Mfon Usoro, immediate past secretary general, of the Abuja Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Port State Control for West and Central African Region, who presented a paper at one-day virtual conversation held recently, which was tagged, ‘Maritime Symposium- on the Establishment of a Nigerian Global Trading Fleet,’ said that maritime nations are judged based on ownership of vessels.
“We need to aspire to ensure that Nigerian flagged vessels carry large percentage of Nigerian merchandise trade as well as African trade. Nigerian flagged ships can contribute up to 1 to 2 percent of the marine component of the global trade,” she said.
She pointed out the need for Nigerian ship owners to enjoy zero import duty on ships to be registered in Nigeria.
Hassan Bello, executive secretary of NSC, who disclosed that Nigeria lost $9.1 billion freight to foreign ships in 2015 alone, said the nation needs private sector driven national fleet.
Bello, who doubles as chairman of Nigerian Fleet Implementation Committee (NFIC), said Nigerian ship owners have been accused of not having capacity when they just lacked opportunities to grow their businesses.
Gbolahan Shaba, CEO of LATC Marine, blamed lack of long-term financial instruments, borrowing of US dollars at double digit interest rate as well as lack of capacity to maintain, drydock and repair ships for low capacity in ship ownership.