We need to embark on more aggressive reforms and innovations that will make the maritime sector the major earner for the government.
Dr (Barrister) Taiwo Afolabi, Group Executive Vice Chairman, Sifax Group said I am an advocate of innovative reforms and policies; this is because SIFAX GROUP, which I head, is a beneficiary of reforms in the Nigerian maritime sector.
The Group Executive Vice Chairman, Sifax Group, stated this during his welcome address at the 4th Taiwo Afolabi Annual Maritime Conference Orgnised by the Maritime Forum, Unilag at the JF Ade Ajayi Auditorium on Friday, September 13, 2019.
Dr Afolabi who was represented by Mr. Adekunle Oyinloye, Group Managing Director, SIFAX Group, said let me, therefore, seize the opportunity of today’s gathering to affirm that, despite its challenges, the Nigerian Port Reform policy which brought the private sector into port operations is indeed a huge success.
He noted that the success of port reforms which was introduced in 2006 can be appreciated from the shorter turn-around time for vessels at berth, shorter cargo dwell time, improved safety of cargoes at berth and at terminals as well as less human interface and contact. Before the reform, it took several weeks to locate containers; this led to delays and congestion and resultant payment of demurrages. No doubt there has been a progressive increase in cargo throughput since 2006, and with this comes higher revenue into the coffers of government. From the reasons highlighted above, it is clear that the reform of port operations embarked upon in 2006 has been successful, he added.
However, Group Executive Vice Chairman, Sifax Group pointed out that the port alone does not represent the maritime industry. For the Nigerian maritime sector to witness exponential growth, its drivers (some of whom are here this morning) must aim at sustainability of polices that will drive the industry.
“I want to use this medium to commend the federal government through the various efforts of regulatory agencies in the maritime sector such as the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Nigeria Shippers’ Council (NSC) and Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) for its policy of linking some of the ports to the national rail network, such that from the Apapa Ports, cargoes can be evacuated by rail to the to the hinterland.
“From the perspective of a port operator, I wish to submit that the rail modernization policy of the federal government, which is aimed at effective use of rail to move cargoes from the ports to the inland dry ports and containers freight stations, is a great development, and must however, be seen to the end. All Nigerian ports must be linked to the standard gauge. This is what can enhance the expected growth in the Nigerian maritime industry.
“Also, for our sector to grow, strict security measures must be put in place both onshore and offshore. There have been various instances of piracy, attacks on ships and various terminals by men of the underworld and a host of others. This has even led many shipping lines to introduce war risk surcharges on consignments heading to Nigerian.
“I will therefore like to appeal to the federal government and its agencies to further fortify the nation’s coastal areas and maritime boundaries against maritime crimes; I will not fail to give kudos to NIMASA and other agencies for getting the presidency to assent to the anti-piracy bill recently. It should not just end here alone; there should be a campaign for more funding for maritime security.