Stakeholders brainstorm on developing maritime infrastructure in Africa


…As Lagos International Maritime Week begins

Stakeholders across Africa and beyond have gathered in Lagos, the commercial capital of Nigeria to brainstorm on infrastructural deficit in the ports and maritime industry across Africa as the 2018 edition of Lagos international Maritime Week opens

The week which is a three day event with the theme,” Developing Maritime Infrastructure in Africa recorded participants from within and outside Africa including the United Arab Emirates.

Speaking on the theme of the event, former President of the Union of African Shippers’ Councils, Dr. Kofi Mbiah underlined the importance of maritime infrastructure as a major contributor to Africa’s socio-economic development and very importantly, job creation adding that African countries must develop a comprehensive maritime policy that does not only focus on maritime transport but which encompasses the broad spectrum of multi policy uses.

Mbiah noted that the multi policy uses must within the framework of the policy define the maritime cluster approach for its synergistic effect even as he underscored the importance of the critical elements of financing and investments in maritime infrastructure and the options available for African economies in view of the very prominent role the port play in the life of the magnetic field they engender saying that ports do enjoy a pride of place in maritime infrastructure as he highlighted its significance and contributions.

He also outlined the few challenges and along the line made some recommendations not only for ports but for maritime infrastructure in general observing that African ports indeed are drivers of economic growth within a drawn economic framework and concerns of how Africa especially sub Saharan Africa can derive some most benefits from their port infrastructure.

In his words,” I have heard calls for a centralized Africa port policy but at the same time, I have heard discordant voices that argue against such policy. There are indeed, definitely pros and cons to these propositions. I do not intend to go into the intricacies and complexities of these propositions, suffice it to say that there still could be unity in diversity so that even as each port in the sub region assumes the accolade of gateway and hub port, we should not be oblivion of a coherent policy on issues that are Germaine to our peculiar circumstances, a policy underpinned by a strategy to compete fairly yet complement the efforts of each other towards the maximization of our common economic potentials.

“Finally, Mr. Chairman, there is the need to increase public awareness of the ports, of maritime infrastructure in general as an invaluable economic asset. Such an appreciation will lead to the enlightenment of the general populace and encourage civil societies and other pressure groups to call for accountability from the public officials and regulatory bodies with respect to the operations of the our ports and maritime infrastructure.

“Mr. Chairman, distinguished invited guests, ladies and gentlemen, if African countries develop comprehensive maritime policy that take account of the importance of maritime infrastructure, that take cognizance of the synergy of a cluster concept and adopt the right approaches towards financing and application of modern technology, Africa’s maritime infrastructure would indeed serve as a catalyst for accelerated economic growth”.

In her contribution, the Honourable Commissioner, Ministry of Commerce, industry and Cooperatives, Lagos State, Mrs. Olayinka Oladunjoye observed that Nigeria was an emerging player in the international maritime industry with lots of innovations and growth opportunities especially for aspiring maritime entrepreneurs but regretted that the inadequacy of maritime infrastructure in Nigeria had largely reduced the nation’s ability to harness the full potentials inherent in the industry.

She adduced that Nigeria blessed with a coastline of over 800kms, an Exclusive economic Zone of over 200 nautical miles with vast inland waterways resource estimated at nearly 3,000kms and comprising over 50 rivers can support a vibrant intra-continental and inter-continental trade but Nigerians had refused to develop and put these natural endowments to maximum which she said had diminished the great potentials and their ability to generate huge indigenous tonnage and increase capacity of the country.

The Honourable commissioner added that in order to leverage on the inherent wealth of the maritime sector, it behooves on the government and the people to commit their resources towards the development of requisite supporting infrastructure for the sector.

“Such infrastructure should include all those activities and facilities that support and enhance the maritime transport sector and make it efficient, productive, safe and environmentally friendly. Specifically, elements of maritime infrastructure which include investments in; ports and terminals, handling equipment, channels and harbours, warehouses, vessel repair and ship building yards, port access roads, intermodal transport, information and communication technology, deep seaport, power and water”, she said.

Also speaking, the Commissioner for Transport, Lagos State, Mr. Ladi Lawanson pointed out that Lagos being a littoral state, government was determined to ensure that Lagos state take full advantage of the advancement of the abundant water bodies around her not only to reduce the travel time of commuters and traffic congestion but to also to reduce the petrol and diesel powered vehicles’ negative emission into the atmosphere.

Represented by Olufadeke Immanuel, Technical Assistant to the Honourable Commissioner for Transport, Mr. Lawanson stated that to achieve a vision of making the Lagos waterways safe and to position it for patronage, government had continually invested in such facilities and equipment like the weed harvester machines for continuous clearance of water hyacinth, jet skis for waterways emergencies and patrol boats for safety of lives and waterways.

According to him,” These have further been strengthened by the distribution of over 5,000 life jackets to residents in the riverine areas by LASWA free of charge. Towards the realization of these set goals, we have concessioned three ferry terminals at Ipakodo, Badore and Ebute-Ojo while new ferry operating licenses have been issued to many organizations that will soon take delivery of their operational ferries.

“While there were no ferries at the inception of this administration, efforts are already at an advanced stage to procure seven ferries that are of world class standard for deployment on already identified viable navigable routes in a move designed to decongest the roads. So far, the identified routes include Ikorodu to Falomo, Falomo to Victoria Island, Ebute-Ojo to Ijebu Egba to Ibese to Badagry. Others are Badore to Ijede, Mile 2 to Ebute-Ero, Badore to Victoria Island and Lekki to Badagry for tourism. While the ferries are being awaited, observed infractions are being rectified at the various jetties”.

Earlier in her welcome address, the convener of the event and Managing Director of Zoe Maritime Resources Limited, Oritsematosan Edodo-Emore described the theme of the event as a subject that was close to their hearts at the organization adding that the organization took the view that development of maritime industry in Africa was nil without the development of er maritime infrastructure.

She defined maritime infrastructure to include plant and machinery at the ports to ensure quick turnaround times for vessels and minimum cargo dwell time, good rail and road transportation in and out of the seaports and linking inland dry ports that serve not only the Nigerian hinterland but also the landlocked countries such as Chad, Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso and the Central African Republic, functional maritime education and training institutions which would develop the manpower relevant to the maritime industry needs of the continent and globally and the development of maritime law and adjudication process.

She added that the development of the maritime industry in Africa rests squarely on the shoulders of Africans who she said must boldly define the vision for the industry in the continent, run with that vision and seek international cooperation to actualize the vision.

She said, “It is also our responsibility to take advantage of the global shortage of skilled maritime manpower by developing our maritime education and training institutions to produce skilled manpower necessary for the continent and the global market. In this regard, the introduction of the youth to the maritime industry is key to the long term development of maritime manpower in Africa.

“As our contribution to youth development in the maritime industry, we are pleased to announce that 5 young people won scholarship to attend this event and be mentored. We hope that the mentees will take maximum advantage of the presence of the wide spectrum, of stakeholders present at this gathering and we are imploring you to help them in actualizing their dreams for the industry”.

Photo: (L-R) Convener of Lagos International Maritime Week, Oritsematosan Edodo-Emore, The Consul, Consul Generale de France, Laurent Polobceaux and Hon. Commissioner, Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Cooperatives, Lagos State, Mrs. Olayinka Oladunjoye at the event Tuesday.

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