Covid-19: Shipping industry needs no intervention fund, says Omatseye, former NIMASA DG


…Seeks fifteen years shipping development plan

A former Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Mr. Temisan Omatseye has said that the shipping industry in Nigeria does not need intervention fund in order to thrive.

Omatseye who made this submission in an interview with our correspondent in Lagos maintained that shipping is an industry that could sustain itself noting that what the practitioners needed is the cargo to drive their business.

He adds that until government puts its foot down and make the cargo available for Nigerian ship owners or Nigerians which would now encourage Nigerian ship owners to buy the vessels, then Nigeria would not get it right.

“They don’t need intervention fund. If I have good cargo now and good return on movement, I can borrow from any international bank. But my argument quite simply is why do I have to borrow from an international bank and still take that my Dollar that Nigerian government is paying me and pay them? They are taking the money from my national reserve and giving to me, so, because our national reserve is sitting there, they will take that money, borrow it to me with an interest, then I will now take the Dollar and send it out. So, why don’t I take that as Nigerian money and be earning and keeping the money in Nigeria?” he queried.

On the lessons learnt from the Covid-19 lockdown in the country, Omatseye who is also a former President of the African Shipowners’ Association said that it had shown the gaps which in Nigeria which according to him, had to do with the healthcare, economy among others.

“We are totally dependent, we are so dependent on oil, now the oil price has crashed, we don’t even have Dollars, our foreign exchange is gone and inflation has set in. So, what Covid has done is to allow us think more inwardly, to be more intrinsic in our thinking, to think of our own self survival”, he added.

He argued that while other countries were giving aids to their citizens, Nigerian government was unable to do so because it had not developed the country to that extent.

He further said, “I think it exposed us as well when people were not buying oil, we didn’t have vessels for us to store our oil. By the time we were coming out with that, other countries have called their vessels back as a national emergency and they used it as storage as well and we didn’t have. So, we have to pay three or four times the price other people have to pay.

“So, it has shown us that we need to start thinking differently; we need to start thinking about what is good for Nigeria and how we can in our own way begin to develop our own economy.

“So, as it relates to shipping, we have to go back to the drawing board, put up a strategy in place, think of how we can begin to acquire assets. Let us sit down and say okay, these are all the ministries that are available, Ajaokuta wants to start, we are going to start moving a lot of raw material whether it is coal, iron ore or whatever, they are going to move from some places to Ajaokuta.

“So, what is our strategy for that? It could be through the inland waterways or through the railways. What are the assets we require? Do we start acquiring new assets? Who is going to acquire those assets or do we start building those assets here to begin to develop a ship building capacity or barging capacity?

“The fishing industry, what kind of trollers do we look at. Let us look at the design, can we start designing those kinds of trollers here; let us get nautical engineers to look at them. Let us bring those steel here and begin to weld them in here. Institute of Welders, can you train the welders who are going to weld these vessels and put them together. You don’t need to have all the materials here; you just bring all of them together. It is more expensive even if you have to bring in a smaller ship, it will cost you almost $300,000 but if I bring it in parts, it might cost me just $30,000 and I will just come and use the local welders to do it, then you are developing local capacity.

“So, the point I am making quite simply is that there are lots of things where Nigerians move into. We are looking at areas where we going to begin to develop but a lot of them depend on shipping and logistics. Now, are we going to continue to depend on foreigners to do this or are we going to develop our own internal mechanisms for us to have our own vessels? We don’t need to own it one hundred percent; we can start by doing five, ten, twenty and begin to build up.

“Let us have a ten year to fifteen year plan so that in ten to fifteen years’ time, we know that in buying those vessels, we can buy them now and begin to replace them over a period of time and as they are building those vessels, we can begin to give them a condition that they must be built in Nigeria and as that is happening, we know that we are going to be having five hundred ships in ten years’ time, we need to start training seafarers that are going to be there so that we have 80 to 90 percent of the officers onboard who are Nigerians and the ones we have in excess, we begin to ship them to generate human capacity development and begin to bring revenues to ourselves.”

Photo: Former Director General of NIMASA, Mr. Temisan Omatseye.

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