By Oluwabunmi Ogunjimi

THE Federal Government through the newly created Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy on Tuesday commenced moves to refloat the moribund national shipping line with a view to targeting the $10billion interested ship market.

Speaking at stakeholders meeting in Lagos, Minister of Marine and Blue Economy Hon.Adegbitlyega Oyetola who met with various maritime stakeholders with a view to chatting a new course for the sustainable development of the nation’s marine sector said that Nigeria is a jewel and must be ready for global competitiveness as it hopes to target $10billion Ship charter market.

According to Oyetola, “The Blue Economy is a pivotal sector that must be harnessed for economic growth.”

He was quick to add that the initiative will not in anyway impede the growth of local players but rather provide an avenue for them to create and extract more value from the sector, especially through ship construction, maintenance, and repairs.

According to the minister, the forum was convened to bring together players in the sector to discuss and chart a roadmap/direction that will advance the industry’s potential, promote sustainable Blue Economy investments and ensure global competitiveness within the sector.

He noted that the model, a collaborative synergy between the private sector’s efficiency and the public sector’s oversight, will bring about transformative impact on the marine and blue economy as well as boost the creation of substantial job opportunities and the facilitation of increased trade and investment in the nation, reinforcing the ministry’s collaborative and forward-looking approach.

Some areas of discussion at the Roundtable bothered on strengthening the Blue Governance; Transforming Port Operations; Enhancing Port Infrastructure; and Promoting Blue Economy Investments.

Oyetola said, “There is an urgent need for a collaborative effort to brainstorm and devise strategies to leverage our marine resources for the betterment of the economy and safety of our planet. It is imperative we come up with practicable ways of ensuring that our Inland Rivers, Lakes and Waterways are well utilized for cargo shipment and passenger transportation.

“This Engagement Forum is crucial to the development of the sector as it offers an opportunity for us all to collectively contribute our perspectives, ideas and offer relevant inputs that can propel the sector to the trajectory of success necessary to support the development of the economy as well as meet the expectations of Mr. President who took the courage to open up Nigeria to focus on the Blue Economy Value Chain.

“The zeal for a better life for Nigerians propelled President Bola Ahmed Tinubu GCFR to recently unveil 8 Presidential Priorities to address critical national challenges. These priorities are to be delivered through 8 focus areas, namely: economic growth, food security, energy and natural resources, infrastructure development, security, healthcare, education, improved governance, and job creation.

“Our Ministry though new, is not resting on its oars and has continued to foster Inter-Agency collaborations and implement initiatives to promote Port efficiency, cargo shipment, maritime security and tap into the resources of the Seabed.

“The ministry’s decision to consider the re-establishment of a National Shipping Line, through a strategic PPP arrangement, is borne out of our desire to capture a substantial share of the estimated $10 billion annual ship charter market within the country.

“This initiative will not seek to impede the growth of local players but rather to provide an avenue for them to create and extract more value from the sector, especially through ship construction, maintenance, and repairs. This would enable our local businesses to better leverage the Carbotage Act, which gives Nigerians the exclusive right to control locally generated seaborne trade.

“Other anticipated outcomes include the creation of substantial job opportunities and the facilitation of increased trade and investment in the nation, reinforcing our collaborative and forward-looking approach”.

The Minister who said he is acquainted with the sector’s challenges, assured of his commitment to “bequeathing to Nigerians a better sector than we have met today”.

He assured that the Stakeholders’ Engagement will be a continuum, “since it is important that we normalise this harmonious synergy and work together to ensure that our industry is safe, reliable and sustainable”, Oyetola concluded.

Earlier in her opening remark, Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Transport, Dr. Magdalene Ajani said that the meeting was designed to showcase the Policy direction of the Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy; share the blueprint of operations of the new Ministry to the Stakeholders and develop the much needed synergy between the Private and the public on the Maritime Sector.

Ajani explained that the Maritime Sector is a major source of revenue earnings for the Country, an enabler of trade and a key engine of economic growth and sustainable development.

She said: “Nigeria is blessed with so much aqua and so has an extensive Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) making it a natural hub for shipping and International Trade for most landlocked neighboring nations in West and Central African region.

“Our Maritime industry is also blessed with many experts including captain of Maritime Industries, indigenous ship owners, terminal operators, freight forwarders, shipping lines, barge operators, maritime lawyers, stevedoring companies, women groups etc who are in this hall today and have paid huge sacrifices in advancing the Nigerian Maritime Industry to its presence state.

“We are aware that you are the “last mile”, and the major link between the Government and the Nigerian People. You are the main operators as well as the litmus test in determining the impact of the Government Policies, Programmes and Initiatives. As such, this Stakeholders Engagement Roundtable is necessary as it enables us to present our challenges, jointly brain-storm on the solutions with a view to chart a roadmap for a Maritime Industry that is sustainable technologically advanced and innovative.

“This Stakeholders Forum has been designed for us to inform, equip and enable us to share knowledge on critical issues affecting the Maritime Sector particularly as the new Administration has deemed it fit to showcase the potentials of the Marine and Blue Economy as well harness its opportunities for the benefit of Nigerians. Let us lend our voice as we begin this Journey of more growth for the Maritime Industry.

” We are all gathered here because of the Zeal we have for our dear Country Nigeria. It is my utmost belief that this zeal will yield enormous Success for the Maritime Sector and Nigeria as a whole. Let us make our contributions that will set the pace and enable us fulfill our goal for the Federal Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy.”

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