As Nigeria looks forward to a more robust maritime sector performance this year, facts have emerged that the seaborne trade for the year 2018 stood at N33.2 billion ($92 million).
The Nigeria’s Maritime Industry Forecast, released by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) recently stated that the international trade recovered fairly well in 2018, when assessed on the basis of three quarters of available data.
It added that total trade increased 33 per cent, when compared to the corresponding period in 2017, while the expansion of trade has been broad-based, driven by a 45 per cent increase in exports and an 18 per cent increase in imports in the period.
According to NIMASA, “Though the Nigerian economy remains an oil story (an oil producing and exporting nation), Nigerians are heavily dependent on foreign goods that are mostly imported through the sea ports. Hence, the maritime sector holds the key to the country’s growth and development.” It added that the maritime value chain plays a crucial role in the Nigerian economy, as around 80 per cent of Nigerian trade is transported by sea and via ports.
Examining the performance of the sector thus far, it stated that: “A number of players in the maritime and shipping sector are competing effectively but the footprint needs to be increased. Shipping is a global business and new trends continue to emerge. Players must be willing to invest in innovation and development of new technological approach to remain buoyant.
“Consequently, the sustenance of the economic recovery in 2018 has relied on the acceleration of recovery in other sectors, the most notable of which is the ICT sector, led by telecommunications, which have grown by 8.4 per cent and 9.3 per cent respectively, reversing contraction in 2017, by -1 per cent and -2 per cent respectively.
“At present, the economy’s fastest growing sector is the transport sector (15.8 per cent), led by the aviation sub-sector (19.5 per cent). Other major sectors such as manufacturing (two per cent) remain slow-growing, whilst distribution (-1.2 per cent), the second largest sector of the economy behind agriculture, continues to contract,” it stated.
The Director General of NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, said the maritime sector remains a pivot to the stability and growth of the economy. Hence, the need to provide guidance to industry players as it will attract more foreign direct investment and ultimately improve the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
While noting that the drivers of the macroeconomic outlook for 2019 include the general elections and its aftermath, prices of crude oil and policy imperatives such as fiscal, monetary and regulatory, Peterside disclosed that the maritime forecast model adopted by NIMASA projects an increase in demand for maritime services in Nigeria considering the global and domestic economic conditions.
On the regulatory aspect of the 2019 forecast, Peterside stated that it is expected that the Suppression of Piracy and other Maritime offenses Bill (Anti-Piracy) will be passed into law within the margin of the 8th National Assembly to provide a robust and detailed framework to criminalise and punish piracy and unlawful acts in the Nigerian maritime domain as well as give further expression to the relevant provisions of the International Maritime Convention on maritime security to which Nigeria is a party.
He added that all these would provide the necessary assurance to foreign investors that Nigeria and the Gulf of Guinea, to a large extent, are safe hubs for International trade. Other Bills that would impact on the sector are National Transport Commission Bill, Petroleum Industry Governance Bill, National Inland Waterways Authority Amendment Bill, Coastal and Inland Shipping (Cabotage) Amendment/Revised Bill and Ports and Harbour Bill.
The challenges highlighted for stakeholders in the maritime sector to contend with in 2019 include funding, ethnological change, supply of specialised maritime industry skillset, and efficiency of ports and shipping companies, among others.