25 April 2016, Lagos — The former Chairman of the Board of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Alhaji Ahmed Tijani Ramalan has tasked the Federal Government on the establishment of a national shipping carrier that would address the present challenges in the in the shipping sector of the economy as well as the oil and gas industry.
Ramalan who stated this in a chat with journalists in Lagos stated that the re-establishment of a national carrier is an imperative for the realisation of the objective of Local Content Act and reinvigoration of the nation’s maritime sector.
The erstwhile Chairman of NIMASA Board expressed dismay that despite the fact that Nigeria is the largest producer of crude oil in Africa with a capacity of 2.5 million barrels per day, the nation does not really participate in the exploration, development, production and shipment of the black gold.
On why this is so, Ramalan, who is known for his vast experience and knowledge of the maritime industry said: “This is mainly due to a lack of a developed shipping infrastructure and fleet that are domiciled in Nigeria. Nigeria is the only oil producing country that does not have her own national fleet, whereas Angola which recently joined the ranking of oil producing countries has a fleet for her deliveries.”
Ramalan, who was the former helmsman of the defunct Joint Maritime Labour Council (JOMALIC) which merged with the erstwhile National Maritime Authority (NMA) to form NIMASA lamented that the huge losses Nigeria and Nigerians are experiencing due to the absence of national shipping carrier over the years.
He noted that the absence of a national shipping carrier has denied Nigeria and Nigerians from reaping the full benefits of her being an oil producing nation for decades.
He explained that there is a symbiotic relationship between shipping and the oil and gas industry, just as he pointed out that the absence of a national carrier is a drawback and one fact that have denied Nigeria maximum benefits from its position as a ranking producer of crude oil in the African continent.
He, however, acknowledged that the development of a shipping industry and fleet acquisition require substantial capital.
He advised that the Federal Government of Nigeria must kick-start the development of the shipping sector and fleet acquisition and expansion through its two relevant agencies, namely: NIMASA and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
Ramalan maintained that Nigeria is not doing enough as an oil producing nation, just as he submitted: “Nigeria could and should participate actively in the exploration and shipping of her crude oil as well as in competitive participation in its refining”.
He wondered why Nigeria should continue to depend largely on foreign operators to run her oil and gas sector. He also queried the fact that in exploration and freighting of crude, Nigeria is entirely dependent on foreign operators and foreign ships.
Ramalan argued that there was no need to enact another Act in the National Assembly as existing laws were enough to address the present challenges in the sector. “The three Acts of the National Assembly, namely: NIMASA Act, Cabotage Act and the Local Content Act were sufficient to reverse the trend in collaboration with the NNPC.
“There is an urgent need for this new administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, through NNPC and NIMASA to take a bold position on indigenous participation in the lifting of crude oil. To achieve this, the Federal Government should promote a national shipping carrier through public-private partnership (PPP), using a special purpose vehicle (SPV) like the NLNG model to own and control at least 10 percent equity in vessels handling Nigeria’s crude oil export. This is strategically sensible and will reduce Nigeria’s complete dependence on foreign vessels to freight her oil to customers around the world.”
He noted with adequate government policy and direct involvement of the trio of NIMASA, NNPC, and the Nigerian Local Content Board, not only will Nigeria take control of the money-spinning freighting of her crude, but the nation will in a very short time boast of a national carrier with an impressive fleet.
He enjoined the Federal Government to take a bold step to review the current NNPC trade policy and also abolish the sale of Nigeria’s crude oil on the basis of free-on-board (FOB) and cost insurance and freight (CIF).
*John Iwori – Thisday