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Blue economy: The wealth Nigeria must tap

By Solomon Sokari
The Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Dakuku Peterside, recently hit the nail on the head when he said about 70percent of the earth resources are underneath the sea and that in most cases left untapped.

Nigeria

According to him, almost all the cities of the world began their development from the sea which shows the underlying importance of the sea to economic and social growth.

The NIMASA DG, who spoke during a paper presentation to the Management of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) in Lagos titled; “Introducing the Blue Economy Concept”, said that in realising a desirable blue sea economy framework, participatory engagement and agenda setting, participatory policy design and implementation and multi-sector partnership are key areas that must be considered.

He also highlighted fair multilateral and bilateral agreements, improved well-being, inclusive job creation, Eco-tourism, debt swaps and green ports amongst others as some of the tools and opportunities that abound in the blue economy sector in Africa. He added that the concepts it will bring to Africa ranges from sustainable business opportunities, circular economy, resource efficiency, and conservation of development.

All these he said will help the continent actualize the blue economy sector.
He identified maritime insecurity, criminal activities at sea, climate vulnerability, poor infrastructure among others as factors militating against the development of Africa’s blue economy.

“We have proposed an Anti-piracy bill which is presently before the National Assembly and would be passed soon. This will enable the Agency to prosecute those found in such nefarious activities that are capable of hampering the development of the maritime sector,” Peterside said.

The last Lagos International Trade Fair afforded the NIMASA helmsman more opportunity to expatiate on how blue economy can be used to promote industrialization and economic recovery.

In his words: “The call for economic diversification in Nigeria is a national consensus. More so, the challenges of fluctuating low oil prices and the discoveries of alternative sources of energy give impetus to urgent economic diversification in a country that depends largely on hydrocarbon resources for its prosperity. The development of Nigeria’s blue economy is another great opportunity to return the nation to the path of industrialization sustainable growth and economic prosperity.”

For those who may be confused about what blue economy means, Peterside said: “The blue economy deals with ‘the totality of all economic activity associated with the oceans, seas, harbors, ports, and coastal zones’. It also includes, aquaculture, biomedicine, boats and shipbuilding, cables and pipelines, coastal zone management, defense and security, desalination and water treatment, Marine recreation, ocean energy and minerals, ocean science and observation, port operations, robotics and submarines, Shoreline development, telecommunications, marine tourism, very large floating platforms, weather and climate”. In other words, the application or exploitation of these elements in a sustainable manner for economic development and wealth creation defines the concept of blue economy.”

He explained that some blue economy sectors in Nigeria are aquaculture, maritime ports infrastructure, shipbuilding and repair yards, training of seafarers, maritime education and training, deep sea development, wreck removal and recycling and marine insurance.

Aquaculture as a component of the blue economy has the capacity to generate millions of employment, food security, and GDP growth. It also offers great opportunities for foreign exchange earnings.

The evidence of the immense capabilities of this sub-sector can be gleaned from the fact that growth of fish farming moved from 25 000 tons in early 2000 to more than 250 000 tons in 2011 and it is still growing.

Interestingly, ports are critical infrastructure assets that serve as catalysts for economic growth and development. Maritime transport handles over 80 percent of the volume of global trade and accounts for over 70 percent of its value.

A well-planned and managed port can drive industrialization leading to massive job creation, wealth and value creation. It will also contribute to national GDP and promote the expansion of related and near-by industries and cities.
Low capacity in shipbuilding and repairs has forced Nigerian operators to seek services offshore. This has led to unprecedented capital flights and loss of opportunities to other maritime nations.

Shipwrecks are also in high demand in the international market. Nigeria has a deluge of these on its waters. Unfortunately, because the steel industry in the country is yet to be fully developed, nothing much is being done to tap this huge wealth.

But there is hope in the horizon to tap into this wealth, Peterside said: “As part of a comprehensive action plan to develop the blue economy, a number of measures are being put in place to improve service delivery at the ports. The Government is vigorously pursuing the expansion of the nation’s port infrastructure through the development of Deep Sea Ports to be driven by the private sector.

“Furthermore, we are committed to exploring the single window project and ensuring that the various operational processes of the maritime sector such as vessel reception, cargo handling and clearance among others, become automated to reduce revenue leakages and vessel dwell time at the ports.

The gap in manpower development would be addressed by upgrading capacity building institutions to provide the needed professional and skilled personnel to run the industry. We are further committed to providing enabling an environment for increased private sector participation in the operations and provision of services in the maritime sector” He stated.

He went further, “Transport Sector Reform Bills currently before the National Assembly are receiving legislative consideration. It is hoped that the expeditious passage of the bills would give effect to the proposed reform aimed at strengthening the relevant maritime agencies for more effective performance.

Government’s attention is also directed towards ensuring security in the shipping industry. In this light, NIMASA is being repositioned to effectively partner the Nigerian Navy and indeed all relevant security agencies in addressing the security challenges in the Gulf of Guinea which is key to our economic resurgence agenda. The Deep Blue Scale-Up initiative is a comprehensive, technology-equipment-process based security architecture designed to primarily optimize maritime safety and security in Nigeria waters.”

He went on, “Government is committed to assisting genuine investors to access the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund in order to boost investment in shipbuilding and repairs.

Investments in agriculture, mining, solid mineral and manufacturing would not bring about the required economic self-reliance if the maritime sector remains a mere appendage in a foreign-dominated shipping industry. Efforts are at advanced stage to facilitate the establishment of a National Carrier to be spearheaded by the private sector.

This, when established, is believed to address multiple challenges in the shipping industry such as check capital fight, create more employment opportunities for our youth, provide an opportunity for sea time training of graduate cadets as well as enforce resurgence in the shipbuilding and repairs sub-sector of shipping. NIMASA is working out modalities for Public Sector Cargo support for indigenous shipping operators to guarantee significant indigenous participation in Nigeria’s blue economy”.

There is no doubt that the blue economy holds the key to Nigeria’s sustainable economic growth and government must invest in critical infrastructures to boost the sector, close all loopholes and reposition Nigeria’s blue economy for industrialization and sustainable growth.

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