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Attracting right investment to maritime sector

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IN far away Texas, United States of America, on the side-lines of the 2019 Offshore Technology Conference, OTC, the leaders of the Nigerian team in attendance announced what seems to be an incentive to attracting foreign investors into the nation’s largely untapped maritime economy.

At a technical workshop on deep sea exploration at the Conference the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Transportation, Alhaji Sabiu Zakari, said that Nigeria was aware of the drift towards deep sea exploration, adding that policies to enhance effective maritime transport are now being considered by the Federal Government.  The team also told the audience that tax and other waivers are on the cards for foreign investors coming into our maritime space.

We applaud the ray of hope on the security aspect of the troubled maritime ecosystem which came with the recent report by the International Maritime Bureau, IMB, that piracy declined in Nigerian waters in the first quarter of 2019.

We give kudos to the Deep Blue project of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, in collaboration with the Nigerian Navy, which enhanced the safety status. But we still implore them to deploy technology to track all vessels in Nigerian waters and reduce criminality to the minimum.

When these are considered along with the crises-ridden road and port infrastructures as well as the scandalous cargo clearing processing standard, we wonder what type of investor would dance to the tune of the investment ambassadors.

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Foreigners with genuine business interest can only come after due diligence on the entire ecosystem and see what suits them best compared to other competing climes around Nigeria.

NIMASA’s regulatory reforms to ensure a business-friendly maritime environment that spurs economic growth should be hinged on both foreign and indigenous investor appreciation in line with global standards and best practices.

We note that the image of today’s Nigerian maritime ecosystem is that of unlimited capacity for compromising standards, a situation that could attract only unscrupulous investors.

While angling for foreign investors the authorities should not lose sight of the need to spur indigenous investors in the spirit that underlined the roll out of the Cabotage regime. The right regulatory environment should also come with providing easy access to capital for local investors, building capacity of the local maritime entrepreneurs and facilitating access to business opportunities for the indigenous operators.

We expect the authorities to demonstrate commitment to creating a special tariff regime for those importing vessels and vessel spare-parts into the country. This is against the ridiculous rule under which a temporary import permit is granted to foreigners to import vessels at just one per cent but Nigerians are slammed 130 percent for the same importation.

We hope the 2019 OTC was not just another jamboree for the Nigerian participants.

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