By Godwin Oritse
As part of efforts to boost trade and encourage foreign direct investment in the Nigerian maritime sector, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, has concluded plans to partner with the Port of Antwerp in Belgium.
Disclosing this in Lagos when Director General of NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, played host to a team from the port of Antwerp in Belgium led by the Director, Africa, Port of Antwerp International, Mr. Nico Vertongen, to the agency’s Headquarters in Lagos.
Peterside said that the Port of Antwerp has had a long-standing relationship with the ports community in Lagos, noting that from 2017 till date, 302 vessels have called between the Port of Antwerp and the ports community in Lagos.
He said within the period, 33 vessels conveyed export goods from the port of Lagos terminating at the Port of Antwerp, with 22 Belgium-flagged vessels calling at Nigerian ports and several other volumes of transaction.
The NIMASA boss said the Agency was willing to consolidate on the gains of the Nigeria-Belgian relationship.
He said: “We have always had a business relationship with the port of Antwerp either as destination ports or ports of origin. We are glad to know that you are in Nigeria and planning to lead a business mission sometime in November 2019 to the Lagos Port Community. Our position is straight forward and clear; we welcome the business mission with our doors open and believe there is a lot we can do together.”
He explained that the November meeting will be the beginning of a mutually beneficial relationship in diverse ways that will also give opportunities for exchange of ideas adding, “It will open opportunities for training for our people and it will give you a better understanding of how the ports in Lagos, Nigeria, in Africa work, leading to the volume of trade between ports and other operations.”
Peterside who expressed concerns about the isolated negative representation of the Nigerian maritime sector in the media said efforts were being made to stem it.
He told the delegation that the Agency, which has the responsibility to ensure maritime security in the ports and waterways, had put in place a number of strategies, including a legal framework on piracy and maritime crime and acquisition of assets to build up response capability, and to stop the pirates and criminals from operating within the coastal waters.
Peterside stated: “In November, we will have the opportunity of setting up a business to business meetings; we have a number of Nigeria businesses that are interested in doing business with operators in Belgium, precisely in the ports of Antwerp. And as you have notified us today, we will begin to prepare ship owners in Nigeria. Those who have set up ship repair yards, shipbuilding yards, operators and all of those for business to a business meeting in November and it is believed that it will be rewarding.”
Responding, Vertongen noted that the Port of Antwerp intended to come to Nigeria in November on a business mission with the intention of boosting the already existing relationship between the ports community in Lagos and the Antwerp port.
He expressed their readiness to partner the Agency on port security, safety and also possible areas of training, adding that the meeting will further be an opportunity for the duo to be official partners.