A ports and terminals promotion body, the Nigerian International Maritime Ports and Terminals (NIMPORT) has called for caution by the Federal Government before actualising the ideals of the Blue Economy in the nation’s maritime sector.
The NIMPORT Chairman, Mr. Fortune Idu, made the call in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos on Thursday.
Idu said that a necessary precursor to proper adoption of the blue economy ideals was safety and environmentally-friendly policy.
The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), which is the apex regulatory and promotional maritime agency in Nigeria, has over time and in diverse national and international forums expressed its commitment to the ideals of actualising the blue economy.
NIMASA defines the blue economy as dealing with the totality of all economic activities associated with the oceans, seas, harbours and coastal zones.
It also includes aquaculture, biomedicine, boats and shipbuilding, ship repairs, defence, and security, amongst others, all geared toward wealth and job creation for the growth and development of the Nigerian economy.
“Going blue economy is all about full utilisation, optimisation or exploitation of the resources under the water. There is a need for it to be done responsibly.
“When a safety and environmentally-friendly policy is put in place, it will protect human beings and protect the ecosystem first, before the exploitation of the country’s water resources takes place,’’ Idu said.
According to him, the first step is not just to dive down the water and start to excavate whatever is there but for us to design a process that is environmentally-friendly and has a lot of safety implications.
The NIMPORT chairman urged the government through NIMASA to undertake research into the full implications of actualising the blue economy before advancing with its commitment.
“For a country like Nigeria that is blessed abundantly with a lot of solid mineral resources; on the surface, I think going a bit further to find out what the ocean or the water has for us and beyond just using it as a means of transportation, could be interesting.
“This is interesting in the sense of the opportunities for diversification of economic options. However, my advice is before we go into this area, we need to think deeply and do a lot of research work.
“We should understand that anything done to alter or change or influence the ecosystem of the water, the aquatic system, is something which becomes very difficult to revert, especially when it comes to pollution,’’’ he said.
Idu pointed out that going into research was essential because the country was already saddled with trying to clean up pollution as regards oil spillage and all other forms of industrial pollution on our waters.
He noted that the country’s water banks today were filled with a lot of solid waste, some of which were non-degradable materials like plastic and they had yet to be cleared.
He said that going under the water to exploit would technically affect the ecosystem of the water, saying that part of the air that we breathe actually came from activities within the water.
“All the fishes that live in the water and all the other living organisms in the water help to support the general ecosystem of where we live.
“We are healthier when our waters are healthy, so it is very important that we look and do whatever we have to do responsibly,” Idu said.
The NIMPORT chairman said that exploitation was basically a business venture but protection was normally not a business venture.
He noted that most business people did not look at the initial consequences of their actions because they were more focused on profitability.
Idu urged NIMASA to put in place a policy that would protect the maritime environment, saying that the protection would have to come in the form of regulation.