By Chinonye Anyatonwu.
Director-General of the Sea Empowerment and Research Centre, Mr. Francis Ude Aniezechukwu in his analysis of activities on blue/ocean economy has stated that United State’s marine economy contributed about $373 billion to the nations gross domestic product in 2018 which according to him grew faster than the nations economy as a whole.
In his speech at the MAJAN’s Q1 review of the maritime sector activities held recently at Apapa, Lagos, Mr. Aniezechukwu indicated that the European Union report of 2018 shows that the marine-related gross domestic products grew 5.8 % from 2017 to 2018, faster than the 5.4% growth of the total U.S gross domestic product as measure in current dollars.
According to Mr. Aniezechukwu, record shows that the East Asian Seas region is recognised as the centre of Marine biodiversity globally, being home to 31℅ of the world’s mangrove, 33℅ of the sea grass beds and a third of all the world’s coral reef. Countries of the EAS region account for 80℅ of the global aquaculture and around 60℅ of the world’s capture fisheries.
Moreover, the region’s sea serves as an important conduit for 90℅ of world trade through shipping. Again, the EAS region is a centre of economic growth, home to the 2nd and 3rd largest economies in the world (China and Japan respectively).
The Ocean economy (including the blue economy initiatives) around the 10 countries around the EAS region is estimated to be worth $1.4 trillion in value added and around 54 million people are said to be employed in ocean industries in the region.
He also noted that the Australian Index of Marine Industry in 2018 indicated that in 2015-2016 the blue economy was worth $68.1 billion.
His presentation also indicated that there is an enormous opportunity to develop Africa’s Maritime or blue economy which in turn will help reduce poverty, create employment, growth and export and strengthen food and energy security. He noted however that a few challenges have held back progress. One of the challenges in the sector is the incidents of piracy though he noted that figures show a gradual decline in piracy, 2019 had 62 incidents, 2020 had 47 cases while the first quarter of 2021 shows 38 incidents.
He highlighted that it is of worthy note that the Nigerian president, Muhammadu Buhari in 2019 signed the Suppression of Piracy Act into law and that the Nigerian Maritime Administrative and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has started implementing it. With an estimated 47,000km of coastline (African Union, 2012) there is an enormous potential for the African countries in the expansion of fisheries, aquaculture, tourism and transportation and these can help to reduce poverty and enhance food production, energy, security, employment, economic growth, export, Ocean health and the sustainable use of Ocean resources.
The total value added to the African economy is estimated at about $24 billion or 1.26℅ of the Gross Domestic Product of all African countries.
Mr. Aniezechukwu added that the fundamental things to do in other that the potentials within the blue economy may be realised are the Empowerment of the regulatory Agencies, NIMASA, NPA, NSC. He noted that the Ocean contributes 70-80℅ of the total movement of goods and cargoes. He also advocated for the creation of the ministry of Maritime Affairs noting that with that all the agencies under such a ministry will be properly positioned to fully carry out their functions as he opined that our waterways are presently empty.
He deplored the fact that there is no statistical data on the Maritime sector of our economy as he said that NIMASA sources it’s data from the International Maritime Bureau, he called on the FG to inaugurate a data agency or unit that will keep records of all activities within the sector. He said that the major ingredient of the blue economy is to empower the people to maximise the use of the Ocean.
The Registrar of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarder (NAGAFF), Mr. Francis Omotosho in his own presentation analysis that many importers have problems in gaining access to foreign exchange, adding that our Ports have haphazard development because of the lack of a master plan and asks government to look into this aspect in other to maximise the inherent potentials within the system.
He said that anywhere in the world that the movement of cargoes and their place of placement are paid for before shipment and that the costs of holding bays are already embedded in the initial arrangement, the shipping companies also are becoming a big problem as they do not make arrangements for the holding bays to house the empty containers in preparation for export.
He argued that the terminal operators have managed to make the cost of clearing goods to rise astronomically instead of the low cost that was intended before the concessioning of the port terminals. The examination of cargoes he said is a problem as the manual examination technique is outdated and cumbersome.
Mr. Omotosho noted that the facilities or lack of the them have contributed to the seriousness of the traffic grid and the electronic call up system is a step in the right direction, but needs tweaking to make it function adequately. He called the coming of the barge operations as a child of necessity, but added that it has not addressed the needs of cargo movement as multimodal means of transportation is needed, feeder vessels are needed to move cargoes from vessels and not these bunkering barges that are presently being used.
In conclusion, participants agreed that there should be more investment in training, seminar and workshops for all stakeholders, they hope that all the regulatory agencies will be properly empowered to get their jobs done, that the standard trading conditions will be used by all operators, and government giving their policy statements and direction in all aspects of the blue economy.
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