As the Federal government grapples with dwindling revenue from the petroleum sector, a maritime expert and consultant, Engineer Emmanuel Ilori, has affirmed that there are ample opportunities in the maritime sector to rescue Nigeria and serve as financial boom for President Muhammadu Buhari-led government.
Ilori, a consultant in maritime engineering and management with over 20 years international experience, said if the sector is reformed, Nigeria has the capacity to be a global player in the industry.
In the recent past, experts had ascribed the industry’s poor performance to statutory instruments, but Ilori said it is not peculiar to Nigeria.
According to him, “These instruments are essentially Maritime Technical Development Regulations that require technical expertise for their effective utilisation and implementation.
“In UK it is called Home Trade and it addresses trade, technical and human capacity, while in the United States, The Jones Act was designed to protect existing maritime industry and prepare it for growth.”
Relating it with Nigeria, he noted that the greatest country in the African continent “has the benefit of two excellent instruments in the Local Content Act and the Cabotage Act.
“The first was adopted based on the internal technical local content gaps identified within the oil and gas industry. Its modest positive impact is largely due to its implementation by technical experts with thorough understanding of the industry.”
Ilori argued that “The Cabotage Act is the most important instrument that is capable of transforming the Nigerian maritime sector, both technically and economically”.
“It makes provision for indigenisation of ship building, ship repairs, ship ownership and local capacity development. This law also has a major and very important provision; that is an independent fund for maritime development in the form of Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund.”
Presently, he disclosed that an initial 200 million USD is available in the CVFF, emphasizing that it is a great impetus for Nigerian engineers and technicians to build ships locally.
“Besides, the funds can also be channeled to enhance ship repair, procure new ships that are cabotage-specific and enable new companies to benefit,” he added, proving that these will definitely transform the Nigerian maritime industry over time.
Explaining how the nation can maximize her maritime potentials, the expert stated thus: “Nigeria is blessed with a network of inland waterways that span the length and breadth of the country.
“Developed countries with such natural endowments have utilised them to accelerate industrialisation and economic growth.”
He specifically mentioned that core areas of opportunity “are in ship repair, oil exploration, oil export and import, cargo import and export, short sea trade, fishing, support services including harbor maintenance.
“In Nigeria, there are immense opportunities not fully tapped for employment generation in areas like ship repair, ship building, inland water transportation and industries, offshore services and oil exploration,” he said.
Furthermore, he noted that it is imperative for any serious-minded country, which must develop, to develop its own local content policy to maximise its potentials in maritime business.
His words: “One must realise that 90% of the global trade is transported through the seas. The maritime industry is therefore a veritable industry which is an alternative to oil & gas industry in Nigeria.
The maritime expert with international repute reaffirmed that world energy supply will collapse without sea transportation and the quest to sustain these trades has meant trans-national investment in the maritime industry.
“Nigeria must take its local content policy with the utmost seriousness. There is no reason why we cannot build and repairs ships on our shores.
“The relevant agencies of government engaged in the maritime sector can make up to ten times the revenue they make now from a fully developed, sustainable maritime industry,” he said.
He also put forward the need to reduce road accidents and save more lives by re-orgarnizing and utilizing the inland water transportation channels.
However, Ilori mentioned that the initiative should not be funded by government alone, urging the private sector to play more prominent roles.
“The strategic importance of this sector to national and international energy supply chain also means that external influence in this sector cannot be ignored.
“The enactment of the Local Content Act is probably one of the most important steps taken so far to ensure that the oil and gas sector promotes national technical development including the maritime sector due to the high number of marine vessels covered by international and national regulations.
“It is to the credit of the Federal Government that the issue of security, peace and disarmament are taken very seriously and this will continue to enhance confidence in the maritime industry.
“Government has taken steps to fight the menace of piracy and armed attacks against ships. Greater collaboration with friendly international partners can only but help to establish Nigeria as the destination of choice in the maritime business in Africa,” he said.

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