Fortunate to visit the Apapa port in Lagos recently, I marveled at the volume and complexity of activities I witnessed. Seeing colossal vessels docking as well as leaving port, watching as heavy cranes lifted huge containers from these ships, I realized that a lot of things I took for granted back at home actually found their way into the country by sea. This got me wondering as to how things would have been if Nigeria had not been blessed with its aquatic endowments.
I quickly abandoned that thought when its ramifications were becoming too disquieting.
The maritime sector right from ancient civilization has always been a cogent precursor in the socioeconomic development of regions around the globe. The International Maritime Organization,with the theme “Better Shipping for a Better Future”, set out last year to celebrate seventy years of ensuring that the people of the world can continue to benefit from shipping in a manner that meets not only the needs of the global economy, but also the ever-dynamic expectations as regards safety, environmental protection, social responsibility and so on, a period which has seen boundless advancements in the maritime industry.
But even as we go forward, the need to come up with policies and innovations that would contribute to the sustainability of the industry as a viable transport mechanism remains a matter of germane and focal concern.
Boasting a coastline of 852 kilometers bordering the Atlantic Ocean in the Gulf of Guinea, a maritime area of over 46,000 kilometers-square, a total freight cost of about $6 billion annually, and maritime component of the oil and gas industry valued at $8 billion, our country stands to gain a lot from the efficient development, administration and utilization of its rich maritime potentials.
Which is why IMO 70 afforded us the opportunity to not only take stock and look back on how far we have come, but also to look forward, forging new ways of making the shipping industry better as well as addressing current and future challenges for maritime transport in its bid to maintain a continued and vibrant contribution towards sustainable growth for all.
Looking at the state of events in recent times, better shipping in Nigeria will not just be a theme, but our reality, if we can achieve stronger maritime security. Without proper maritime security and safety in our ports, vessels are vulnerable to threats like piracy, armed robbery, and other marine crime. In recent times, Nigeria has gained notoriety for the number of recorded pirate attacks against vessels. Due to this unattractive label, shipping is considered a risky business in the country, with insurers raising the premium on vessels coming into the country. When these attacks happen, port traffic steeply declines, losing valuable customs revenue as traffic moves elsewhere. So how exactly is our country rising up to the challenge of providing secure waterways for all?
A major reason for the burgeoning piracy trade is the lack of a legal framework to adequately prosecute maritime crimes in the country. It is quite alarming that up till today we do not have laws laid down to specifically address this menace whenever it crops up. If we are to effectively curb this menace that threatens the future of our maritime industry, a bill of this sort is required. In the absence of this regulatory framework,security can only be attainable if there exists effective and extensive collaboration among naval stakeholders which include government agencies with divested interest in the maritime sector like the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Nigerian Shipowners Association (NSA), the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC), Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Ministry of Trade and Transportation, the Nigerian Naval Force, as well as other private stakeholders, financial institutions and local communities. Also, maritime security can be strengthened through regional, international and inter-agency coordination similar to the Yaound? Code of Conduct enacted in 2009 which brought together signatory nations from West and Central Africa, cooperating in the repression of maritime crime, terrorism, and other illegal activities at sea. This can aid in swift response to attacks, increase communications and patrols, and help make shipping safer.
Even as we try to guarantee the safety and security of our naval assets, it is also pertinent we keep our minds open to innovations and policies that would utilize the relative safety measures already being achieved to ensure optimal performance of existing and future maritime assets, investments, organizations and infrastructures. With the level of investment needed to be an active stakeholder in the maritime sector, equipment, procedures and solutions capable of maximizing asset productive lifecycle and minimizing the amount of maintenance needed to be carried out are avidly sought after.
Industry 4.0 has come to roost, bringing with it buzz word like Digital Twins, Cloud computing and Analytics, Internet of Things (IoT) to mention a few. The industrial sector is experiencing a paradigm shift as more fields progressively find digitization a convenient tool for improving efficiency and ensuring the maintenance of assets. Our maritime industry cannot afford to lag behind in this technological migration to alternative innovative solutions. Our shipping industry needs to move away from traditional approaches to digital simulation to meet globally sustainable system requirements. By adopting the latest product lifecycle management (PLM) technologies, including digital twin and design simulation, construction, maintenance and operation of shipping vessels can be greatly optimized.
Meeting the current shipping regulations, though challenging, will be made more manageable and less costly as the maritime industry adopts advanced PLM technologies for product development and management. By utilizing digital design solutions, ship performance can be predicted and optimized early in the construction process, allowing better, safer and greener vessel development, cheaper and faster, feats that cannot be satisfactorily accomplished using traditional methods. In conclusion, Kitack Lim, the Secretary-general for IMO worldwide expounded on how things worth doing are often arduous and lengthy endeavors. This is a suitable juncture for me to reiterate the fact that better shipping is achievable with stronger maritime security and application of innovative technology to maximize value.
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