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Project NIMASA touts Blue Economy

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THE Blue Economy Initiative of the Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Dakuku Peterside has not only unveiled the hidden potentials in the maritime sector but has also, greatly projected Nigeria as indeed, a shipping hub for African continent. The Blue Sea Economy Initiative, also targets at getting prospective Nigerian investors to tap into the huge wealth creating prospects in the maritime sub-sector.

In promoting his Blue Economy initiative recently, Dakuku had observed that about 70 percent of the earth resources are underneath the sea and that in most cases left untapped. According to him, almost all the cities of the world began their development from the sea which underscores the underlying importance of the sea to economic and social growth.

Explaining what he termed a “Wealth spinning project” Dakuku said that in realizing a desirable blue sea economy framework, participatory engagement and agenda setting, participatory policy design and implementation and multi-sector partnership are key areas that must be considered. He also highlighted fair multilateral and bilateral agreements, improved well-being, inclusive job creation, Eco-tourism, debt swaps and green ports amongst others as some of the tools and opportunities that abound in the blue economy sector in Africa.

He added that the concepts it will bring to Africa ranges from sustainable business opportunities, circular economy, resource efficiency, and conservation of development. All these he said will help the continent actualize the blue economy sector. He identified maritime insecurity, criminal activities at sea, climate vulnerability, poor infrastructure, among others as factors militating against the development of Africa’s blue economy. “We have proposed an Anti-piracy Bill which has been signed by the President. This will enable the agency to prosecute those found in such nefarious activities that are capable of hampering the development of the maritime sector,” Peterside said.

The last Lagos International Trade Fair afforded the NIMASA helmsman more opportunity to expatiate on how blue economy can be used to promote industrialization and economic recovery. In his words: “The call for economic diversification in Nigeria is a national consensus. More so, the challenges of fluctuating low oil prices and the discoveries of alternative sources of energy give impetus to urgent economic diversification in a country that depends largely on hydrocarbon resources for its prosperity.

Scope of Blue Economy

The development of Nigeria’s blue economy is another great opportunity to return the nation to the path of industrialization, sustainable growth and economic prosperity.” For those who may be confused about what blue economy means, Peterside said: “The blue economy deals with ‘the totality of all economic activity associated with the oceans, seas, harbors, ports, and coastal zones’. It also includes, aquaculture, biomedicine, boats and shipbuilding, cables and pipelines, coastal zone management, defense and security, desalination and water treatment, Marine recreation, ocean energy and minerals, ocean science and observation, port operations, robotics and submarines, Shoreline development, telecommunications, marine tourism, very large floating platforms, weather and climate”. In other words, the application or exploitation of these elements in a sustainable manner for economic development and wealth creation defines the concept of blue economy.” He explained that some blue economy sectors in Nigeria are aquaculture, maritime ports infrastructure, shipbuilding and repair yards, training of seafarers, maritime education and training, deep sea development, wreck removal and recycling and marine insurance. Aquaculture as a component of the blue economy has the capacity to generate millions of employment, food security, and GDP growth. It also offers great opportunities for foreign exchange earnings. The evidence of the immense capabilities of this sub-sector can be gleaned from the fact that growth of fish farming moved from 25 000 tons in early 2000 to more than 250 000 tons in 2011 and it is still growing. Interestingly, ports are critical infrastructure assets that serve as catalysts for economic growth and development. Maritime transport handles over 80 percent of the volume of global trade and accounts for over 70 percent of its value. A well-planned and managed port can drive industrialization leading to massive job creation, wealth and value creation. It will also contribute to national GDP and promote the expansion of related and near-by industries and cities. Low capacity in shipbuilding and repairs has forced Nigerian operators to seek services offshore. This has led to unprecedented capital flights and loss of opportunities to other maritime nations. Shipwrecks are also in high demand in the international market. Nigeria has a deluge of these on its waters. Unfortunately, because the steel industry in the country is yet to be fully developed, nothing much is being done to tap this huge wealth. But there is hope in the horizon to tap into this wealth, Peterside said: “As part of a comprehensive action plan to develop the blue economy, a number of measures are being put in place to improve service delivery at the ports. The government is vigorously pursuing the expansion of the nation’s port infrastructure through the development of Deep Sea Ports to be driven by the private sector. “Furthermore, we are committed to exploring the single window project and ensuring that the various operational processes of the maritime sector such as vessel reception, cargo handling and clearance among others, become automated to reduce revenue leakages and vessel dwell time at the ports. The gap in manpower development would be addressed by upgrading capacity building institutions to provide the needed professional and skilled personnel to run the industry. We are further committed to providing enabling environment for increased private sector participation in the operations and provision of services in the maritime sector”, he stated. Government’s attention is also directed towards ensuring security in the shipping industry. In this light, NIMASA is already partnering the Nigerian Navy and all relevant security agencies in addressing the security challenges in the Gulf of Guinea which is key to our economic resurgence agenda.

The Deep Blue Scale-Up initiative is a comprehensive, technology-equipment-process based security architecture designed to primarily optimize maritime safety and security in Nigeria waters.” He went on, “Government is committed to assisting genuine investors to access the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund in order to boost investment in shipbuilding and repairs. Investments in agriculture, mining, solid mineral and manufacturing would not bring about the required economic self-reliance if the maritime sector remains a mere appendage in a foreign-dominated shipping industry. Efforts are at advanced stage to facilitate the establishment of a National Carrier to be spearheaded by the private sector. This, when established, is believed to address multiple challenges in the shipping industry such as check capital fight, create more employment opportunities for our youth, provide an opportunity for sea time training of graduate cadets as well as enforce resurgence in the shipbuilding and repairs sub-sector of shipping. NIMASA is working out modalities for Public Sector Cargo support for indigenous shipping operators to guarantee significant indigenous participation in Nigeria’s blue economy”.

Dr. Peterside asserted his firm belief that Nigeria is at a vantage position with a good geographical location with about 900 km coastline, hence the need to work harmoniously to realize the blueprint of the AIMS 2050 with the overall goal of actualizing the concept of the Blue Economy in Africa for continental economic growth.

Interest

For the country to create a blue economy regime, the NIMASA has therefore stressed the need to amend its obsolete legislations to conform to the present day ocean sustainability realities.

It also noted that the maritime economic growth should be given proper attention by government to enable Nigeria take advantage of the vast resources in the seabed. The DG at a media parley in Lagos, recently, said that the seas and oceans were central to the concept of blue economy and important tools to achieving sustainable development in Africa.

According to Peterside, the country’s seas and oceans are overlooked when it comes to the issue of sustainable development in Africa, stressing that  the country could benefit from the deep sea wealth by working with the International Seabed Authority (ISBA) in the area of seabed resources exploration.

Challenges

Nigeria is one of the countries in Africa considered to be sea-blind because of its low level of awareness of the resources, which abound underneath the sea. Also, the country is currently facing challenges of insecurity and government policy to tap some ocean resources estimated at $24 trillion.

Other challenges are criminal activities at sea, climate vulnerability, poor infrastructure, environmental degradation, illegal mining, marine pollution and unauthorized fishing. In all these, NIMASA has put a good fight partnering the Nigerian military to help fight maritime crimes.

Need for positive policies

Presently, there is no fusion of policies that can bridge shipping and fisheries under a maritime economic regime.

While Nigeria’s shipping policy, which is considered obsolete, stands alone, national fisheries policy, superintended by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, operates in isolation.For instance, Nigeria’s Sea Fisheries Act 1992 does not have provision for Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (IUUF). This, to some extent, has hindered blue economy’s development.

Steps

Already, the agency had sought the assistance of ISBA in the area of capacity building to survey deep sea and establish the database of mineral resources available for the benefit of all mankind. According to Peterside, “NIMASA is working with Nigerian Navy to effectively enforce the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and other relevant international maritime instruments to which we are a party around our continental shelf.

Also, the Federal Ministry of Transportation is already developing a country blue economy policy and strategy, which will incorporate the sustainable development of the country’s deep seabed resources. In addition, the agency has equally recognised the need for increased partnership and collaboration with the judiciary in the actualisation of the country’s collective vision for the sustainability of its shipping and maritime transport sector in a blue economy

Awareness

The NIMASA is already constantly parleying with the media, urging maritime journalists to report the potentials of the blue economy to enable Nigerians to key into the platform.

Remedy

Peterside said that if government was able to tackle the maritime challenges, the country would be able to sustain the concept of the blue economy. “We need to put suitable policy in place to enable us achieve all the potentials in the blue economy.”

Conclusion

There is no doubt that the blue economy holds the key to Nigeria’s sustainable economic growth and government must invest in critical infrastructures to boost the sector, close all loopholes and reposition Nigeria’s blue economy for industrialization and sustainable growth.

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