Expert warns against 100% adoption of foreign policies in maritime sector
Worried by the inability of most foreign conventions and laws adopted in the nation's maritime sector, to turn the sector around for good, an industry expert has warned the federal government against total adoption of foreign commercial maritime laws without due considerations to Nigeria's economic environment.
Bolaji Akinola, a member of the Nigerian Ports Consultative Council (NPCC) Planning Committee on 'Roadmap for the Development of the Maritime Industry towards Attainment of Vision 20:20:20', gave this advice at a meeting of the committee in Lagos recently.
Citing an example, Akinola stated that the failure of the Coastal and Inland Waterways (Cabotage) Act was traceable to the wholesome adoption of the United States of America's Jones Act.
"At a time when United States lawmakers were trying to tweak the Jones Act with some lawmakers calling for its total repeal, Nigerians copied the Act in its whole form without due consideration for the peculiarities of our environment. While an Act like the Cabotage Act was desirable to enhance indigenous participation and retain as much value within our economy as possible, certain portions of the Jones Act should not have been brought into the Cabotage regime.
Continuing, he said: "The Jones Act is almost 100 years old and the dynamics of the present times should have been duly considered before enacting our Cabotage Act. For example, just as the Jones Act, our Cabotage Act stipulated that vessels that would be used for coastal operations must be owned and crew by Nigerians, built and maintained in Nigeria. This is an anomaly because Nigerians have not started building ships. This laid the foundation for the abuse of the law and its failure 10 years after," Akinola, who doubles as the chief executive officer of Ships & Ports Limited, added.
To him, government was not under obligation to domesticate and implement international conventions that are detrimental to the interests of Nigerian ship owners. He further advised that the phase out of single hull vessels as it concerns ships used for coastal operations should be gradual.
He also called on President Muhammadu Buhari to reverse policies 'that are inimical to the maritime industry' and have promoted smuggling of goods across Nigeria's borders. He listed the National Automotive Policy, rice and fish quota systems as policies that are negatively hampering port operations and through which, Nigeria is losing huge revenue.