“There is no shipping environment in the world that is more attractive than Nigeria,” claims Ziakede Patrick Akpobolokemi, General Director and CEO of the Nigerian Maritime Administration & Safety Agency (NIMASA).
“In the maritime sector, we have not even scratched the surface in terms of potential. We need countries like Germany to come in and partner with our government and institutions like NIMASA.”
Indeed, anyone interested transforming Nigeria into a prominent maritime nation should put their faith in NIMASA, an entity formed in 2006 with the mandate to achieve safe, secure shipping, cleaner oceans and enhanced maritime capacity. The agency’s overall goal is to prioritise Nigeria’s place at the top of the maritime agenda, and its forward-thinking nature certainly helps give NIMASA the edge.
This is typified by the Nigerian Seafarers Development Programme (NSDP) that it launched in 2008 to encourage young Nigerians to embark on maritime careers. In 2012, the number of beneficiaries on the NSDP has significantly increased and Mr Akpobolokemi says that the whole area of manpower development has been one of the most important areas of the agency’s transformation during his tenure. He also invites the private sector to take on a greater role in stepping up the sector, which in turn will lead to greater well-being for the local communities.
“We would like to see the private sector participate in the building of shipyards and training of seafarers. These are short-term objectives in which we are engaging the National Assembly to make the appropriate approvals. We’re discussing how to partner with different stakeholders, so the shipping industry must be open for transformation and employment generation, and peace in the sub-region,” says Mr Akpobolokemi.
Nigeria’s potential in shipping is so great that he forecasts that Nigeria will become a shipping hub in Africa in the near future. And what the CEO envisions for the coming five years is a “radically transformed shipping sector that is going to generate thousands of jobs, open up the industry and build indigenous capacity.”
His invitation to the German business community to lend expertise is largely based on the fact that the current number of shipyards doesn’t even account for 5 per cent of the demand. “NIMASA can provide a practical enabling environment for business to come,” he urges, adding, “The market is really here, from electronic systems to shipbuilding, there are many untapped opportunities.”
This openness and zeal for shipping has only come about during the current administration. Mr Akpobolokemi remembers how little priority was given to the industry and even the national shipping line was liquidated. “But we’re finally getting back on track,” he remarks. “This government is hugely passionate about the shipping industry and is regularly in contact with us about different opportunities, which was not the case in the past. The government is integrating the shipping industry’s opportunities into its transformation agenda, believing that the industry should be opened up.”