“Expand parameters for Maritime Industry Forecast”- NMLA urges NIMASA

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The Nigerian Maritime Law Association (NMLA) has called for the parameters used in developing a forecast for Nigeria’s maritime industry to be broadened as the present scope does not give the full picture of the relevant maritime industry activity.

According to a press statement signed by the Association’s Honorary Secretary, Barrister Emeka Akabogu, the 2019-2020 forecast released by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), limited its parameters to the size of total fleet, incorporating oil tanker fleet, non-oil tanker fleet and oil rigs.

NIMASA projected in 2018 that the national fleet size would grow by 3.95% and 4.24% in 2019. Its numbers for 2019-2020 have followed a similar trajectory, with 2020 estimated fleet size growth at 4.62%. NIMASA forecasts that total fleet size growth will be driven largely by its non-oil tanker fleet projections, which was estimated to grow 3.26% in 2018; 3.54% in 2019 and 3.95% in 2020.

However, the statement highlighted the fact that in making its projections, NIMASA failed to effectively categorize the various vessel types to give an indication into the nature of vessels that the growth refers to. It equally described as curious and lacking sufficient detail, projections that non-oil tanker fleet is expected to be the key driver of significant growth given that Nigeria is neither known for any non-oil/gas cargo of significance nor for investment in non-oil vessels.

Further analysis of the maritime industry forecast revealed that emphasis on registered fleet size, which constitutes a fraction of maritime economic activity, unfairly deflects attention from ancillary maritime services that have significant impact on the economy.

According to the statement, “Our concern is the non-profiling of some key factors which we believe will represent a fuller picture of industry activity, and thus facilitate a more realistic forecast. These essential maritime economy drivers include services such as port operations and services, cargo support, stevedoring, logistics, agency, cargo brokerage, law, finance and crewing among other professional services.”

The Association noted that the parameters should incorporate incoming and outgoing cargo volumes and values, job numbers and industry spending patterns, which if put together, would reflect a more robust and actionable industry forecast than a limited focus on fleet size.

Furthermore, the 2018 forecast factored regulatory impetus to be derived from legislative enactments which were to come on stream in 2018. However, the five proposed Bills mentioned are still under legislative or executive consideration, resulting in a repetition of 2018 expectations in the 2019 forecast.

Amongst pending Bills are the Suppression of Piracy and other Maritime Offences Bill, National Transport Commission Bill, Petroleum Industry Governance Bill, Coastal and Inland Shipping (Amendment) Bill, Ports and Harbours Bill.

“The continued non-enactment of these important legislative instruments that would have, inter alia, updated our maritime laws and industry to international standards, stunts development and discourages investment in the industry. We urge both the National Assembly and the President to take the passage of these Bills into law before the end of this legislative session as an urgent national priority, despite the distraction that electioneering has already started causing in both arms of Government,” the statement read.

Equally piquing the interest of the Association was the fact that while NIMASA’s efforts at cabotage enforcement between 2016 and 2018, recorded a commendable 90% increase in vessels boarded, the rate of detentions were significantly lower, at 2.9% in 2016 increasing to 4.3% in 2018 of total vessels boarded.

In reaction, the NMLA noted that “This would imply that either cabotage compliance is very high or that a large part of relevant activity is not captured. In this regard we suggest that future forecasts include the total number of vessel calls in the cabotage trade and capacity needs of the industry as an effective benchmarking measure.”

NMLA commended NIMASA for the initiative and effort behind this new practice which it believes is a great window for industry benchmarking and guide for investment decision-making. It added that the report affords all stakeholders the opportunity to engage with the data and review how operations in the respective sub-sectors have impacted productivity and growth.

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