The Nigerian Association of Master Mariners (NAMM) has implored Gboyega Oyetola, the Minister of Marine and Blue Economy, to put a stop to the unending revenue declines experienced by Nigeria in its shipping agency industry. Furthermore, NAMM declared that the nation is being drained of over $100 billion per year due to foreign control over its shipping agency enterprises. In an interview with the Nigerian Tribune, Captain Tajudeen Alao, National President of NAMM, highlighted a peculiar phenomenon. He explained that numerous foreign vessels visiting Nigerian ports engage in their shipping agency activities remotely, directly from their home countries, even while physically present within the nation’s ports.
Captain Alao states that within the shipping agency services space, there exists a distinct division dedicated to Liner Shipping alongside Ship Husbandry. Nigeria prides itself on its extensive experience in chartering ships, boasting a skilled pool of Nigerians well-versed in the field of Ship Brokerage. In the event that the government is able to ensure a steady stream of cargoes, the country is more than capable of harnessing its manpower to accomplish these tasks proficiently. The presence of individuals skilled in vessel security allows for the prompt acquisition of vessels in instances where cargo is readily available.
Some agencies operate their shipping from foreign locations.
Also, the shipping agency industry forms another significant sector. Nigeria experiences a massive annual loss of revenue exceeding $100 billion due to various factors. Also, the Nigeria Customs Service holds the authority to grant licenses to shipping agents responsible for attending to the ships arriving at the nation’s ports. With the exception of Comet Shipping, which has set up a branch in Nigeria for its Shipping Agency operations, the majority of other shipping companies who serve the country ports handle their agency business remotely from their own countries. This consequently results in significant amounts of capital leaving Nigeria.
Shipping companies such as Grimaldi, Maersk Line, Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), and CMA-CGM, along with various others, engage in their shipping agency operations from foreign locations whenever their vessels dock at ports. This practice contradicts established global standards, necessitating the Minister’s attention to address the matter. Typically, in order to facilitate their ship’s visit to a port of call, the ship’s owner, through the Protective Agent, and the cargo owner, through the Shipping Agency, are responsible for sending funds to local agents in the respective country. These funds are intended to cover all expenses related to the ship’s clearance and various services the shipping agency provides.
Ship owners must send funds to the Local Shipping Agent.
According to legal regulations, the Shipping Agent is required to offer ship husbandry. Essentially, this implies that the ship owner must send funds to the Local Shipping Agent in Nigeria to secure customs clearance for the ship and ensure the onboard crew’s well-being. Additionally, these funds cover various services, including water supply, cargo repairs, crew transportation, crew welfare, medical support, and numerous other provisions. Nigeria’s loss in the lucrative sector of big business occurs as the local shipping agents, who play a pivotal role as intermediaries between the ship’s Master and local transactions, are falling short.
Instead of relying on Nigerian Shipping Agents, the majority of shipping companies opt to conduct their transactions from abroad when it comes to calling the ports. He added that he has travelled across the globe aboard various vessels, and one common practice upon reaching foreign ports is to enlist the assistance of local shipping agents from those countries for their shipping agency requirements. In Nigeria, several vessels need to obtain licenses for clearance at the ports. However, despite the availability of licensed ships in the country, prominent shipping companies refrain from engaging local shipping agents.
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Inquiring about the potential reason behind Nigeria’s anomaly, which is the absence of its own shipping line, led to the response of the NAMM President, who denied any correlation between the ownership of ships and the situation. The president stated that this practice is a widely accepted international trade norm, and it is only in Nigeria where foreign shipping lines execute their shipping agency operations remotely, operating from overseas. It remains peculiarly untouched in various regions, but this intriguing matter requires thorough investigation by the new Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy.