(Chika Chukwudi) ABUJA : Key Note Address By The Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration And Safety Agency On Intermodal Connectivity, Traveller’s Safety And Security:The Importance And Opportunities Of Water Transportation To Tourism, And Sustainable Development Of The Transportation And Tourism Sectors In Nigeria
The DG/CEO of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Dakuku a. Peterside at the 1st National Tourism Transport Summit and Expo 2018 (21st- 22nd may, 2018)
It is my honour and great pleasure to present the key note address at this year’s Transport and Tourism summit. I thank the organizers of this submit for their thoughtfulness in fostering inter Agency collaboration. This summit could not have come at a better time than now when the government is desirous and working towards a diversified economy.
The Nigerian economy has for a long time been highly dependent on crude oil. The over dependence on a single commodity for the survival of an entire nation portends a grave economic danger, not only because of the volatility of the commodity price but the more present danger of diminishing demand as a result of the discovery of alternative energy sources by world’s major users.
It is now more imperative than ever that we focus on finding other sources of income before the doomsday arrives. There are no better areas to focus on now than the Transport and Tourism industry because of our Natural endowments in these sectors. It is therefore very heart-warming that these two industries are now coming together for an effective collaboration and synergy to achieve the desired economic diversification and prosperity for the country.
Statistics has shown that the travel and tourism industry is one of the world’s largest industries with a global economic contribution (direct, indirect and induced) of over 7.6 trillion U.S. dollars in 2016 alone. Other countries of the world with similar economic situations like ours have keyed into these sectors, and are already achieving great feats. A very good example is the United Arab Emirates that have used transport and tourism to diversify their economy. In 2016, tourists spent over $31billion in Dubai alone, which is the highest amount spent by tourists in a single city anywhere in the world. Emirates Airlines carried a total of 51.9 million passengers with revenue in excess of $23.2 billion in 2016/2017 financial year. There is no way that the correlation between Emirates Airlines and the boom in the Dubai tourist industry is not apparent. Today UAE is earning more foreign exchange from tourism than from their oil and gas industry. It is possible for the same feat to be achieved in Nigeria.
The maritime industry also presents a great opportunity for an economic rebirth if the potentials of the blue economy is properly unleashed. The Blue economy which is the effective and integrated use of a country’s seas and oceans to achieve economic development confers unimaginable advantages to Nigeria whose coastline spans 850km. These advantages can be categorised into five, namely; mineral resources, food, energy, Sea transport and tourism. Out of these five, water transport and tourism are the least taped in Nigeria, though they present a better outlook for economic diversification.
Maritime transport worldwide has been and still remains a very important catalyst for economic development of coastal states while supporting the development and growth of tourism. Cruise ships are major suppliers of tourists all over the world and Nigeria cannot be different if we do the right thing.
In addition, the tourism industry in Nigeria can benefit from the international cargo vessels that call at our ports. Over 5,000 ocean going vessels call at Nigerian ports annually. Each of these vessels comes in with an average of 15 crew members who are potential tourists. Most of these Seafarers disembark from their vessels to unwind from their sea journey, visit good restaurants and hotels and other interesting tourist attractions within the town. If one multiplies 15 crew members by 5,000 ship calls, one could see the number of tourists international vessels could yield annually.
Another area of importance of the maritime industry to the development of Tourism in Nigeria is Maritime Infrastructure development. Maritime infrastructural facilities such as ports and port facilities could provide tourist attraction if built with special architectural designs. Maritime infrastructures are the main bases for effective functioning of intermodal transport chain.
The tourism industry can also leverage on the legal frameworks in the maritime industry for its development. Legal frameworks such as international and regional conventions, laws and regulations that govern sea transport could facilitate and strengthen cruise shipping.
The opportunities provided by the coastal lines of Nigeria for tourism is unimaginable, Nigeria with over 800 kilometres of coastal line is a potential gold mine for the tourism industry if properly harnessed. Today, cruise ships are a major integral part of the tourism industry. In 2016 alone the cruise liners or leisure vessels made a combined income of $35 billion with total passenger traffic of over 24.7 million people. Nigeria is still completely left out of this business not because we do not have good beaches, beautiful islands or wonderful tourist attractions in Nigeria, but there seems not to be a synergy between the maritime industry and the tourism industry to tap into these areas of business. While the Tourism industry can leverage on the terminals and coastal channels to attract cruise vessels, the Maritime industry will equally make money from terminal charges, Agency fees and tonnage capacity development in these areas of maritime business.
Special purpose built ferries for sightseeing is another business area that could generate income for the tourism industry.
All these opportunities can never be fully harnessed without a conducive maritime environment. The first consideration of any tourist while visiting any destination is security. The second is the ease of intermodal connectivity and the third is cleanliness of the environment. No tourist would want to lose his life or belongings in a tourist destination, and neither would any Seafarer want to disembark from his vessel to go and see the town if he feels the environment is unsafe. Poor intermodal connectivity is a complete put off to tourists, as cruise vessels will not call at a country if they know that transport interconnectivity is a nightmare, while also, no one wants to visit a polluted beach. This explains why NIMASA pays so much attention to achieving and sustaining a conducive maritime environment by ensuring safe secure shipping, cleaner oceans. These we do by strictly implementing our regulatory mandates as provided in the NIMASA Act 2007, the Merchant Shipping Act 2007 and the Cabotage Act 2003, knowing fully well that if we achieve that, we will not only attract vessels and cargoes to our port, but will equally attract tourists and investments to the country.
In the area of maritime security, we are making efforts to tackle piracy, sea robbery and all illegal activities within our maritime domain through the establishment of the Maritime Guard Command with the combined efforts of NIMASA, the Nigerian Navy, Nigerian Air force, Nigerian Police Force and Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC). We are championing the anti-piracy bill presently before the National Assembly to provide legal framework for punishing piracy and other maritime crimes. When passed into law, it will ensure adequate sanctions against offenders and act as a deterrent to others. We have also achieved over 85% compliance on International Ship and Port Security (ISPS) Code implementation, which ensures that ports and vessels within our maritime domain are protected against any form of terrorist attack.
In the area of Maritime Safety, NIMASA has installed a Satellite Surveillance System, a coastal radar system and a Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS). These are also electronic and digital facilities that enhance our maritime domain awareness capability.
The Agency is also at the verge of acquiring state of the art maritime safety enforcement platforms. Our Deep Blue Scale Up initiative is a technology-equipment-process based security architecture designed to primarily optimize maritime security in Nigeria.
In addition, the Agency is building its capacity for search and rescue operations with the approval of the Honourable Minister of Transportation to increase the number of Search and Rescue Marshalls from 100 to 1000. We are also working on an effective regional search and rescue coordination. Furthermore, the Agency has successfully hosted two Sub-Regional Technical Committee meetings to build a formidable regional network on search and rescue. The Regional network has increased our level of alertness, thereby improving our capacity to respond to distress calls, which has ultimately led to a considerable reduction in the cases of piracy along the Gulf of Guinea and making our maritime environment more secured.
In the area of marine pollution prevention, the primary responsibility of the Agency is to prevent the pollution of the seas by vessels. The Agency has however, gone a step further to tackle marine pollution from pipe line vandalism and domestic waste dumping of litters into our lagoons which is now threatening the tourism potentials of our coastal waters. Recently, the Agency inaugurated a 100-man environmental guard to fight against the domestic dumping of refuse into the lagoon. Measures have also been taken in collaboration with the Federal government and the Nigerian Navy to completely stop vandalizing of oil pipelines which is one of the major sources of marine pollution in Nigeria. The oil companies are now to be held strictly responsible for any negligence in the course of exploration of oil which results in the pollution of the seas. The recent kick-off of the clean-up of Ogoni land by President Mohammadu Buhari is another effort towards keeping our environment and seas cleaner and safer, thereby building a sustainable blue economy.
In developing our tourism and transport industry, our watch word should be sustainability. This task cannot be left for government alone, but can only be achieved through collaborative efforts and shared responsibility between government, private organizations and the citizenry. We must create the awareness in the country of the importance of the seas and oceans to our lives and the economy at large. We must let everyone know that the seas provide the fishes we eat, the oil and gas that sustain our economy and the means of transport for over 95% of our international trade. It also contributes immensely to our power generation, the development of the tourism industry, agricultural irrigations and most importantly the moderation of our climate and weather which makes the environment attractive to tourists.
In conclusion, let me demonstrate the benefits that could be derived from the synergy of transport and tourism with the legendary story of a young seafarer who visited Lagos harbours in the early 1950s. He disembarked from his vessel to see the town and needed to buy a loaf of bread but could not find one anywhere. He then decided that one day he would come and invest in bread production in Nigeria. Many years after he returned and fulfilled that dream and today Flour Mills of Nigeria PLC is one of the biggest companies in Nigeria. That man was George s. coumantaros, a Greek businessman and a prolific yachtsman as well as the founder of southern star shipping.