*Backs Creation of Separate Ministry for Maritime

*Seeks Continuous Dredging of Bonny and Lagos Channels

Engr. David Omonibeke, a marine engineer by profession is the immediate past Executive Director, Marine and Operations, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA). Besides being the first ever marine engineer to be appointed as the Executive Director, Marine and Operations in the Nigerian Ports Authority, he is also a Fellow of the Nigeria Society of Engineers (NSE). In this exclusive interview with John Iwori in Lagos, Omonibeke who is the present Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Dok Consulting Nigeria Limited bares his mind on a number of issues plaguing the maritime industry, Excerpts.

The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) has said in one of its reports that the maritime sector contribution to Nigeria’s gross domestic product (GDP) is insignificant. Why do you think it is so?

The oil and gas exploration and production in shallow and deep offshore are all integral part of the maritime sector thus if the Federal Government do proper reclassification, the National Bureau for Statistics (NBS) will have a better perspective of revenue contributions from the maritime sector of the economy which we can still do more with proper planning and execution of critical policies and programmes in the years ahead.

In order to attract patronage to the nation’s seaports situated in the Eastern part of the country and decongest the ones in Lagos, the management of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) gave a discount to consignments cleared in the Eastern ports. However, not a few have argued that the reason why this has not made any desired impact was because the incentives offered by the NPA were too insignificant to make any significant impact. What is your take on this?

Making the Eastern ports attractive as Lagos ports have been of concern to successive administrations at the centre. Some of the key issues that will make or mar this move are security, pricing of services and not operating 24/7 services as it is in the ports situated in Lagos. For the Nigerian Ports Authority to reduce its ports service charges over 20 percent is in the right direction and not insignificant. Other Federal Government agencies within the port community ought to do same. Remember, the Nigerian Ports Authority cannot do it alone.

Are you in support of the idea being mooted in certain quarters that a separate ministry should be created for the maritime industry instead of lumping it up with the Ministry of Transportation?

Yes, I am 100 percent in support.

With an insight as the former Executive Director, Marine and Operations, what can be done in the short and long term so that Nigerian ports will become the first port of call in the West and Central Sub-Regions to ship owners and shipping companies across the globe?

Sustaining the dredging campaign of the Lagos and Bonny channels and extending these campaigns to areas not charted but within the port areas is one of the things that need to be done to make our ports attractive in the West and Central Africa Sub-Regions. It is on record that this present management of the NPA led by Ms Hadiza Usman is addressing the dredging issue in Delta ports. In the same vein, all the light houses ought to be functional alternatives to aid navigation, secured anchorages and security of our waters by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) in conjunction with the Nigeria Navy are some of the needs in the short term and I am aware that the Federal Government is already working with private investors to establish deep sea ports to accommodate the increase in trade and ship call with over 15m draft as part of long term port master plan initiated years ago.

The gridlock in Apapa seemed to have defiled all measures to resolve it. What do you think can be done to make a difference in the weeks and months ahead?

The Lilly Pond terminal the NPA has provided for trailers to wait and stay off the road if the Presidential Task Force is impartial on the calling system and other strategies in place like using barges to move some goods to bounded terminals that are lying fallow will go a long way in addressing the Apapa gridlock once and for all.

As a maritime nation, do you think Nigeria has done enough to harness her huge potentials in the maritime sector of the economy?

I do not think so. We need to do more. We have great potentials to provide efficient digital maritime services and increase our nation revenue base into trillions of naira when we are ready.

As the countdown to the end of the year has started, what is your parting short for Nigeria nay Nigerians, especially stakeholders in the maritime industry?

Appraise all your activities from January till date. Review and reset for January 2020 to deal on areas you have comparative advantage professionally. Shalom!

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