Regional Shipping Line to begin Operation in Q1 2023

By Salamatu Ejembi, Lagos

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The Head, Strategy and Communication, Nigeria Export-Import Bank, NEXIM, Mr Tayo Omioji, says before the end of 2022 or in the first quarter of 2023, a sub-Sahara regional shipping line, Sealink floated by a consortium, will begin operations.

Omioji explained that the Sealink Project was conceived out of the need for Nigeria to have its regional shipping as the country currently engages the service of foreign vessels to move goods outside the country.

This he said more expensive and having negative impacts on the nation’s foreign exchange earnings.

Omioji said that “reliance on foreign vessels increases cost and travel time as goods are first moved from Nigeria to the point of origin of the vessels and then to the final destination.”

“If we have our own shipping line, we can move our goods from other countries and bring them directly to Nigeria before moving to other countries,” he explained.

Speaking on the efforts and progress made so far on the Sealink Project, Omioji said that a lot has been done in terms of financing the project.

He however said that “the Ebola epidemic and inability to find partnership agreement, slowed the project down.”

Omioji stated that to ensure smooth execution of the project, NEXIM was currently working with the Nigeria Shippers’ Council, Nigerian Navy, Nigerian Inland Ways Authority (NIWA) and others.

He said, “Right now, we are charting and plotting the inland waterway, so that we can use barges to move some commodities.”

“We later thought of further expanding the scope of the project. In addition to having a shipping project that allows moving our goods on international water, we also felt that we should also find scope in inland waterways.

“We need to do more in the infrastructure to move the goods from the cities to export destinations. We need to also develop our inland waterways. We can use barges to carry goods in the absence of port materials. That was why we were finding a scope in inland waterways,” he further stated.

Omioji said all these at the just concluded Finance Correspondents Association of Nigeria (FICAN) 2022 Annual Conference which had as its theme, “Boosting Domestic Capacity for Sustainable Export Earnings” held in Lagos, South-west, Nigeria.

To further buttress Omioji’s projections, the Nigeria Shippers’ Council (NSC), also at the event, said as part of the effort to ensure efficient regional shipping, about 60% completion level on automated process at the port has been achieved and efforts have been put in place to improve services in the ports.

The Assistant Director, Trade Services, Consumer Services Department, NSC, Mrs Adaora Nwonu, called for more partnership from operators in the maritime industry to take advantage of the Sealink project for regional maritime services that promote connectivity and trade frequency in Africa.

Nwonu said; “The shipping industry is dynamic in nature, but then, there are certain components that thrive in shipping business all over the world. We cannot run away from the fact that we need to automate our ports and our processes.”

For us automation is key and among other components which include developing inland waterways. In order to have an efficient port operation, there has to be a regional shipping or carrier, so that we don’t continue to rely on foreign ones. Hence, the need for us to have our own shipping line.

“That is why we are working on our own shipping line called the Sealink Project and we have gone quite far. But beyond that, we are also advocating for more players and we are not leaving that just to the Sealink Project,” she explained.

Nwonu stated that “there are plans to have 24-hour operations at the ports, which is the globally accepted best practice, but said that the Nigerian port, currently operating for about 16 hours, has yet to achieve the 24-hour operation.”

Speaking on the financial implications of this project, Principal Manager, Trade and Exchange Department, Central Bank of Nigeria,CBN, Mrs Anne Ezkannagha said that the Cabotage regime being handled by NIMASA is meant to encourage indigenous vessel financing.

Ezkannagha explained that the “cabotage regime, which is under the supervision of the Ministry of Transportation and a disbursement bank, had not gone far the way it was expected.”

She added that the current Minister of Transportation had promised that the cabotage vessel financing fund would soon become a reality.



Mercy Chukwudiebere

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