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SIFAX Group, maritime experts seek strategic framework to drive sector’s growth

 L-R: Capt. Ibraheem Olugbade, Executive Director, SIFAX Off Dock; Chike Ogeah, Vice Chairman, SAHCo Plc; Prof. Ayodele Atsenuwa, Dean, Faculty of Law, University of Lagos; Adekunle Oyinloye, Group Managing Director, SIFAX Group and Mrs. Afolasade Afolabi, Chairman, SIFAX Off Dock and wife of Dr. Taiwo Afolabi during the fourth edition of the Taiwo Afolabi Annual Maritime Conference which was held at the Main Auditorium, University of Lagos.

Industry experts who gathered at the fourth edition of the Taiwo Afolabi Annual Maritime (TAAM) Conference, which was held at the University of Lagos recently, agreed to a fact that the nation’s maritime sector needs a strategic framework that guarantees innovations and sustainable solutions that could address the problems in the industry. 

In his speech, Otunba Kunle Folarin,
Chairman, Nigerian Ports Consultative Council, explained that Nigeria’s maritime
sector has endowments that can transform the sector into becoming a leader in

He said: “Nigeria’s maritime domain
consists of 932 nautical miles coastline, 12 nautical territorial waters, 200
nautical miles exclusive economic zones, international indigenous shipping
average of 5307 vessel calls per year, 572 kilometer inland water ways, 16
functioning ports, 8 littoral states, 28 concessioned terminals and thousands
of workforce in the port and maritime industry. 

“These endowments gives us the
edge to become the leading light in Africa. Government and all stakeholders
must set a deliberate agenda on how these endowments can be properly harnessed
to sustain the growth already achieved in the maritime sector. There is a new
economic agenda for the maritime sector. This new agenda can be successfully
executed with sustained port reforms and local participation policies.”

Dr. Taiwo Afolabi, Group Executive
Vice Chairman, SIFAX Group, which the conference was organized in his honour,
said a strong implementation mechanism for its various policies and reforms
were necessary to accelerate growth.

Afolabi, who was represented by Mr.
Adekunle Oyinloye, Group Managing Director, SIFAX Group, said, “Nigeria’s
maritime industry has overtime seen various policies such as the port
concessioning reforms, truck standardization policies, cabotage law, maritime
safety laws and several others with the sole aim of eliciting growth in the
sector. But, may I say that while some of these policies have catapulted the
industry to its next level growth, a strong implementation mechanism is strongly

He further noted that reforms in the
sector must go beyond the ports, adding that a holistic approach, including
legislation, infrastructure, transportation, security and funding among others,
must be adopted.

 “I will like to appeal to the Federal
Government and its relevant agencies to further fortify the nation’s coastal
areas and maritime boundaries against maritime crimes. I will not fail to give
kudos to NIMASA and other agencies for getting the presidency to assent to the
anti-piracy bill recently. It should not just end here alone, there should be a
campaign for more funding for maritime security. The insecurity on the waterway
has led to shipping lines introducing war risk surcharges on consignments
heading to Nigeria,” he expressed.

For Hassan Bello, Executive
Secretary/CEO, Nigerian Shippers Council, the government is constantly ready
through the various ministries to continually engage all stakeholders in the
sector. “First, I must commend the organisers of this event and add that we are
ready to partner with all stakeholders including the universities in order to
make sure that the maritime sector achieves its mandate. We believe that
constant dialogue through a forum like this will help us bridge the missing
links in the sector and move the sector to its next level growth”, he said.

The panelists at the conference
including Princess Vicky Haastrup, Executive Vice Chairman, ENL Consortium and
Chairman, Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria; Prince Olayiwola
Shittu, CEO Skelas Limited and immediate past Chairman, Association of Nigeria
Licensed Customs Agent; Adetola Bucknor-Taiwo, Partner, Paul Usoro and Co and
Mrs. Rollens McFoy, Executive Director, Operations, Oceandeep Services all
unanimously agreed that for the sector to truly continue on its upward
trajectory, there is a need to review some of the existing laws and promote on
all fronts local participation in the sector.

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