Sub-Sahara regional shipping line, Sealink floated by a consortium may commence operations before the end of this year or in the first quarter of 2023, Head of Strategy and Communication, Nigeria Export-Import Bank (NEXIM), Mr Tayo Omioji, has said.
Omioji disclose this in Lagos at a Conference with the theme “Boosting Domestic Capacity for Sustainable Export Earnings” said the Sealink Project was conceived out of the need for Nigeria to have regional shipping.
He said the country currently engages the service of foreign vessels to move goods outside the country, which is expensive and having negative impacts on its foreign exchange earnings.
According to him, 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.
Speaking further he said “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 noted that a lot has been done in terms of financing the project, though the Ebola epidemic, inability to find partnership agreement slowed it down.
“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 stated. He disclosed that NEXIM is currently working with the Nigeria Shippers’ Council, Nigerian Navy, Nigerian Inland Ways Authority (NIWA) and others to ensure smooth execution of the project.
Omioji said, “Right now, we are charting and plotting the inland waterway, so that we can use barges to move some commodities.” Meanwhile, the Nigeria Shippers’ Council (NSC) has advocated 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.
Assistant Director, Trade Services, Consumer Services Department, NSC, Mrs Adaora Nwonu said as part of the effort to ensure efficient regional shipping, about 60 per cent completion level on automated process at the port has been achieved and efforts have been put in place to improve services in the ports.