A strategic step towards optimal utilisation of the nation’s waterways was taken at the weekend, when the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), the Nigerian Export – Import Bank (NEXIM) and SEALINK Promotional Company Limited, signed a tripartite agreement to fully exploit the potential for national economic development. The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was a deliberate attempt to bridge the infrastructure gap, and provide an alternative mode of transportation for evacuation of economic goods and persons on the nation’s inland waterways. The SEALINK project will establish a maritime shipping line, which, will provide cabotage, passenger services, and goods haulage among the member countries of the Joint Development Zone (JDZ).
The project is aimed at reducing the cost of moving cargoes in JDZ countries, and increasing maritime and trade activities among them. The project, when completed will reduce the cost of moving cargo and increase maritime and trade activities by ensuring payment of duty only on goods delivered to the ports of final destination. It will also improve frequency of maritime services as well as improve private sector initiative through the provision of efficient sea transport services by giving competitive edge to exporters and importers. Managing Director, NIWA, Olorunibe Mamora, said: “NIWA’s endorsement of this MoU is an eloquent testimony of the viability of the Inland waterway transportation network in Nigeria.
“This marks another major step in the journey to reverse the dependence of our economy on oil, and to open up the vast untapped opportunities that the inland waterways can offer. “The realisation of inland waterways transportation will not only ensure safer roads, but ensure the huge sums spent on road maintenance is diverted to other areas of need in the economy.’’
Managing Director, NEXIM, Abubakar Bello, said the MOU would support the survey, underwater engineering works, removable and disposal of wrecks among several other projects geared towards improving and developing inland waterways navigation. He said the MoU was a significant milestone that would be catalytic to the realisation of one of the priority projects under the ECOWAS Community Development Programmes. The Chairperson, Sealink Implementation Committee, Mrs Dabney Shallholma, commended the management of NEXIM and NIWA in its effort toward the Sealink project.
Shallholma said NEXIM’s developmental, facilitative and supportive roles in the Sealink Project were quite exemplary and typical of the roles of Export Credit Agencies all over the world.
According to her, Sealink is a public-private-partnership initiative by NEXIM on the prompting of the Organised Private Sector and NACCIMA / MAN Export Group. “Sealink is fundamentally conceptualised and designed to bridge maritime transport infrastructure gap, amongst ECOWAS and CEMAC regions, as well as promote inland waterways operations towards facilitating regional integration and bulk cargo trade. “It is also intended to facilitate reduction in logistics cost and the mitigating of unnecessary transit arrangements on regional trade.
“The time has come for Nigeria to be bullish in its non-oil export trade to diversify the economy. “On the part of Sealink, let me assure you all, that the Sealink Consortium will be a key driver in both the national and the regional trade and logistics value chain,” he said.