The maritime industry is an economic sector that deals primarily with the carriage of goods and persons by sea, shipbuilding, maritime transportation, freight forwarding and logistics, terminal operations, dry docks, ship repair and maintenance, management and operation of shipping lines, shipyards, ocean engineering and everything that concerns movement across the waters.

Legal and regulatory agencies play crucial roles in this regard. Carriage of goods and persons could either be across borders or within a state. World trade is mostly carried out through the maritime industry.

Being a sector that is of immense importance to the economy of Nigeria, it is important that every now and then innovations should be made so as to keep the development of the industry in line with modern realities.

This paper focuses attention on innovations which if implemented will go a long way in reshaping the face of the maritime industry in Nigeria so that it can compete with that of other countries around the world.

The maritime industry in Nigeria is still growing. Nigeria is an emerging market, with expansion in areas that are critical to the economic growth of a nation. In fact the maritime industry triggers economic development to every country blessed with waters with links to the outside world.

The idea of shipping is not something new. According to Adam Smith, “a business working in a country town without links to the outside world can never achieve high levels of efficiency because its very small market will limit the degree of specialization”.[1] In essence, Adam Smith saw shipping as one of the catalysts in a nation’s economic life and growth.

Nigeria is a consumer nation, as such maritime trade has played a tremendous role in the nation’s economic life. For example, the maritime industry accounts for 95% of the vehicular means of Nigeria’s international trade.[2]

Key Areas Requiring Innovations
Innovation is the introduction of new things, ideas, or ways of doing that has been introduced or discovered.[3] In order to fully harness the hidden opportunities presented by the shipping industry, pro-active steps must be taken towards the development of the industry.

Some key areas requiring innovations include but not limited to the following;
1. Development of Human Resources
2. Opening of more Sea Ports
3. Private Public Partnership
4. Transportation via the waters
5. Use of modern cargo handling plants/improved technology.

Development of Human Resources
During his recent visit to Nigeria, Bill Gates had this to say:

“I urge you to apply this thinking to all your investment in your people. The Nigeria’s economic recovery growth plan identifies investing in people as one of three strategic objections. But the execution priorities don’t fully reflect people’s needs, prioritizing physical capital over human capital. To anchor the economy over a long term, investments in infrastructure and competitiveness must go hand in hand with investments in people. People without roads, ports and factories can’t flourish. And roads, ports and factories without skill workers to build and manage them cannot sustain an economy”.[4]

What the billionaire said is the truth and nothing short of it. While investing in infrastructure, do not forget to train or develop the human beings that will take care of these investments. We live at a time when Nigeria is battling with high level of unemployment. The youths are the greater number affected. Therefore, professional training and workshops in the various fields in the maritime industry can salvage the situation.

Granted, we live in an economy that creates wealth, not just jobs. But something is special about the maritime industry, that is, almost all its fields are untapped. You can talk about seafaring, marine insurance, boat and ship building plus repairs, ship broking, transportation and warehousing, fishery and oceanography, maritime logistics and supply chain management etc.

The beauty of it all is that training and development in the many fields of the shipping industry do not place emphasis on special educational qualifications, especially those that are not engineering oriented.

Therefore since some of these fields are yet to be fully harnessed, these are good opportunities for Nigerians to earn decent living and it will contribute to economic development.

Opening Up Of More Sea Ports
People without ports can’t flourish. A port is described under the United Nations Convention on the law of the sea, 1982[5] for the purpose of delimiting the territorial sea, as the outermost permanent harbour works which form an integral part of the harbour system and forming part of the coast but excluding offshore installations and artificial islands.

A port can also be defined as an area where there are facilities for berthing or anchoring ships and where there is the equipment for transfer of goods from ship to shore or shore to ship and includes the usual places where ships wait for their turn or are ordered or obliged to wait for their turn no matter the distance from that area.[6]

The ports of every nation play an immense role in boosting the economy of a nation. The maritime industry in Nigeria has enjoyed rapid growth since the turn of the century. This is as a result of the enactment of three important legislations to wit: the Cabotage Act of 2003, Port Reform Act of 2006 and the Local Content Act 0f 2010, although there is still room for improvement.

The civil war era of 1967-1970 had a tremendous impact on the maritime industry in Nigeria. The port in Rivers State was closed due to foreign traffic. Thus Lagos became the only available port serving the country’s maritime transportation needs. Currently we have Apapa and Tin Can Island ports that are operational on full-time basis.

With increase in coastal trade[7] it has become imperative that new ports are needed and re-opening of the closed ones. The reason is that the functional ports are no longer capable of receiving all incoming vessels into Nigeria as soon as they arrive at the same time.

This results in congestion which could be either of two ways:

a. Ship congestion; and
b. Cargo congestion

Geographically Nigeria is blessed with being a coastal state and 30 per cent of its inland waters are navigable seasonally for passengers and freight transportation. That being the case it is imperative to dredge the inland waters and build or revive moribund ports so as to arrest this situation.

The situation is so serious that the Chairperson of Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN), Princess (Dr.) Vicky Haastrup lamented so much during the Dr. Taiwo Afolabi’s Maritime Conference titled, “The Nigerian Ports Reform” held on 4th August, 2017 at University of Lagos that, “on average, at least a total of one thousand trucks visit Apapa wharf every day and this poses a huge challenge.”

In the light of this serious situation, I would urge the government to re-visit the 25 years concession granted to Danish shipping firm A.P Moller in order to see how they are performing because, in reality, if they had performed at the highest level since that agreement, we should have more than two operational ports in Nigeria now.

Having more functional ports will also reduce the number of trucks on the roads. This is so because goods can easily get to their owners quicker and in real time in an easier way. For example, suppose there is a functional port at Onitsha, the whole of South Eastern states and some neighboring states would have been adequately taken care of. Businessmen at Onitsha Main market, the famous Aria Aria market, Aba will equally find it easy to do business and this will boost the economy.

Also the issue of diversion of Nigerian bound cargo to neighboring ports will be a thing of the past. What is more, traders will record minimal losses incurred in transporting their goods to various parts of the country.

Take for instance, those in the ceramics and tiles business. Because of the bad condition of roads in Nigeria, some of the goods are damaged while in transitu to the state of their owners although they came into the country sound.

The situation would have been salvaged if the vessel arrived and berthed at say Onitsha (if there is a functional port there) and the cargo owner or the holder of the bill of lading has his warehouse in any of the neighboring states. The result would be that the goods will get to their destination with minimal or no damage at all.

Private Public Partnership (PPP)
Simply put, private public partnership is collaboration between a government agency and private sector company which can be used to finance, build and operate certain projects so as to improve the economic development of a nation.

Major players in the maritime industry can work with the government of Nigeria to bring into existence a shipping line in order to take advantage of the gains coming from the industry.

At this juncture, one is compelled to ask; what happened to the Nigerian National Shipping Line? It is not just enough to charge and collect revenue from maritime operators but floating a shipping line with these operators can be of immense advantage.

Transportation via the waters
This can otherwise be called maritime transportation. It is the means by which goods or persons are carried across the waters. This carriage can be inland or coastal. But in this paper, attention will be focused on inland carriage.

Currently our roads are so busy like never before. It appears that the most popular means of transport in Nigeria is either the road or by air. But maritime transport predates them all although it has been relegated to the background in Nigeria.

Transportation through the waters can really be exciting while at the same time generating revenue. Thanks to modern shipbuilders. A lot of vessels now have conference rooms, clubs, cinemas and even swimming pools.

During festive seasons when people tend to travel a lot, risk of road accidents can be reduced if a lot of persons make use of maritime transport systems. Therefore we need serious improvement in the area of maritime transportation across the country.

The Minister of transportation should encourage businessmen to explore this unique area of transport after dredging the waterways. This will make Nigerians to buy vessels to engage in this business. More jobs will equally be created, from the managers of these transport companies to seafarers/ seamen, masters, etc.

Use of Improved Technology
For Nigerian ports to be user-friendly, the various terminal operators are to provide modern equipment for cargo handling which would enhance smooth operations at the port. Vessels can quickly depart the port and unnecessary time wasting will be done away with.

Developing efficient, high-tech loading/unloading equipment and associated cargo handling and tracking technologies have the potential of considerably improving the performance of terminal operations.

We are living at a time when global trade is at its peak. Shipping remains the largest industry on earth or an industry with the largest multidisciplinary components. Nigeria is seriously missing out as she does not even have a single tanker to lift her own crude. But I strongly believe that when we invest in human resource development, open up more ports and revive moribund ones, get the private and public institutions to partner, encourage frequent travels via the waters and use improved technology, then we are sure to compete on the global stage.


1. Adam Smith: An inquiry into the nature and causes of the Wealth of Nations. Ch.3

2. Professor V. F Peteromode; “The role of the maritime Industry and Vocational and Technical Education and training in the economic Development of Nigeria”(2014) 19 Journal of Humanities and social Science(IOSR-JHSS) p. 48

3. Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary 7th ed.


5. Article 11

6. ‘‘Port Management and Operations’’ by Patrick Alderton at pages 2 and 9 by Lloyds Law Publishers, 1999.

7. The carriage of goods by vessel, or by vessel and any other mode of transport, from one place to another in Nigeria or above Nigeria waters to any other place in Nigeria, or above Nigeria waters, either directly or via a place outside Nigeria and includes the carriage of goods in relation to the exploration, exploitation or transportation of the mineral or non-living natural resources of Nigeria whether in or under Nigerian waters. See Section 2 of the Cabotage Act 2003.


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