Nigerian Trawler Owners Appeal for Affordable Diesel to Sustain Blue Economy

Nigerian Trawler Owners Appeal for Affordable Diesel to Sustain Blue Economy
Tristan Veldsman May 17 2024

The Nigerian Trawler Owners Association (NITOA) is calling on the Federal Government to provide direct and affordable access to diesel in order to sustain the blue economy and safeguard Nigeria’s ocean resources. This plea comes amid skyrocketing fuel costs that have severely impacted the fishing industry, increasing operational costs and resulting in widespread unemployment.

Speaking on behalf of NITOA, President Mrs. Ben Okonkwo emphasized the acute strain on the industry, noting that the cost of diesel has surged from N30 million to N140 million per voyage. Such a dramatic increase has rendered operations unsustainable for many fishing vessels, leading to a significant reduction in the fleet’s active boats. Astonishingly, approximately 40% of fishing vessels are now out of commission, unable to afford the exorbitant fuel prices.

This reduction in active trawlers has had a ripple effect on employment within the sector. NITOA reports that many Nigerians who depend on the industry for their livelihoods are now jobless, exacerbating the nation’s unemployment crisis. The association is strongly advocating for the provision of affordable diesel from the Dangote Refinery or the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to alleviate these pressures.

In addition to seeking cheaper diesel, NITOA has outlined several other requests aimed at revitalizing the industry. The association has urged the government to grant duty waivers on the importation of fishing vessels and gears, which would ease the financial burden on trawler owners. They also propose tax waivers akin to the previously available export expansion grants to incentivize growth and investment in the sector.

Economic Ramifications of High Fuel Costs

High diesel costs not only impact vessel operations but also have broader economic implications. The surge in operational expenses due to fuel prices translates to higher costs for seafood, affecting both local markets and export potentials. This, in turn, places additional strain on consumers and can contribute to inflationary pressures on essential food items. The agricultural fishing industry, which plays a crucial role in food security and economic stability, is thus under significant threat.

Request for Dedicated Port Facilities

NITOA is also requesting dedicated port facilities for the trawler industry. Dedicated ports, equipped with the necessary infrastructure and support services, are essential for efficient operations and maintaining the quality and safety of the catch. By designating specific port facilities for trawlers, the government can help streamline operations, reduce turnaround times, and enhance the overall productivity of the sector.

Impact of the Cabotage Act

A contentious issue for NITOA is the application of the Cabotage Act to the trawling industry. The Cabotage Act, which regulates coastal and inland shipping to promote local content and ownership, has inadvertently posed challenges for the fishing sector. According to NITOA, the requirements of the Act hinder their agricultural fishing activities, adding regulatory and cost burdens that many trawler owners struggle to meet. The association is seeking exemption from this Act, arguing that its current application is counterproductive to the industry’s sustainability and growth.

Hope for Industry Revitalization

Despite the current challenges, NITOA remains optimistic about the future. With the right support from the government, they believe the industry can rebound to its previous state of prosperity. At its peak, the trawler industry featured a fleet of 250 boats and provided employment for around 200,000 Nigerians. With affordable diesel, duty waivers, tax incentives, dedicated port facilities, and exemption from the Cabotage Act, NITOA is confident that these numbers can be achieved once again.

Revitalizing the trawler industry is not only about sustaining livelihoods but also about preserving the blue economy and ocean resources. The importance of the fishing sector extends beyond economic contributions, playing a crucial role in environmental sustainability and food security. As such, the association’s appeal to the government highlights an urgent need for action and support.

In conclusion, the Nigerian Trawler Owners Association is making an earnest plea to the Federal Government. By addressing the issues of high diesel prices, importation duties, tax incentives, port facilities, and the Cabotage Act, the government can breathe new life into the trawler industry. Ensuring the sustainability of this vital sector is imperative for the country’s economy, environment, and food security, underscoring the significance of NITOA’s appeal.

As stakeholders await a response from the government, the future of Nigeria’s blue economy hangs in the balance, with the potential for rejuvenation resting heavily on the decisions made in the coming weeks and months.