Indigenous shipowners have bemoaned the N1.5trillion annual revenue losses due to Nigeria inability to substantially harness its ocean blue economy. LEADERSHIP Sunday reports that blue economy is marine-based economic developmental process which leads to improved wellbeing through sound management of marine resources, fisheries, aquaculture, tourism, transportation and maritime and inland ports. However, despite the massive resources in the blue economy which involve marine transportation and exploitation of living and non-living resources in the maritime environment, it has been revealed that the nation’s maritime sector is losing about N1.5 trillion annually due to its inability to exploit this resource base. Stakeholders have argued that harnessing the ocean blue economy would help to reduce African poverty and enhance food and energy security, employment, exports and economic growth. For instance, in 2009, exports from Nigeria were $80.1 billion and N49 billion as the goods were carried on Freight on Board (FoB), whereas imports to Nigeria stood at $942.3 billion and 33.9 billion and these were carried on Cost insurance and Freight (CIF). Evidently, the economy lost the maritime insurance and freight elements of both our export and import trade worth $122.4 billion in 2008 and $82.9 billion in 2009. The estimated total loss to the economy in terms of capital flight based on the study is huge and, when considered over the years, the amount becomes mind boggling. Our findings reveal that more sustainable use of ocean resources can create jobs for more than three million people who can be employed in fisheries alone, the largest of the blue economy sectors, providing food security and adding value estimated at 1.26 percent of the GDP of the nation. However, because Nigeria has failed to harness components of its blue economy, some Asian countries, took advantage of it to engage in illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU), oil theft and other maritime crimes amounting to over $70million annually. The president, Shipowners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Engr. Greg Ogbeifun told LEADERSHIP Sunday that Nigeria was not tapping any benefits from the massive potentialities in the blue economy. According to him, the nation cannot be talking about blue economy when the water is polluted and citizens are dumping refuse indiscriminately, thereby killing off aquatic life. He said, “Well, for me, the truth is that we have not harnessed the potentialities of previous opportunities in the maritime industry because the whole world has moved on; we have not even started. The whole world is talking about free economy and we are still talking about blue economy. We are talking about blue economy when our waters are saturated with rubbish. “All our waters are full of dirt. Our environmental activities are poor and our waters are polluted with all sorts of things. We are not ready for the blue economy. We can be talking about it but we are not ready. We have some people in parts of the country who have habits of defecating in the waters and putting rubbish in the waters and those are affecting aquatic life; pollution is everywhere. The blue economy is there but we are not ready to reap anything inherent at all.” Ogbeifun said it would be difficult to estimate how much the nation has lost in revenue that could have accrued to the nation, but that the revenue loss is enormous and should be tapped by government. “In naira and kobo that would have been accrued, I can’t say because blue economy has a lot of potential. Blue economy, if properly managed, can lead to tourism and tourism is a revenue generating activity as well, but we are in an environment where we ourselves cannot even move freely in our waters because of insecurity, then how can we ask foreigners to come when we ourselves cannot freely move in our economic waters. “We have some fundamental issues that we need to address before we can start talking about blue economy, because the rest of the world is talking about it. We cannot go to blue economy without developing shipping activities. Shipping is the bedrock of blue economy of any nation but you know the state of the shipping industry. We have no ships to move into the blue nations cadre before even talking about benefits from the economy. I think we are talking about it because the whole world is talking about it but we are not seriously looking at it from a pragmatic standpoint whereby we take steps to genuinely harness from the potentialities,” he stated. On his part, the president, Nigerian Shipowners Association (NISA), Alhaji Aminu Umar, concurred with Ogbeifun that Nigeria was not tapping the opportunities in the ocean blue economy. He said, “We are underutilising the opportunities that we could have harnessed in our maritime sector. When you talk about blue economy, you are talking about all the potentialities, opportunities of business or income that can be generated using our waters. “As you can see, in the shipping side, which is part of the maritime business, we are far below the opportunities that are there, in terms of ownership in the country, in terms of movement of cargoes coming and going out of the country.” Umar further stated that the nation was losing more than N1.5trillion to the non-utilisation of the blue economy, a sector, he said, could have been used to develop the economy. According to him, “The losses we are talking about are the businesses that are related to the sea, including tourism, recreation and others. Apart from Lagos, more than 80 per cent of our blue economy is underutilised. “When we talk of N1.5 trillion, it may be more than that; we could have generated more than that in terms of business, revenue generation, taxes, employment and others that would have come into the country but we have not been able to harness this opportunity.” However, speaking to LEADERSHIP Sunday on the benefits of blue economy to the nation’s economy, the director-general, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dakuku Peterside, said that harnessing the blue economy would provide a boost to coastal and national economies and help generate new employment, skill-sets and capacities. “Harnessing ocean blue economy will promote entrepreneurship in new areas of economic activity, facilitating the interconnectedness of the regional economy and utilising the vast, untapped potential of the ocean as well as contributing to sustainable development and climate change mitigation.” According to Peterside, the length of Nigeria’s coastline and the attendant volume of maritime trade provide Nigeria an advantage as a developing nation. He said, “Stakeholders must actively participate in the sector in order to reap benefits because developing the blue economy is paramount across the globe now, and the public and private sectors have to collaborate to sustainably harness the potentialities of Nigeria’s maritime sector for the benefit of the Nigerian economy, especially in the wake of the federal government’s economic diversification drive. He pointed out that the economies of countries like Singapore, Ukraine and South Korea thrive on the activities of their maritime sectors. “Nigerians need to begin tapping into these opportunities too. An improved maintenance culture, adequate data management and statistics, articulated actions from stakeholders, and political will can make Nigeria a leading light in the comity of maritime nations,” he noted.