From Isaac Anumihe, Abuja
As part of efforts to ensure that African waters are not turned to dumping ground for dangerous materials, participating countries at the just-concluded conference of the Association of Heads of African Maritime Administrations (AAMA) have agreed to prevent dumping of toxic and nuclear wastes on African oceans.
This was contained in the communique issued at the end of the conference in Abuja.
In the document, AAMA came up with the position to safeguard the future of maritime wealth on the continent, alongside other pertinent positions.
Members of the association consequently agreed to devote concerted efforts and planning to pursue the enhancement of wealth creation and regional and international trade performance through maritime-centric capacity and capability building while ensuring the minimization of environmental damage and expedited recovery from catastrophic events.
These, they observed, should be taken into cognisance as well as prevent hostile and criminal acts at sea.
They also resolved that if the continent is to grow maritime trade they should harmonise the prosecution of offenders and improve on the Integrated Coastal Zone/Area Management in Africa.
At the end of the conference, Director General of NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, was elected the chairman of the association.
Peterside, who takes over from Mr. Sobantu Tilayi, the acting Chief Executive Officer of South African Maritime and Safety Agency (SAMSA), who has been the acting chairman of the association since 2013, stated that the task of leading the African Maritime Administrators was enormous but harped on collaboration to ensure that the African oceans and seas are not over-exploited to the detriment of the continent.
Part of the resolutions made at the conference enjoined all African countries to participate in the day set aside by the AU as the African Day of Oceans and Seas.
“The African Union Commission has set aside July 25 every year as Africa’s Day of the Seas and Oceans. Maritime Administrations are encouraged to institutionalize this day to raise awareness among stakeholders of the strategic importance of maritime governance for sustainable development; highlight the important role Africa needs to play at international maritime forum; raise awareness on Africa’s “Blue Economy” and enhance the focus on maritime safety, security, maritime environment protection and human element”, it said.
In noting that capacity building had been a major challenge in the African maritime sector, member nations agreed to address the enormous challenges of building human capacities in the maritime sector especially training and employment of cadets by urging maritime administrations to develop an integrated human resources strategy for the maritime sector to support the provision of skills, taking into account gender balance in the entire maritime value chain which includes shipping and logistics, offshore activities, fishing, tourism and recreation, and safety and security.
Meanwhile, outgoing Chairman, Tilayi at the closing of the three-day event, described Peterside as a committed and dedicated technocrat that will, no doubt, take maritime administration to a higher level. He pledged his support for the NIMASA Director General and urged other African nations to do likewise in order to advance the African Maritime Industry.
In a related development, President Muhammadu Buhari who had also congratulated Peterside on his election as the chairman of AAMA, stated at the opening of the three-day conference that the Federal Government of Nigeria on its own part has paid significant attention to making the Nigerian maritime business environment a much friendlier one, adding that the immediate priority in this regard is the entry and exit of goods especially in Nigerian seaports to increase efficiency of Nigerian ports and enable quick turnaround time of vessels.
Buhari who was represented by the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, said that the Nigerian Government had recently approved a new maritime security architecture and infrastructure to be jointly coordinated by NIMASA, National Security Adviser and Federal Ministry of Transport. According to him, the Federal Government has given required support to the Navy so that they can work with others within the sub-region to effectively police the waters for trade. This arrangement, he said, will also contribute to resolving and eliminating piracy as well as sea robbery in the maritime domain.
The President also used the opportunity to unveil the new NIMASA brand to usher in a new direction for the African Maritime Sector.
Also, Nigeria has been elected Chairman of AAMA with 11 members’ executive committee comprising representatives of Central Africa (Cameroun & Cape Verde), West Africa (Cote D’Ivoire & Ghana), East Africa (Tanzania & Comoros), Southern Africa (Mozambique and South Africa), North Africa (Egypt & Sudan) and Uganda representing Land-locked countries.
South Africa also retained the Secretariat of the association while the association agreed to hold the 2018 Conference in Egypt. Sychelles and Namibia are jostling for the 2019 hosting rights.
AAMA also formally approved the Organisation of African Maritime Awards starting from Egypt 2018 to recognize and honour outstanding Africans in the sector.
The International Maritime Organization, (IMO) Secretary General, Kitack Lim, who was represented by the head, Africa (Anglophone) Section Technical Cooperation Division of the IMO, Mr. William Azuh, observed that African continent needs to increase its level of vessel tonnage as well as develop the much-needed maritime infrastructure, especially in terms of ship building and equipment to be able to effectively participate in the global shipping trade to the benefits of its citizenry.
He, however. charged leadership of the association and indeed member states of the association to begin to develop the framework that would enable them take full advantage of the vast maritime potential embedded in the continent.