After several years of behind the scene maneuvering by Indigenous ship-owners who are cash strapped to compete with their foreign counterpart, the Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, at the instance of Rotimi Amaechi, minister of Transportation has finally agreed to disburse the Cabotage Vessels Finance Fund, CVFF.
Dakuku Peterside, Director General, NIMASA, who broke the news in Lagos, on Friday, April 26, 2019, said the Agency are already working closely with the Presidency and the ministry of Transportation on the modality to be used on the disbursement of the fund , without falling into the trap of the scrapped Ship Building and Ship Acquisition Fund, SBSAF, which was abused by then beneficiaries of the soft loan. An elated Peterside is optimistic that as soon as President Muhammadu Buhari gives the nod to the Agency to go ahead with the disbursement of the fund , they would not hesitate in doing so.
According to him, the $124 million CVFF, is domiciled with the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, and not with any of the 25 Commercial Banks in the country. He disclosed that the half year report of the Organisation shows that 125 vessels had been registered , which represents 33 percent increase when compared to the 94 vessels that were registered in corresponding period in 2017. Perhaps, to forestall the beneficiaries of the Fund from running into trouble that may affect their business, Peterside and his Finance officials , according to NIMASA , sources , are also working with the apex Bbank, to secure a special forex intervention for procurement of vessel spare-parts to replace broken down parts and the loan repayment processes.
The Value News Investigation shows that the NIMASA boss may have decided o champion the course of the Indigenous ship owners to get the CVFF loan with ease to be able to compete with their foreign counterparts in building and acquisition of their own vessels instead of resorting to third party of chartering of vessels which are time consuming and fund wasting.
Note that Nigerian owned vessels account for only 12 percent of the country’s annual oil trade market. This may be so because of the insistence of Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, and the other Oil Producing Companies that the Indigenous Shipping Companies do not have the prerequisite capacity to lift crude oil for them like the foreign Shipping Companies that own Oil Tankers.
Despite pressures by past and present Director General of NIMASA,to force the Oil Companies to include the Nigerian owned Cabot age vessels on the list of vessels allowed to lift their crude allocation to the International Oil market they were said to have worked against the letters and spirit of the Cabotage Act to ensure that it not work. They may have done so to keep the Indigenous ship owners out of the lucrative multi-million dollar business considereed an exclusive preserve of foreigners.
Insiders tinformed The Value News that there is a particular clause in the Act which the Oil Companies had continued to cash on to frustrate the indigenous ship owners from participating in the Oil lifting business, described in maritime circles as the ”waiver Clause”.The waiver over the years, had been exploited by the multi-national Oil Companies to fence the Nigerian ship owners from participating in the business on the ground that they do not have the required facility, competence and financial wherewithal to play any reasonable role in critical areas of the industry.
NIMASA , officials, who over the years , may have been blowing hot and cold over the matter because of the cash constraint of many of the shipping companies may be forced to restart the Campaign again to force the Oil Companies to allow the indigenous shipping Companies lift the Country’s Crude Oil, with the planned disbursement of the CVFF, between now and the end of the year . This is expected to boost the finances of the cash strapped indigenous shipping Companies to replace their broken down vessels as well as procure spare-parts based on a special foreign arrangement been being worked out with the CBN.
Investigation by The Value News shows that NIMASA , under the current watch of Peterside and with the support of Amaechi., the minister of Transportation, are working assiduously to end the Cabot age waivers for foreign ship ownersbetween now and 2023.. The move, a source said was being pursued by the Agency to put an end to the near inability of Indigenous Shipping Companies to carry Nigeria-generated cargo through the nation’s Coastal water ways.
The NIMASA boss may have made matters easier for the Cabot age operators this time around so that the oil Companies would not have any reason to exclude them from the lucrative business. Going by the Agency records, 2,840 Nigerian Officers and ratings, were recommended to be placed onboard Cabotage vessels in 2018 as against 1,789 in 2017, an indication that Nigerian Seafarers are gradually taken over the job previous done by foreigners, particular Philippines, in wholly Nigerian owned vessels. It is instructive to note that 243 graduates and 1,600 CCadets are currently at various stages of completion of the programme , 887 and are ready for sea time training , which should serve as a pull of labour for the Indigenous ship owners.
Meanwhile, the Agency was said to have reviewed freight rates bench mark for three percent levy billing ostensibly to reflect the prevailing realities in shipping, which is an international business.