CVFF: Indigenous Ship Owners Heave A Sigh of Relief

By Stephen Ubanna

 Between 2005 and now, past and present Director Generals of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and safety Agency, NIMASA, Iincluding ministers of Transportation of past Administrations, had been  under intense pressure from the  indigenous ship owners who were said to have gradually  lost out to the International shipping Companies to start the disbursement of  the over N124 billion  Carbotage  Financing Fund, C VFF, to enable themprocure  new vessel to replace their obsolete ones.

 Investigation by The Value News shows that most of the indigenous  ship owners as at 2019, could  no longer boost of one functional vessel that  could  compete with the foreign shipping Companies  in carrying government  or individualyl generated cargoes in the country.

Given the agitation of the indigenous shipping Companies over the last four years, for the disbursement of the CVFF,   Dakuku Peterside, NIMASA, Director General,  was forced to make a bold Statement  on the Funds  on the first quarter of this year . As a prelude on how  the CVFF, would be disbursed , he had said that Rotimi Amaechi, a former governor  of Rivers state and now minister of Transportation has ordered a review  of the guidelines for the exercise. He was optimistic that as soon as the exercise was completed,the agency will commence the disbursement of the Funds.

The NIMASA  boss was said to have made it clear to those that cares to listen that  the Cabotage  Fund  will be disbursed  to only deserving  indigenous  ship owners , with specific mandate  of fulfilling  the reason for establishing  the Fund.

It is interesting to note that that the agency had registered  about 125  vessels, owned by indigenous shipping Companies  under  the Cabotage  regime , an Indication  that Nigerians would be able take over the  Coastal trade  within the nation’s territorial waters currently being dominated by foreign shipping Companies.

  Peterside may have gladdened  the  heart of the heart of  the indigenous shipping Companies that  they have no cause to worry about the position  of the fund  as it has increased to about N124.64 billion  domiciled  at the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN. The money , according to maritime sources had accrued to NIMASA from the 3 percent sea protection  and waste collection levies , paid by the foreign shipping Companies. Some of the shipping Companies were aid to have been made to pay demurrage  on account of delays in the documentation process . This may have informed why  the CVFF, have increased by lips and bounds over the years.

Dakuku Peterside: Director General, NIMASA

But after years of  waiting in the wings  over the disbursement of the CVFF, by NIMASA,  Amaechi , the minister of Transportation,  may have taken advantage  of the stakeholders  Appreciation Night organised  by Hassan Bello, Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shipers Council, NSC,   to speak on the  on the next line of action for the Fund.  The NSC, Apreciation Night  had brought together Captains of the industry including Emmanuel Ihenacho, a former minister of Interior and owner of Integrated Shipping, who  maritime analysts had  said currently has no ship.  Ihenacho  may not be the only one who was said  to have virtually  lost all his ships due to financial constraint . There are several other indigenous ship owners  like Iheanacho’ Integrated Shipping.  The minister may have gladdened the heart of the indigenous ship owners   when  he revealed  that the Katsina state born Nigerian President has given approval for the disbursement of the money  that had accrued under  the CVFF  to indigenous Shipping Companies to acquire vessels  that could launch them back into business.

The minister who was said to have assured the indigenous ship owners that they have no cause to worry about the safety of their vessels in Nigerian waters because of the activities of pirates, as the menace has been atken care off with the urgency it deserves.

He may have impressed the Nigerian ship owners when  he  said that the era  where the country loses about $7 million annually   to oil thieves  and where sea going vessels are constantly attacked  with impunity by pirates   is over .  His optimism of tackling the pirates  headlong in the next four  years without  any sad story   of attacks on vessels was informed by the $95 million  maritime security contract that had been signed  with HLSI System , an Isreali firm. The Isreali firm has a mandate  to put an end   to issues  relating to piracy and other maritime Crime  in Nigerian waters.

Amaechi was said to have received a thunderous ovation  from  the stakeholders at the NSC aPreciation Night   when he declared that ‘’Criminals must be chased  out of the country’s territorial waters  in order to make the” water ways safe   and attractive for foreign investment”.

Perhaps to ensure that the disbursement of the CVFF by NIMASA, alone , did not develop any  K-leg in the process,  Amaechi , regarded as an action minister in maritime circles  , was  to have given his words to  meet  with all the relevant agencies under the ministry  as well as  the indigenous ship owners  in order to work out the modalities  and process of disbursement of the Fund.

Recall that  the CVFF, was established in 2003, by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, to provide  funds  to indigenous ship owners to maintain their vessels and also acquire new ones to be able to compete with the foreign ship owners in the maritime sector.

Going by the Act establishing the Fund, the minister of Transportation  was empowered  to establish the guidelines  for the disbursement  of the fund to eligible operators .  Note that the insistence of the minister to carry the industry stakeholders  along with the disbursement of the CVFF, should be a source of worry to NIMASA officials who may have  looked  forward to use the opportunity of  disbursing the Fund to settle scores with operators who  had problem with them  and to  give preference to ineligible operators, or those  described a ‘’Portfolio’’ ship owners in maritime circles. P.

 Indeed, the various  indigenous shipping groups, according to sources, appear to have begun Consultation, in order to present  a common position during the ministerial meetings on deciding the modalities and processes for  the disbursement of the CVFF, to avoid playing into the hand of NIMASA officials who may be looking forward to see the operators disagree to give the government opportunities to delay the disbursement of the funds.

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