The federal government has announced that it has shortlisted six Nigerian ship owners as those who will soon benefit from the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund, CVFF.
Though the identity of the Nigerian ship owners were not revealed, the Minister of Transport, Senator Idris Umar, who dropped the hint at the celebration of the 2013 WMD in the Cross River capital, Calabar, said only six firms were penciled down as beneficiaries of CVFF.
The WM Day is celebrated globally by member nations of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) in the third quarter of every year.
“Realising the importance of the participation of the indigenous operators in the achievement of sustainable development and enhancement of indigenous capacity, the Coastal and Inland Shipping Act (Cabotage Act) was enacted and provides for the establishment of the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund. This is intended to assist indigenous operators to acquire vessels. For purposes of disbursements, four primary lending institutions namely Diamond Bank, Fidelity Bank, Skye Bank and Sterling Bank have been appointed.
“Out of the several applications received for the CVFF facility, six applications have been processed and endorsed by these aforementioned Primary Lending Institutions (PLIs) and accordingly recommended by the management of NIMASA (Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency) to the ministry and are being evaluated for approval”, he said.
Umar, whose keynote address at the occasion was read by the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Mr. Nebolisa Emordi, also disclosed that the Kirikiri Terminal 1 in Lagos has been designated a Fishing Terminal in order to enhance economic activities and promote the health and wellbeing of Nigerians.
He revealed that plans had reached an advanced stage to concession the terminal to a private investor for fishing purposes.
“As a measure of ensuring protection of marine biodiversity, plans have reached at advanced stage to concession the Kirikiri Terminal 1 as a dedicated fishing terminal to enhance economic activities and promote the health and well being of the citizens of this country”, he stated.
He explained that the fishing terminal was part of the recommendations of the Presidential Maritime Retreat held last year aimed at regulating the country’s fishing industry.
He also told those who participated at the event that “efforts are equally in progress for the establishment of a port at Ogidigbe near the Escarvos in Delta State, which is expected to be the hub for the gas revolution initiative of the Federal Government”.
To get the Onitsha River Port unveiled in 2012 by President Goodluck Jonathan off the ground, Umar said the process of appointing a Transaction Adviser for the outfit was on.
According to him, the other river ports of Baro in Niger State, Oguta in Imo State and Lokoja, Kogi State would be concessioned to private operators upon their completion by next year.
Governor of Cross River State, Senator Liyel Imoke, represented by his deputy, Efiok Cobham, decried the state of shipping in the country, which he lamented had over the years been dominated by foreign interests.
He noted that the acquisition of 32 vessels for the Nigeria national shipping lines, NNSL and the promulgation of Degree No.10 of April 1987 establishing NIMASA and the Cabotage Law in 2004 appear to be the development in the sector. He expressed regret that foreigners now dominate coastal and inland water transportation both in ownership of vessels and operation.
His words: “It is imperative therefore, that the federal government has to pay more attention to the industry; it should not be over stated that an effective managed and operated industry has the capacity to further boost the nation’s economy, as well as create the much-needed jobs for the army of unemployed youths in the country.
“To achieve this, the first step is for government to make the right pronouncements and policies that will drive the development of the sector. Government must work at ensuring that the nation’s ports are more functional and are operated in line with international best practices.
“Nigeria ports are generally regarded as far below international standards and commercially unfriendly, charging high tariffs and delivering poor service.
“The problems are myriad and include an inadequate supply of craft and plants, a cumbersome documentation system, dilapidated port infrastructure, low labour productivity and volatile dock labour, corruption, vandalism, criminal damage, multiplicity of government and security agencies. For the nation’s maritime industry to operate functionally there is need for these problems to be addressed as soon as practicable.
“I challenge this august gathering to address among other issues listed, the review of the role of the National Maritime Authority (NMA), the issue of safety at sea, maritime pollution and control, cabotage and cargo reservation law and establishment of a new Ship Acquisition and Ship Building Funds for Nigerian operators”, he added.
He therefore called on the federal government to go beyond the institution of the Cabotage Act and NIMASA to ensure that Nigerians were well empowered to participate in the lifting cargoes in the country.
Imoke observed that indigenous shipping was capable of generating employment for the army of teeming youths in the country.
The event, which theme was ‘Sustainable Development: IMO’s Contribution Beyond Rio+20’, was declared open by Cobham on behalf of Imoke. It also attracted many industry stakeholders including shipping firms, ministry officials, importers and their agents, members of the business community, among others.
– This Day