By Francis Ugwoke
As indigenous shipping remains in a state of comatose in the country, the President of National Council of Managing Directors of Customs Agents (NCMDCA), Mr Lucky Amiwero has recommended a number of policy measures that can lead to the revival of the sector.
Amiwero was of the view that with the failure of the local content law in the shipping industry, the national carrier status should be developed and facilitated by the Nigerian Maritime and Safety Agency (NIMASA) for the expansion of the nation’s fleet.
He opined that the federal government should introduce the policy of cargo sharing, develop and implement policies and programmes which will facilitate the growth of the local capacity in ownership, manning and construction of ship and other maritime infrastructure as contained in NIMASA Act.
Among other measures which he recommended to the Senate Joint Committee investigating the implementation of local content policy include carriage of bulk or liquid cargo to be initiated by (NIMASA) to empower the indigenous operators.
He also advocated for 50 percent cargo to and from Nigeria sharing ratio to be implemented to galvanize and kick start the participation of indigenous operators.
Amiwero was of the view that Nigerian flagged vessel should carry 50 percent of cargo generated through technical assistance, urging NIMASA to work out modalities for proper implementation in conjunction with the federal government of the technical assistant policy as contained in the law.
“The carriage of crude and petroleum product to and from Nigeria must be implementation to build capacity and generate employment as contained in the law”, he said.
Among the recommendation was for the development and implementation of policies and programmes which will facilitate the growth of local capacity in ownership, manning and construction of ship and maritime infrastructures.
Others recommendations include: “Review and removal of the waiver clause of the cabotage of section 9,10 11, 12 &13 to build capacity and generate employment; Implement the provision on towage, carriage of petroleum product, navigation in inland waters, shipyard and ship and manning so as to build capacity and generate employment; Implement the local content on labour requirement, contract and manufacture of the local content “.
He equally recommended that the Nigeria content monitoring board in conjunction with NIMASA should have powers to enforce compliance of the relevant section of coastal and inland shipping (Cabotage Act) in relation to matters pertaining to Nigeria content development, Section (105).
Amiwero added that the springboard of any successful maritime operation globally depends on the proper implementation of Cargo reservation policy; Incentives/subsidies; domestic trade restriction policy (cabotage); shipyard and shipbuilding; fleet expansion programme; maritime infrastructure development and capacity building initiatives” as contained in the Acts.
The development of the maritime industry, according to Amiwero, will create jobs and increase the country’s participation in maritime trade through proper funding mechanism as stated in various Acts
The nation’s indigenous shipping industry has suffered discrimination from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and oil majors in the award of contracts for wet cargo affreightment.
Both NNPC and oil majors have claimed that except few, many indigenous shipping companies do not have the capacity to be involved in some of the contract jobs, a claim that has been debunked by key operators.
The local shipping companies have also not had it easy following the failure in the enforcement of the cabotage shipping regime introduce to protect indigenous shipping.
There is the allegation of foreign shipping companies operating in the country under the cover of waivers,
The federal government has not helped the situation as no indigenous shipping company is yet to benefit from the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF) that is meant for local operators.
NIMASA which collects three percent shipping dues from every vessel coming into the nation’s territorial waters is supposed to set aside two percent of this for indigenous shipping development, including indigenous fleet expansion.
The agency has since the suspension of the Ship Acquisition and Ship Building Fund (SASBF) due to mismanagement by the officials of the agency and failure of some of the beneficiaries to pay back the loan refused to disburse the fund.
The agency has over the years kept introducing new conditions that will be met before disbursement without fulfilling its promise, in what has given rise to suspicion that the money may have been mismanaged and no longer exists.