By Godfrey Bivbere
Banks have began to pressurize indigenous shipowners to repay loans collected to acquire ship in anticipation of increased patronage under the Cabotage law regime.
Following the passage of the Cabotage Law, indigenous shipowners under the aegis of Indigenous Shipowners Association of Nigeria (ISAN) collectedÂ loans from banks to acquire more ships. This was based on expectation of increase patronage from which they hope to generate enough income to repay the loan.
TheÂ Cabotage law however failed to translate to increased patronage for indigenous ship-owners hence no increased income to fund the repayment of the loan, to empower indigenous shipowners like it was originally planned, coupled with the problems in the bank sector have forced officials of the banks to go after ISAN members for the repayment of the facility.
Confirming this to Vanguard recently in an exclusive, Secretary of ISAN and Managing Director of Al-Dawool Shipping Lines Ltd., Captain D.O. Labinjo, said most of the loans collected by indigenous shipowners fall under the category of those being questioned by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). He said the indigenous shipowners have not been enjoying increased patronage as foreigners continues to dominate the costal trade contrary to expectations under the cabotage law hence their inability to service the loans.
Labinjo said that due to recent development in the banking industry,Â the banks are putting pressure on them to repay loan.
He noted that despite the Cabotage law, they are even worse off as the Coastal trade is now completely taken over by foreign shipowners.
Before the Cabotage law he continued, members of the association use to get a few jobs here and there to pay their crew and maintain their vessel but with the Cabotage law, they no longer get any at all because â€œforeigners have completely taken over the business.
The situation is so bad that I haveÂ not paid my crew in the last six months because I haveÂ not been able to get any job since then,â€ he stressed.As a result of the new development, couple with the fact that the apex maritime regulatory agency responsible for the enforcement of the Cabotage law is not living up to its responsibility, ISAN has decided enforce the law by themselves.
To this end, ISAN through the law court have so far arrested about four foreign vessels trading within the nationâ€™s exclusive zone in contradiction to the Cabotage law.