LOAN applications by indigenous shipowners to the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF) of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) is currently standing at N6billion, as againstÂ N6.675billion at the disposal of the agency for disbursement.
This was contained in a comment to a paper presented by Professor Olakas Ademun-Odeke at the recently concluded conference hosted by the Nigerian Shippersâ€™ Council (NSC) in Abuja, where it was also noted that lack of capital to finance vessel acquisition has made it impossible for Nigerians to buy new ships.
In the comment, it was disclosed that Nigeriaâ€™s import profile for 2008 has risen to 54,000.000metric tonnes, an indication that the maritime sector warehouses latent potentials to contribute to countryâ€™s growth.
It was further noted that the lack of capacity by local banks to support shipping has been a major obstacle to achieving the development of Nigeriaâ€™s indigenous merchant fleet.
Part of the comment reads â€œIn 1989, Nigeria proposed a $300million Ship Acquisition and Procurement Fund.
â€œAt that time the price of one new 15,000 DWT General Cargo vessel was $24million in 1990, at this time in Nigeria IMF was supervising the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) and it was obvious that from the performance of the fund that the IMF and the World Bank were not interested.
â€œSimilarly today, whilst the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund stands at approximately $44.5million, the requirement based on application made to NIMASAÂ is approximately $400million.
â€œThe lack of capital is what has created a trend where Nigeria is basically a buyer of second hand vessels.
As far back as the 1980s this was a problem, and to date there has been no holistic and formidable strategic focus within the financial sector to address it.â€
Odeke in his paper noted that for a country ofÂ Nigeriaâ€™s economy and international standing, â€œshe is punching below her weight in both maritime transport and ocean borne tradeâ€.
The erudite professor explained that Nigeria has been a strong maritime nation before, adding all it needs to do is to learn from its mistakes and demonstrate a will to go the distance as every thing for her succeed as a maritime nation is already in place.
He also noted that adequate and well trained and professional manpower is essential for the national fleet, maritime and the industry generally.
He opined that establishing or re-establishing a national fleet involves prioritizing, careful economic planning, large financial outlay and a national resolve.
He suggested that the government could start by setting up a Federal Commission of Inquiry into shipping on the UK Round table report of 1967.
The Commission, according to him would interview all interested parties and stakeholders and establish key criteria such as freight rates, balance of payments, employment status, cargo availability, investment needs and sources.
On the issue of manpower Odeke said â€œThere is sufficient and qualified manpower in Nigeria to run both a maritime administration and a merchant navy, judging from the nationâ€™s uptake of places at the World Maritime University and other training institutionsÂ and facilities around the world.â€