By Godfrey Bivbere & Favour Elioku
THE Federal Government has constituted a committee to screen shipping operators interested in acquiring part of the 60 percent holding for Nigerians in the proposed National fleet.
The fleet is expected to have a 40 percent foreign ownership.
Engr. Greg Ogbeifun, Chairman of the Ship Owners Association of Nigeria, SOAN, and Chairman/CEO, Starzs Investments Group, made this known at the Taiwo Afolabi annual maritime conference hosted by the Maritime Forum of the University of Lagos.
Ogbeifun, who said the committee has commenced work, also expressed confidence that the new national fleet, unlike the old one, will be a success.
He pointed out that the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, had assured of government’s political will at ensuring that the new project gets cargo to carry. He quoted the minister as saying that the present government is determined to do everything possible to ensure that the new national carrier succeeds.
Recall that Nigeria and Singapore recently reached an agreement to establish a private sector driven National Carrier with stake-holding of 60 to 40 percent respectively.
The agreement was reached after a meeting in Singapore between the Nigerian delegation led by the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers Council, NSC, Hassan Bello, and representatives of Pacific International Lines, PIL, one of the biggest ship operators.
Bello, who is also the chairman of the Committee for the Actualization of the National Carrier set up by the Ministry of Transportation, said while the Pacific International Lines, PIL, is expected to own 40 percent of the stake, private Nigerian ship operators are expected to own the other 60 percent.
In his words, “We have a working relationship with PIL in Singapore; they are one of the big ship operators. They are extremely capable and operate to international standards. With the arrangement, they are expected to have 40 percent of the venture while Nigeria is expected to have 60 percent. The 60 per cent stake goes to Nigeria entrepreneurs not the government.
“We are expecting comprehensive outlined “Business Case” so that we go through the process and procedure to look at all the ramifications and expert study of what is going to happen.”
He pointed out that the project will also involve other industries like the banks, the insurance companies and others that will be able to provide financial support. This will also help its expansion; it is very important for our national pride that we have a national shipping line, he noted.
The NSC boss stressed that while the committee on National fleet is studying other reports on the proposed establishment of the National Carrier, a sub-committee on cargo is already looking out for cargoes because of the expected profit from lifting cargo.
“What we have now is a sector dominated by foreign ships and they dictate to us. We have no choice but we have these cargoes, so we should have the ships. No matter how wide or long our coast line is, no matter how long our inland water is and how our ports are, if we do not have the ships, then we cannot pretend to be a maritime nation.”
He observed that “the advantages of the Nigerian fleets are obvious, saying that earnings from fleets are cardinal to boosting the economy and will also provide employment for our people. He added that it will encourage the development of other associated industries like ship repair, ship building, dry docking, ship architecture among others. It will also make us an important player in shipping.”