By Sebastine Obasi
There is hope in the horizon for the high level of insecurity in Nigeria’s waterways as the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), has established the Integrated Security and Waterways Protection Infrastructure known as Deep Blue Project to drastically reduce criminalities in the Gulf of Guinea.
Dakuku Peterside, Director General, NIMASA, who stated this on the side lines of the 2019 Petroleum Technology Association of Nigeria (PETAN) workshop at the Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) in Houston, Texas, USA, also stated that there are plans by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and the Ministry of Finance to create a special tariff for vessel acquisition.
He said, “The Deep Blue Project is a multi-pronged approach towards tackling insecurity in our territorial waters and the entire Gulf of Guinea. What we are doing is fulfilling the training aspect of the project and this will also be complemented by acquisition of assets, such as fast intervention vessels, surveillance aircraft, and other facilities, including a command and control centre for data collection and information sharing that will aid our goals of targeted enforcement.”
The NIMASA DG explained that the Deep Blue Project is geared towards building a formidable integrated surveillance and security architecture that will comprehensively combat maritime crime and criminalities in Nigeria’s waterways up to the Gulf of Guinea.
As regards vessel acquisition, Peterside said, “The high cost of vessel acquisition is gradually edging out a lot of indigenous players in the maritime sector,” adding that NIMASA was going all out to reverse the trend. He explained that the Agency was already in discussion with the NCS and the Finance Ministry to ensure that a special tariff window was created for vessel acquisition, as part of efforts to build capacity and create jobs for Nigerians in the maritime sector.
”The maritime sector is a capital intensive one and the cost of accessing fund is equally high. To encourage our indigenous players to compete favourably with their foreign counterparts, we must ensure that we crash the cost of doing business. And that is why we are engaging the Customs and the Finance Ministry on a special tariff for vessel acquisition.”
As regards Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF), the NIMASA DG said that the Agency is currently reviewing the guidelines for accessing the CVFF. The CVFF is a two-per cent deduction backed by law, for every carriage contract, from shipping operators.
”We are also supporting our local players in other areas.”
Ultimately, we want to grow the Nigerian tonnage and encourage more Nigerians to own vessels and be active in the industry. We want more persons to be skilled and employable in the industry.
”I think the bigger picture is to secure the funds so that more Nigerians can be able to access the fund which has swelled to over $150 million. This money should be able to help us crash the cost of accessing funds in acquisition of assets and building infrastructure for the maritime industry, ” he added.