By Godfrey Bivbere
Stakeholders in the Nigerian shipping industry have called on the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, to set up a special fund with a single-digit interest rate for ship acquisition to further help indigenous ship owners in the country to fully exploit the recent zero-duty waiver policy on importation of vessels announced by the Federal Government.
The stakeholders are of the opinion that the creation of such a fund will boost indigenous ship ownership capacity as well as reduce the dominance of foreign ship owners in the nation’s waters.
Speaking at an online discussion in Harboursandport.com with the theme “FG’s Duty Waiver on Vessel Importation” former Director Maritime Labour Services, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, Abass Olayemi, said the new government policy alone is not enough since access to capital remains a major challenge for indigenous ship owners.
Olayemi explained the above couple with the disbursement of the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund, CVFF as well as the zero duty policy will spur growth in the sector.
According to him, “Access to capital remains a challenge for indigenous Ship Owners. Disbursing the CVFF and creating a Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN Special Ship Acquisition Fund with a single-digit interest rate is necessary to build on the Zero duty waiver fiscal policy.
“The issue of access to cargo especially oil and gas by indigenous Ship Owners must also be addressed as ships are useless without cargo,” he noted.
Similarly, a member of Nigeria Ship Owners Association, NISA, and Managing Director of Oceanic Energy Ltd, Taiwo Akinpelumi, who spoke to Vanguard Maritime Report recently said that introduction of any intervention by the CBN or government would be a welcome development.
Akinpelumi explained that while the disbursement of the CVFF and any other intervention will be welcome, NISA is also exploring other channels to seek funding to its members.
He said, “Maritime is huge, it is something that can bring the nation’s fiscal deficit down. So if CBN should come out with such an initiative; it is welcome. If we see any bank that can give single-digit loans to us, we will all embrace it.
“We will keep sourcing for money so that we renew fleet and we acquire new vessels, we repair whichever one that is moribund.”
He said they are looking beyond the CVFF, arguing that the figures being brandished about is nothing to write home about.
He stated: “Up till now they are talking of about $200 million; that was why I said shipping is highly capital intensive and you heard Chief Jolapamo say he has actually written a letter asking that the account should be audited, yes it is important that we actually know what has happened to the money there.”