The Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi has called on the Nigerian shippers and other stakeholders in the maritime industry to rise to the challenge of transforming the huge potentials in the industry into opportunities economically beneficial to the country and her citizenry.
The minister who was represented by the Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Dakuku Peterside made this known at a cocktail parley for stakeholders in ship/maritime infrastructure financing in Lagos recently.
According to him, it is high time operators and stakeholders applied their mind to knowledge, developed necessary skills and actionable concept that can translate dreams to economic benefits and opportunities. “The emphasis for the conference is actionable concept. So, the thematic thrust of this is not the theoretical framework but practical actionable concept that can translate dreams to economic benefits and opportunities.
“I am very proud to say that the journey is in the right direction. All we need is the support, encouragement, critical and strategic partnership that will translate our vision to true opportunities that our people will benefit from.
Speaking on ship financing, the minister said that government is working on getting the private sector to drive the engine of growth whether it is ship building or in any economic activity. And that through NIMASA, government is willing to partner with anybody that has “the concept that can change our story.”
“We are taking practical steps and in the interim, we are engaging Central Bank of Nigeria and NNPC. We want to change the terms of trade from FOB to CIF. But how many persons are prepared for the new regime?
“Now NIMASA is working on Cargo Support Initiative so that our national shippers will have the exclusive right to take our cargoes. You must to develop concepts, you must develop action plans to take advantage of the opportunities that are coming. Because indeed, opportunities are coming. How are we taking advantage of the natural vantage position we have found ourselves, Amaechi said.
Speaking also, the Chairperson, Ship Owners Forum, Mrs. Margaret Orakwusi said lack of access to cheap funding has been the bane of shipping in Nigeria. She hinted that shipping in Nigeria may remain uncompetitive if foreigners continued to enjoy a one digit interest rate against the double digits loan available to Nigerian shippers. “How do you compete with people who get very cheap funding such like one and half to two per cent interest rates? And we are here struggling to do business with 20 per cent.”
Charting the way forward, the Chairperson called for the establishment of a maritime bank and that the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund (CVFF) should serve as the seed money. “We have money under the law that we have been putting aside and that is the CVFF. We need our own bank that will understand that we need to grow and that it is not profit-oriented.
“We need a bank that will understand the type of business we do. When you take a loan and the bank is giving you two years, it makes no sense getting the loan. And that is why we believe that we need our own bank, a maritime bank that will finance ship building, ship yard, among others. And that this money should act as seed money, she posited.
The convener, Mrs. Ezinne Azunna in remarks said that the cocktail parley was for stakeholders brainstorm, and see how ship financing and maritime infrastructure can be best done. Azunna who noted that Nigerian maritime industry is vast and with huge potentials, however said “any nation without vessels is not competitive in the foreign space.”
“So, if Nigeria is unable to have ships, how can we say that we are a maritime nation. Now if we have ships, what are the advantages. Ship financing is broad, the money required to acquire vessel is pretty huge and over years we have tussles in the industry.
Is it possible to get ship financing and maritime infrastructure going, to leverage on what we have. How can we rally round and get this fund together and empower our people to get vessels because there are huge potentials in this line and we must move from talk shop. It is time for us to come together and say, do we want this to work, she said.