Gabriel Eto (Registrar, Crown Maritime Academy)
We need institutional ship financing, for example in Singapore, the banking sector is very much in collaboration with the maritime sector, indigenous ship owners would be encouraged more if we can for maritime cluster, it is about harmonious relationship between the various players in the industry, they form a common front where they collaborate, corporate and watch out for one another, it is not like this kind of winner takes all situation in Nigeria, they should look at synergy and assisting one another, it is not a jungle thing that everybody is on his own, and this is what we are operating now, what we are operating now is that everybody is just on their own. The indigenous shipowners need to approach government as a group, either as an advocacy group or a lobby group, by so doing they would be able to make more progress, they need to come together and speak with one voice.
Friday Idiageh (Seafarer)
There are different dimensions to it, the first thing government can do immediately is to place zero import duty on importation of vessels, ship owners go abroad to import vessels and their parts because vessels are not being built in Nigeria, so the ship owners should be encouraged. Secondly, there is need for the Federal Government to change the nation’s crude oil trade policy from free on board (FOB) terms to cost, insurance and freight (CIF). Also, government should disburse the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund (CVFF) or establish cheap funds that will provide Nigerians the opportunity to own different categories of oceangoing vessels.
Jonathan Nicol (President, Shippers Association Lagos State)
All of us are not being encouraged by the government, the sector as a whole is not being encouraged, the key players are not being encouraged, shippers are not being encouraged, nothing stops the ministry of transportation to give directive to the agencies under them, what we want is harmony in the system. The ship owners have a fund, the CVFF they are suppose to access, it is their own money, it is not the government's money, so government has no right to say the players are not qualified for the funds, the fund is like 'Esusu' (thrift). So the operators should be given the money according to the level of what they want, even if you cannot give them all, at least give them something to buy service boats or whichever they want to operate, the government has no justification not to release that money.
Capt Alao Tajudeen (President, Master Mariners Association)
We have many ships owned by Nigerians in the oil and gas sector; however, about 70% of them are unemployed. As I am talking to you, deep-sea operations in Nigeria is being controlled by foreigners, they all have expensive assets and no guarantee of lifetime employment for our people, foreigners can move their assets away, but there is no safety net for Nigerians.
Engineer Matthew Alalade (President, Merchant Navy)
Let the government disburse the CVFF and monitor it, unlike before, let there be serious monitoring. Actually, there should be maritime desks in our commercial banks, but right now I don’t think the banks have it, that is why they don’t know much about shipping and they find it difficult to lend money for shipping. It is somebody who knows about shipping that can lend money for that.
Engineer Henry Unuigbe (President NIMENA)
Nigerian ship-owners need support because of the peculiarity of our economy. Ship acquisition is not a small thing; you need to go to the bank because it is difficult for an individual to have that kind of money. Buying a ship is capital intensive, many of them rely on bank loans to be able to acquire loans and the interest rates are double digits. In other climes they get loans with single digit. So when all these come up they will be unable to service the loans. Most time when there is no cargo especially in the tanker business, they are not lifting cargo in our environment. Our waters are dominated by foreign ships. I think our ship owners can be encouraged at least with good interest rates so that they can acquire ships that can compete with the international standard.
Captain Taiwo Akinpelumi (NISA)
Ship ownership in Nigeria has a lot of challenges, of course let’s start with the funds availability, our banks do not have in-depth knowledge of the specialized nature of shipping, so of course you know that our banks always give out interest with double digit. A vessel is so capital intensive and freights coming in are not something that commensurate with the huge investment in vessel acquisition. For instance, in this part of the world, Nigeria still rate among the countries that actually pay higher rates on ships. So if you consider this, you will see that getting fund from the bank, apart from the fact that it is not easy to access funds from the bank because of their limited knowledge of vessel acquisition. You also have the issue of availability of cargoes to contend with. A vessel is bought to pay its bills, so when cargoes are not available, of course there is no point getting the vessel. We also talk about the inability of our local capacity to be developed over time, so it is actually militating against the improvement in our local tonnage.