There is hope that Nigerian ship owners will begin to have better tonnages and also be able to participate more actively in Cabotage operations. This is because the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) said last week that it has secured a whopping $200million facility from banks, solely for acquisition of ships.
The facility is in addition to existing $40million Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF) which is equally ready for disbursement to indigenous ship owners.
The loan package was unfolded last week by the director general, NIMASA, Mr Temi Omatseye at a press conference to mark the first 100 days of the new management of the agency.
He lamented that it has been difficult to take maximum advantage of the Cabotage Act because of the unfair standards that are always raised by international oil companies, saying that these companies often argued that Nigerian bottoms are rusty and fallen short of internationally acceptable standard.
He said while NIMASA will not be directly involved in granting of loans, it will however stand as the guarantor of such loans when they are given by the banks and that the indigenous shipping companies will only need to show evidence of performance.
Omatseye however advised Nigerian ship owners to also aspire to meet international standard, saying that the international oil companies (IOCs) are continually raising the standard so as to perpetually bar Nigerians from their fair share of petroleum products lifting business.
According to him, it is more painful that most of the foreign ships operating on Nigerian waters and which the IOCs prefer to patronise are not even registered with NIMASA.
He said that by this week a letter will be written to all concerned to stop giving cargo to any ship that is not registered with the agency, just as he acknowledged that rather than exclude Nigerian companies from the business, the foreign shipping companies should team up with their Nigerian counterparts to take advantage of the country’s Cabotage act which according to him, is beneficial enough.
The NIMASA boss added that it is possible to make Cabotage to work effectively if the problem of literage is taken care off. He stressed that once Nigerian have ships to off load products from in-coming bigger ships, then indigenous ship owners will have so much to do.