Barge Operators Association of Nigeria is seeking to benefit from the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund, which is standing at $200 (about N72bn).
The CVFF is a special fund created by the Nigerian government alongside the Coastal and Inland Shipping Act, popularly known as the Cabotage Act, 2003. It is meant to help indigenous ship owners and other operators in the country’s cabotage waters to acquire vessels and platforms for doing business on its territorial waters.
BOAN said it was adequately covered by the act to benefit from the fund, for which a committee had been set up by the fund’s custodian, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, to come up with guidelines on how to disburse the fund.
Speaking with Financial Street in Lagos, president of BOAN, Edeme Kelikume, charged NIMASA to carry out all due diligence on the disbursement of the fund, so that members of the association could access the fund to grow their businesses.
Kelikume said 300,000 containers were moved by barges in 2019, while the national output was 1.8m twenty-foot equivalent units.
He lamented that barge operators were still operating below 20 per cent of the total capacity of the market space, and that trucking still accounted for 80 per cent.
“Barging is not new in Nigeria; it has been going on in the Niger Delta for years. However, using barges to evacuate cargoes from the port is fairly recent.
“Today, we have about 30 barge operators under the Nigerian Ports Authority. It is a new industry. Capacity development is very important. We are working with NIMASA to see how they can train more people – the deck men, the captains; how we can have the right equipment,” he said.
Barge operation is a recent development in Nigeria’s maritime industry. The business became popular following congestion at the Lagos ports, which called for deployment of multi-modal transportation; hence the use of barges to evacuate containers from the ports.
The Nigeria Customs Service had earlier this month stopped the evacuation of containers by barges, alleging evasion of tariffs and diversion of containers to illegal destinations.
According to Kelikume, the new business comes with teething problems that included high cost of operation, leaving little room for profit.
“We currently have a challenge of high cost of operations. The other challenge is windows to pick cargoes from the port terminals,” he said.
Get real time update about this post categories directly on your device, subscribe now.