Nigerian ship-owners say they are in talks with some shipping concerns in China and Norway for partnership to take control of the country’s crude oil cabotage freighting.
The Shipowners Association of Nigeria said it decided to go to China for 85 per cent financing of a shipping concern in a strategic plan to position for about $3.5bn crude oil freighting contract expected to be hulled out by the international oil companies in Nigeria within five years after the country’s ban on waivers for foreign ships takes effect.
The President of SOAN, MkGeorge Onyung, and the technical committee chairman, Lucky Akhiwu, told our correspondent in Abuja, on the sidelines of a shipping industry forum, that the association was going to China and Norway to seek 85 per cent funding for a planned shipyard and vessels acquisition to deepen capacity in readiness to take over cabotage from foreign vessels.
The indigenous ship-owners are planning a summit in November, to come up with ways of financing vessel acquisitions to take over the country’s maritime business from a tight foreign grip.
Onyung said, “The Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board has unveiled a five-year strategy for local content in a marine spread for oil and gas, and about $3.5bn worth of contracts are going to be dished out in the next five years by IOCs.
“So, that is a staggering value. It is $3.5bn contracts coming on; it is like when they say a movie is coming soon. If you are not ready, you will be sleeping on duty. What we are saying is that we ship-owners are thinking outside the box, moving around to see who can help us acquire that capacity that will prepare us for the kind of business that is coming.
“It is not rocket science. We are saying that if Singapore is selling the ship to us and they don’t have steel, why are we sitting down here and say because the Ajaokuta Steel mill is not working we cannot do anything?”
Akhiwu corroborated him.
Before now, ship-owners had relied on Nigeria’s Cabotage Vessels Financing Fund, which was reportedly $124m in May this year and under the custody of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency. But the ship-owners said they were tired of waiting for a very small fund that could not help their dream.
“Ship-owners are just simply tired relying on one source of funding, relying on CVFF. We have cried so much all these years talking about CVFF. Now, this CVFF is being handled by a committee to get to the root of it and make it work.
“However, we ship-owners no longer want to sit down and cry over spilt milk. That is why we are trying to make up with friendly ship-building nations like China,” Onyung said.
“We can longer wait, because posterity will ask us what we did as ship-owners to develop the industry. Shipping is 90 per cent of global trade. So if we don’t take the bull by the horns now, we are going to remain spectators,” he added.
While the ship-owners still covet the CVFF, they maintained that the fund remained too small to help their plans.
“We are not giving up on CVFF, but what can the CVFF do for us? For instance, a DSV is about $150m. How much is the CVFF? How much does the government have? We are not talking about security patrol boat here,” he noted.
According to the SOAN boss, Nigeria has done only very little to tap her maritime resources, which has the potential of employing more than half of the country’s unemployed population.
He said, “The world is made up of two-third water, which is the ocean. Oceans of the world are still largely untapped, that is why we always talk about the blue economy. It has very huge potential for Nigeria. That is why the theme of our conference is ‘Ocean blue economy and national development’.”
Asserting that the wealth of the sea, which includes fishing and cruising, can feed the world and prolong human life, Onyung said, “We want the game to change, and the laws are helping us. The Nigerian content law requires that the capacity to export our product should be a minimum of 70 per cent or thereabouts. But if we don’t have ships, the CIF challenge will continue. The truth of the matter is that what ship-owners are doing about that is to engage the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.”
He added, “We are going to sit and dialogue with them. They will get our own point of view. That is why we are talking about collaboration with shipping nations. If I bring very large crude carrier well managed, according to international best practices, NNPC and the world will not look down on the ship.”