A joint committee made up of officials of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, ship-owners, bankers and technocrats in the maritime sector has been saddled with the task of coming up with strategic plans to position indigenous ship-owners for about $3.5bn crude oil freighting contracts expected to be hulled out by the international oil companies in the country in the next five years when the ban on waivers for foreign ships take effect.
President of Ship Owners Association of Nigeria, McGeorge Onyung, told Financial Street that the committee, which is led by Temisan Omatseye, a former director-general of NIMASA, would find a lasting solution to the hydra-headed challenges of Nigeria’s maritime industry.
According to him, the committee will, among other responsibilities, come up with ways to make the indigenous ship-owners take over cabotage trading completely.
“The Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board has unveiled a five-year strategy for local content in marine spread for oil and gas. 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. 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 to move around to see who can help us acquire that capacity that will make us ready for the kind of business that is coming,” he said.
Onyung lamented that, for 15 years, the Cabotage Act was without effect, adding that, “NIMASA has issued marine notices about some ships that will be banned in the next five years. Again, it has constituted a joint committee of NIMASA officials and maritime industry stakeholders, and I am one of the members of the committee, with a few other ship-owners.”
He said, “The truth is that the issue of Nigerians taking over cabotage trade is at the front burner of NIMASA’s activities right now and that committee is headed by a former DG of NIMASA, Temisan Omatseye. We are going end all problems of cabotage. The committee also has bankers, and we are engaging all stakeholders in this committee.
“So, for cabotage, I cannot say what happened in the past. But what we are saying now is that ship-owners, NIMASA and other members of the committee are going to make cabotage work. That is a national assignment and it is a game-changer.”
According to him, the next phase of ship ownership in Nigeria would be something big, with ship repair yards and human capacity being planned for a revolutionary sector change.
He said, “So, what we are saying is that in the past, we have had the Nigerian National Shipping Line whose ships disappeared because there were no shipyards to even maintain them. That is not all the reason the ships disappeared; the most important reason was that everywhere they went for dry-docking, those they were owing simply went there and arrested the vessels.
“To forestall recurrence, after establishing our national fleet, we have to also take ship building and ship repair seriously, so that we repair our ships here. We gain by ending capital flight and by providing millions of jobs.
“We want to show a beam of light to the industry. We need to know that we have the capacity to change this country and that is why we are having this conference. Even our oil exploration and sale is reliant on shipping. Oil is about a small fraction of global business. If you don’t have ships, oil will go nowhere. It will take time, but I’m glad that government agencies such as NIMASA, NCDMB and other regulators are now getting serious.”