The founding President of the Nigerian Indigenous Shipowners Association, Isaac Jolapamo, has explained why bunkering services can only be done effectively by foreigners.
Jolapamo, in a chat with newsmen on Monday, explained that because the fuel for use by ships were supplied from outside the country, it would not be profitable for indigenous operators to compete with their foreign counterparts.
This is coming amid concerns over the failure of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation to patronise indigenous ship owners for coastal and bunkering vessel services.
The Shipowners Association of Nigeria had, last week, petitioned the National Assembly as NNPC contracted coastal and bunkering vessel services to UNIBROS, a foreign company.
In the petition signed by its President, MKGeorge Onyung, the group claimed that UNIBROS was operating under the guise of various foreign shell companies with 11 foreign-flagged coastal tanker vessels.
SOAN urged the National Assembly to investigate the NNPC over the breach of the cabotage law in the award of contracts to foreign vessel owners to the exclusion of Nigerian ship-owners.
“It is not unexpected that NNPC will award contracts to foreign ship-owners for bunkering services. The NNPC is an establishment, which has its own laws, no matter who is at the helm of affairs,” he said.
According to him, the product is coming with a premium before getting to Nigeria.
His words, “The bunkering activities in Nigerian waters can only be done effectively by foreign companies; the reason being that the product is obtained from outside. It is unlike if we are producing ourselves as expected and these products are being sold to the people at a discount for them to make profit to take care of their freight as well as profit margin.
“But what we are getting today is that the product is coming with a premium before getting to Nigeria. So it is only the foreign concerns that can actually manage such things and make it profitable. That could be part of the thinking of the NNPC, although I am not supporting them. I am not saying the indigenous ship-owners do not have the capacity; they do, but it is not profitable to the ship owners because they cannot compete with a foreigner who would have bought the product from his own country or somewhere in Europe where he gets a discount and then brings it down to sell.”
When asked if the decision of the NNPC was not against the local content laws, including the cabotage law, Jolapamo said, “It is not today that we are flouting the cabotage and local content laws. In our days, we had to help ourselves by arresting vessels and we know that the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency guys are being involved in some of these acts.
“We even reported officers that collected money in those days. It is all about the human factor. If that is not completely removed or brought down to the barest minimum, nothing is going to work.”
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