By Kenneth Jukpor
Engr. Greg Ogbeifun is the President of Ship Owners Association of Nigeria (SOAN). After the successful 4th Edition of SOAN’s Annual Workshop and Dinner which held in Lagos last week, he spoke on MMS Plus on several issues affecting ship owners in the country even as he proposed an endiring solution to the menace of piracy on Nigerian waters. Enjoy it:
This is the 4th Edition of SOAN’s annual Workshop/ Dinner. How would you rate this edition and had been the impact in the shipping sector?
This has been the best edition of the SOAN End of Year Workshops. We have been able to bring all the relevant stakeholders including the government regulatory agencies to a roundtable as we deliberate on issues and chart the path for development of the shipping industry. We are no longer in a situation where all stakeholders are pointing fingers at each other, rather we have reached a situation where we have been able to sensitize the industry and they are beginning to understand the role SOAN is playing in the development of the industry, diversification of the economy, job creation and in participating in the maritime activities in the country.
Everybody that is relevant in the industry was here tonight and you could see the level of enthusiasm and integration among the participants. The press are also excited that this platform exists to perpetuate the issues in the shipping and maritime sector. It has been tough and challenging to keep on with the workshops but we can see the headway with all these stakeholders sitting together and talking. It was never like this in the past because one agency would be pointing fingers at another. At such times, operators are stuck between running to one organization or another. I also want to use this opportunity to beckon on the press to continue to support us in the growth and development of the shipping and maritime industry.
In the past, the terms of crude carriage from Free on Board (FOB) to Cost Insurance and Freight (CIF) has been one of the major issues SOAN pushed for. NNPC has refloated it’s shipping arm; MIDAS Shipping. How has this affected indigenous participation in crude affreightment?
This issue doesn’t affect us because that is global trade. The Nigerian Fleet Implementation Committee is still very heavily active and from January there would be a website of the Nigerian Fleet Implementation Committee and we will be publishing all that is happening on that initiative. There is going to be a synergy between NIDAS and the Fleet Implementation Committee. As a matter of fact, the Managing Director of NIDAS is a member of the committee. It’s going to be about collaborations and not an issue whether they are doing it right or wrong. At the moment there is no Nigerian crude tanker fleet available for NIDAS to charter from but they must continue to meet the mandate they have been given so they went to the London market. NIDAS is saying Nigeria has cargo but it doesn’t ships so they have gone to London to source ships. This means that if there is an initiative in the country that leads to the acquisition of ships especially tankers of the right specification, NIDAS wouldn’t only be limited to the foreign market. They would look inwards.
So, we must see this development as a positive one that can facilitate the emergence of Nigerian tanker fleet. This doesn’t happen by fiat; there has to be strategic planning. This explains why the Nigerian Fleet Implementation Committee identified the factors militating against the establishment of any national fleet and that has to do with the fiscal incentives that other nations have adopted. There are some fiscal incentives that other nations put in place to enable them establish fleet but such incentives aren’t available in Nigeria. If you a Nigerian and you buy a ship and you pay duties. If you are a British or Greek or Angolan and you buy a ship and flag it in your country; it is zero duty. In these nations, they would also give the ship-owner tax holiday because they know that you must have borrowed heavily to finance the vessel. They would also provide several other fiscal incentives to make it easy for you to operate and repay you loan. After we realized all these, the committee decided to go after these incentives and the government is responding positively. We have engaged the government up to the level of the Vice President and the Minister of National Planning is also onboard. Until we deal with this issue, the idea of floating a fleet will be difficult to achieve.
Looking at the security issues in the country’s waterways. What can Nigeria do to have safety waterways and ease the burden of Extra War Risk charges that is being placed on vessels and crew coming to Nigeria? Also the recent debacle as posited by NIMASA and some stakehodlers that the international maritime community has a false impression of what constitution threats of piracy in the country.
I wouldn’t comment on NIMASA’s opinion because everyone is entitled to an opinion.
However, my position on security of Nigerian waters is that there cannot be security on our waters until we provide alternatives for those pirates, hostage takers and kidnappers. There has to be an economic activity that creates job opportunities and entrepreneurial opportunities for these young ones to take their minds away from these illegal vices. If we leave them idle; you know the saying that the idle mind is the Devil’s workshop.
If we raise an army of heavily armed personnel to guard the waters, what they would be doing is mounting pressure because the root cause of the problem is still there. The moment you take off the guards, the problem continues. The government should begin to think of how to bring development to those areas and create opportunities for the people. This may look challenging initially but the government would have to stick to it and advertise, hold seminars to talk to them that it is better to go to school and have a better future. The government should also site some of the nation’s developmental projects in these areas. This strategy would be the lasting solution to the problem as it would lead them to become productively engaged.