Sequel to the Federal Government’s readiness to disburse the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF), Ship owners have called for establishment of a maritime bank to help develop the local shipping business.
This comes as stakeholders set up a committee to draft the proposed guidelines of disbursing the $200 million Cabotage fund to ship owners.
Chairman, Ship owners’ forum, Mrs Margret Orakwusi, who made this call on the sideline of stakeholders meeting in Lagos, said establishment of the specialised maritime bank would help local ship owners to compete favourably in the market, which is currently dominated by foreigners.
She said: “I have always advocated for maritime bank, because maritime is a specialised area, and it is so important to our economy, so we should not be allowed to borrow from the commercial banks.
She argued that with the prevailing “commercial interest rate nobody can survive,” noting that shipping is an international business where the locals are in competition with people whose operations are highly subsidised by home countries.
She canvassed for a long spread interest rate on CVFF, with a single-digit interest and a low figure, adding that the maritime bank initiative is not covered under the law, there is a need for review.
“The money has been accumulating in the bank for many years, so if we wait another three or four years, it will get back to us. And it should be made to benefit more people and ensure that nobody goes away with the fund,” she stated.
Orakwusi said the move to set up a committee that would draft the guideline was a welcome development, adding that the guidelines need to be specific on issues of interest rate; duration of the loan; category of vessels needed, and other conditions.
Meanwhile, the Director-General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dakuku Peterside, who was chosen as Chairman of the committee, said only ship owners, who are contributors to the fund, would be qualified to access the facility.
Dakuku reiterated that the fund is meant to promote indigenous capacity in the shipping sector by assisting Nigerians in the procurement of maritime assets in line with the Cabotage Act, which seeks to encourage indigenous participation in the maritime industry.
He also disclosed that in addition to talks with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), on how to make funds available to operators in the industry, the Agency is also working with the supervising Ministry to ensure that the Cabotage Fund was disbursed to qualified applicants at a single digit interest rate.