· Tasks Blue Economy Minister on implementation strategy
· Seek CVFF disbursement to earn dollars for country
The increasing volatility in foreign exchange market has adversely affected the volume of business in the shipping and tanker trade by over 50 per cent reduction in transactions in the last four months, MMS Plus reports.
In separate interviews with MMS Plus, Nigerian ship-owners who lamented drastic reduction in business attributed the development also to subsidy removal on fuel pump price while calling on the Minister of Marine and Blue Economy, Adegboyega Oyetola to help restructure the industry and generate the needed foreign exchange for the country through empowering maritime players by vessel acquisition via disbursement of Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund (CVFF).
They called on the Minister to quickly unveil his strategy for the success of the blue economy.
In his reaction, a ship owner and Managing Director of Sea Transport Services Limited, Alhaji Aminu Umar said,“The unpredictability and unavailability of dollar in foreign exchange market is very bad and affects all sectors not only shipping. The volatility affects trade and shipping in particular because the import and export are freighted by ships. So, there is down turn in shipping business. We are hoping that the new CBN management will intervene positively as it has promised and that could help trade pick up and increase activities in shipping.
Aminu, who is also the President of Nigerian Chamber of Shipping(NCS) explained:“Activities have gone down drastically and for oil tankers, it has gone down by more than 50 per cent. We hope that it will improve as the year goes down. But for us, it is not only associated with the forex fluctuation but the removal of subsidy which crashed the demand for refined product. This has affected the volume and when volume is affected it affects the incoming cargo. So, it has been very low for the shipping tanker activities.
He reiterated the urgency for shipping development,saying “I think there is need for us to have national fleet to be able to take advantage of the opportunities in blue economy especially in shipping. National fleet is not national carrier so, I think it will catalyse the blue economy.
According to him,from the area of Nigeria Chamber of Shipping, we are planning to meet the Minister and I am sure soon , we will see him. Our position has been to advocate more and push the policies that can assist our industry. And create forum where the Minister can come and unveil his intended policies and the low-hanging fruits for the industry to key in.
For the President of Ship Owners Association of Nigeria(SOAN), Dr. MkGeorge Onyung the function of the availability of foreign exchange is productivity in shipping , arguing that “Ship owners don’t control foreign exchange, that is government’s responsibility. What we are talking about is how we can create foreign exchange. That is our concern. Nobody can go to the ocean without having ship. We have always said that without shipping there is no shopping. It is not unexpected that dollar is going that way. We have to create more foreign exchange and the only way is to have ship. We now have blue economy and the only way for it to work is to own ships. If the government policies support shipping then the foreign exchange problem will be a thing of the past. We have a blue economy, let’s use it and stop talking grammar”.
Deploring what he described as excess obsession for conferences without action he added,”The blue economy has been with us since the days of Noah. Remember the Noah’s Ark, God created 700 million species of animals in the world. All we are waiting for is to unlock the opportunities. Norway started realizing the blue economy since 2002. So we have a Ministry now, let’s go to work. Talking will not help us, we have been talking for years. We have been having conferences and potentials of the blue economy, now is time for practicality.
“Blue Economy is the sustainable exploitation of the ocean in a very responsible manner. That is what it means, so we are talking about Ocean industry now. We have been doing Land industry all these years. It is now time for us to do the Ocean industry and those who have business in the Ocean are the people we are talking about. It is no longer time for maritime stakeholders; we are now talking about maritime industry players.
“Creation of the Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy is the right thing to do. But what we are saying is that Journalists should be focused on getting the policy out and getting government to implement the policy. It is not all about talking.
He called on the Minister to unveil his strategy and team.”The Minister needs to have a team in place before getting players. He is the Coach. You need to appoint a Coach first, then assemble a team and then equip them with boot. Those who don’t wear soccer boot don’t play international football. By this, you know you have a winning team that is ready to win. The point is, you have a Coach, a player cannot be talking. They should give us the tools and let’s play. This is the gospel we should be singing.
While interjecting that the Minister should not be blamed for the seeming delay in plans, he noted,”The Minister has no budget not that he doesn’t know what to do. Don’t criticize the Minister,that is not where the problem is. Anybody could have been there. He may not have a strategy but it is not what he says that will determine the Strategy. We have had promises from Ministers on CVFF disbursement but nothing happened. We have to face reality now. However, the Minister needs to present his strategy for the blue economy. He has none yet. Try and engage him to present his strategy.”