… Says PEBEC has not benefited the Sector
…as industry leaders honour Engr Greg Ogbeifun
The Federal Government’s Ease of Doing Business initiative has not impacted the Shipping sector, critical stakeholders disclosed on Friday at a one-day virtual symposium on “the Establishment of a Nigerian Global Trading Fleet” as they called for an “Integrated Transport Policy Coordination Committee” to drive government strategy.
The consensus, at the event organised by Starzs Group – an offshore logistics and ship repair company- held in honour of the organisation’s Chairman- Engr. Greg Ogbeifun, a distinguished shipping and maritime professional- as he will be clocking age 70 on February 11, 2021, was that an increased level of commitment is needed from government and all Ministries, Departments and Agencies of Government
(MDAs) to grow the nation’s meagre 0.219% share of the world fleet.
Delivering the lead paper titled, “Growing Nigeria’s Seagoing Merchant Fleet”, Barr Mrs Mfon Usoro, the immediate past Secretary General of the Memorandum of Understanding on Port State Control for West and Central African Region stated that in spite of Nigeria’s 2019 merchandise trade worth over USD 117m, only 4% is carried on Nigerian flagged vessels.
She stressed the need to have government drive the prioritisation of maritime transport as is done in other maritime climes, noting that the situation where of the seven key sectors identified by the Federal Government for economic development, the maritime sector is conspicuously omitted, remains very farfetched.
She stated that failure to list the maritime sector, a critical revenue earner which when harnessed would catalyse national growth is detrimental to the economy and the industry, as one no fiscal and tax incentives would be granted until the sector is acknowledged and deemed important by government.
She called for the National Transport Policy Institutional arrangement to include the establishment of an Integrated Transport Policy Coordination Committee as well as a National Cabotage Coordination Committee to drive government strategy.
Usoro also advocated for a 10 year plan for national fleet ownership that encapsulates the percentage of vessels that would be Nigerian flagged within the stipulated period, the constitution of such ships in the global fleet as well as the percentage of Africa’s trade and intra-African merchandise.
While calling for the disbursement of the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF) in line with the stipulations of the law, Barr Mfon Usoro said it would be best to have the funds used for the sole purpose it was instituted even as she stressed the need for government to champion fleet development as is obtainable all over the world.
Delivering his goodwill address, the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, Barr. Hassan Bello said that Nigeria has to be more deliberate in its quest on fleet expansion.
He bemoaned the situation where most of the nation’s freight are transported on foreign vessels, adding that the modernisation of the ship registry is required for fleet expansion, even as government on its part needs to make some budgetary provisions.
Speaking in a panel discussion, renowned shipowner, Mr Aminu Umar confirmed that shipping industry has not had any fiscal incentives in spite of the efforts the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC).
“There are no changes in terms of when ships get into the ports and get clearance. There is no ease when you are doing repairs or maintenance, even when you need to bring in experts, there is no ease. To clear ships, no change. The fleet implementation committee should engage agencies, as it is tough to operate in the sector, ”, he said.
He noted that CVFF could not satisfy the funding need of the shipping industry, as only the capital market could galvanise the USD 50million and above required by operators for the purchase of any singular ship.
Mrs Dabney Shallhoma- Chairperson Sealink Implementation Committee, who chaired a panel discussion session called on government to review its investment policies as well as revamp of the Nigerian Ship Registry to meet conditions obtainable internationally.
The Chairperson, Shipowners’ Forum, Nigeria, Mrs Margret Orakwusi who also chaired the second panel session called on women in maritime business to leverage on pools of funds available for female entrepreneurs to grow their businesses.
She tasked the sector on being more financially literate as a clear understanding of the demands of the capital market and meeting them would enable access to funds and growth of the sector.
Discussing the topic of the day, the President of the Women’s International Shipping & Trading Association (WISTA) Nigeria, Mrs Eunice Ezeoke called for increased collaboration in the industry.
Earlier in his welcome address, the Chairman -Starzs Group, Engr Greg Ogbeifun said it is imperative that Nigeria begins “to participate in opportunities created by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)” and quit depending on foreign vessels to carry her imports and exports.
He also announced that Starzs Group had begun expansion of its Shipyard, a project he hopes to dedicate himself to going forward.
Industry leaders and stakeholders who took turns to appreciate him for his commitment and pioneering role in the past 35 years, called on him to remain committed to the industry, as he is needed more now.