By Omoh Gabriel
Four Nigerian banks have been appointed by the Nigerian Maritime Safety and Administration to handle the agency Vessel Acquisition fund which has peaked at $66 million from the base of $48 million a year ago. The Agency has also disclosed that it will soon begin the training programme it has evolved for repentant militant in the Niger Delta just as it has also planned to begin the clean up of the beaches around the country that will see it employing idle youths to do the clean up exercise on a N 1,000 a day to home pay . He also said that the Agency plans to midwife a joint venture that will see the setting up of Unity Line, a National carrier between Nigerians and foreign investors.
Disclosing these facts in an interactive session with journalist Lagos, NIMASA Director General Mr. Temisan Omatseye who has just spent a year in office said that in the bid to implement the cabotage law and to assist Nigeria ship owners who have lost out of the nation‚Äôs maritime trade, the agency will soon begin the disbursement of the $66 million accumulated vessel funds. He however said that so far application for the utilisation of the fund has climbed up to $1 billion wondering how it will go round the applicants.
According to him ‚ÄúThe Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund (CVFF) has grown from $48 million in July 2009 to over $66 Million in June 2010 representing a 37.5 per cent increase. Arrangements for the administration of the CVFF have reached advanced stage and the first tranche of disbursement would be concluded shortly; through the four banks which were carefully selected to act as PLI for the fund. Diamond Skye, Fidelity and Equitorial Trust Bank‚Äù
Omatseye said that local ship owners have been highly disadvantaged in the maritime trade as most all national cargoes are shipped in and out of the country by foreign flagged ships. He said despite the provision of the law that require that 50 per cent of federal , state, local government goods be given to Nigeria flagged ships at the moment this is not being complied with. He said that the various levels of governments in the country import rice, fertilizers and other goods that are carried by foreign flagged ships at the detriment of the local ship owners.
He said of the huge amount of crude leaving the country on daily basis and the high level importation of petroleum products the indigenous ship owners are left out of the business thus impoverishing the nation while enrich other countries. He said that NNPC and the various level of governments in the country while planning their shipment should learn to comply with the existing law which gives local flagged ships 50 per cent of Nigeria maritime business. This he said is necessary to encourage indigenous ship owners and the development of the Nigerian maritime industry. He further said ‚ÄúWe have recorded 240 cabotage vessels in the cabotage special registry as against 45 vessels when we assumed office. This represent 450 per cent increase‚Äù.
He said that the agency has reviewed guideline for registration of Cabotage operators which has effectively increased the tonnage in cabotage special register. He disclosed that NIMASA ‚Äúmanagement is in the fore-front of driving the process for the establishment of the Regional Maritime Development bank to further provide funding corridor for ship acquisition and infrastructural development stating that the agency has achieved 24 hour provisional Ship Registration Regime‚Äù.
He said ‚ÄúWe have recorded 1,318 vessels in our Ship Registry representing 45 per cent increase from the previous figure at our inception. There has been a comprehensive Review of Flag Survey and Registration Services procedures. Full automation of the Nigerian Registry is in progress.
He said that the agency ‚Äúhas as its medium term agenda an intervention programme designed to support and complement Federal Government efforts at quick rehabilitation and reintegration of repentant militants. The key deliverable here according to him are training of ex-militant youths as ratings and officers, evolve a scheme for engaging the trained youths as maritime security and enforcement officers for ISPS code, cabotage, SAR and pollution enforcement, train and equip (acquisition of boats and relevant platforms and hard wears, etc) the youths as maritime safety marshals to patrol our coastline and the creeks and respond to safety security and environment emergencies. While in the long term it will collaborate between NIMASA, NDDC and Niger Delta States/Local Governments to fund the participation of qualified Niger Delta youths in the NSDP through a tripartite percentage funding ratio of 20:40:40 respectively.
Omatseye disclosed that the Agency in collaboration with Obafemi Awolowo University plans to set up a Maritime faculty for the training of seafarers in Nigeria He also said that the agency has completed and Commissioned the Climate Observatory Centre at Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU).
He further disclosed that ‚ÄúThe Agency has intensified efforts towards inter-agency collaboration to ensure effective implementation of its policies and programmes which requires the support and input of sister Agencies to succeed. Such agencies includes: NPA, Nigeria Customs Services, NNPC, DPR, Nigerian Shippers Council, Nigerian Navy, Nigerian Airforce, NIPC, SMEDAN and Nigerian Content Development Monitoring Board (NCDMB). The Agency in conjunction with the Federal Ministry of Transport has successfully executed the campaign that led to the re-election of Nigeria as a member of IMO Governing Council.