The number of vessels acquired and registered by Nigeria’s indigenous ship owners to fly the country’s flag has grown by 17.03 percent in the last three years to 307 vessels, up from 262 vessels in 2015, Nigeria’s Maritime Industry Forecast 2018 – 2019 has revealed.
These were vessels registered in Nigeria by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), the Federal Government agency saddled with the responsibility of shipping development, to operate under the provisions of the Coastal and Inland Shipping Act (Cabotage).
In 2016, the volume of Nigerian flagged vessel almost doubled as a total of 370 vessels with a total tonnage of almost 420,000 metric tons were recorded while in 2017, with a total tonnage of 415,638.03 were registered as Nigerian flagged vessels under the Cabotage regime.
According to the report, Nigerian flagged vessels under the Cabotage regime are indigenous shipping development capacity initiative, meant to increase indigenous capacity in tonnage, manning, building and flag registration.
“To ensure compliance with the provisions of Cabotage regime in Nigeria, as enshrined in section 30 (1) of the Cabotage Act, the enforcement team of NIMASA monitors vessels, enforce compliance and penalise defaulters.
The report further stated that during the period under review, gaps were identified in indigenous capacity with regards to the four pillars of the Cabotage act including ship building; ship manning, ship ownership and ship registration by Nigerians, and this necessitated the granting of waivers to foreign players.
The report however expressed hope that the Cabotage vessel financing fund (CVFF), when disbursed would boost indigenous capacity and accelerate development in the sector. The CVFF fund, which was created by the Federal Government and contributed by ship owners paying 2 percent of the volume of cargo per a Cabotage trade, was expected to be used as cheap fund for vessel acquisition.
In 2017, the report stated, that NIMASA introduced the new Cabotage Compliance Strategy (CCS) for a successful Coastal and Inland trade regime thereby halting consideration of applications for granting of waivers on manning especially foreigners for prescribed category of officers on vessels engaged on cabotage trade.
Dakuku Peterside, director general of NIMASA, said in an interview in Lagos that the new Cabotage Compliance Strategy has seen NIMASA ensuring that over 200 seafarers are on board different Cabotage vessels.
He further disclosed that the agency is working with the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) and talks are at advanced state to ensure the engagement of over 100 brand new Cabotage vessels in the oil and gas industry.
Despite this perceived growth in the number of Nigerian flagged vessels, Nigerian ship owners have argued that their companies are struggling to survive due to lack of affordable funding to acquire new vessels.
Margret Orakwusi, former president of Nigerian Fishing Trawlers Association said recently in a stakeholders’ forum held in Lagos that Nigerian ship owners were struggling to compete with their foreign counterparts, who get funding from banks from their countries of origin, at single digit while Nigerians get fund at double digit, as high as 28 percent.
“We generate cargoes locally but our indigenous ship owners struggle to participate in the transportation of those locally generated cargoes due to their inability to buy quality vessels. Ship owners are losing jobs to their foreign counterparts while Nigerian seafarers are also losing job opportunities to foreign crew,” said Orakwusi.