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AMES Maritime Summit to discuss how Nigerians can acquire vessels—Uwadia

President, Association of Marine Engineers and Surveyors (AMES) and a major stakeholder in the maritime industry, Engineer Charles Uwadia has given insight that the upcoming second Maritime Technical Summit will attempt to solve the puzzle of funding gap that has been frustrating indigenous shippers from getting vessels to become key players in African maritime industry.

In an interview, he said shipping stakeholders’, will among other things, “Want both banks and government officials attending the conference to let us know the problem and develop how we can move forward”.

“The minister will be there to listen to these issues because without finance, we cannot expand the shipping industry. In fact, if you cannot afford to buy or maintain vessels, of what good is the ship registry? It is only when you buy vessels or give opportunity to Nigerians to own their vessels, then, obviously that will expand our registry.

Continuing, Uwadia averred that the summit “Will increase our capacity and improve the economy to a large extent. So the banks will discuss at the summit and we also have a stakeholder who is also going to tell us the problems he encountered during his acquisition of vessels and how we can move forward. These are the issues we intend to discuss at the summit.

He recalled that “Since the ministerial committee to develop the national shipping line was set up at your last summit in 2016 and the report of the committee submitted last year, little or nothing is being said about it”.

On why he sees the establishment of the national carrier as another pipe dream, AMES President stressed that “I don’t know if you are aware that the committee went to Singapore and had discussions with the foreign investors on how we can establish our own national shipping line. The whole idea was that the foreign partner will bring in 49 percent and we will bring in 51 percent so that we can control the majority shares”.

“The 40/60 percent shareholding, I think used to be the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), which has now been cancelled. But from what I was told, the foreign investors are ready with their own funding but we cannot raise the fund from Nigeria to meet up. Uwadia recalled however, that “The committee really worked and I know the issue is not dead yet. It is just that it is a bit slow taking off. Some Nigerians have indicated interest and I believe they are going to revisit it again as soon as we are able to raise some fund on our end, because government is not ready to commit any fund into it”.

Going down memory lane, Uwadia traced previous efforts at resuscitating national shipping line in Nigeria, saying

On why his group is working on the second summit back-to-back, AMES averred that “We decided to hold this second technical summit as a result of the outcome of the first summit we had in April 2016,” stressing that “The last summit was a huge success because a lot of things came out of the summit. The Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, was in attendance and one of the outcomes of the summit was the resuscitation of the national fleet for which a committee was set up and the re-jigging of NIMASA”.

“Even the ship registry committee set up by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) is also a fall-out of that summit. The Minister, being a listener attended to most of the issues that was raised at the summit. So, we thought that we have to go a step forward and raise other issues which we want the federal government to look into.

He said “We are committed to ensuring that the summit comes up on 22nd of May, 2018 and we know that it is going to be a huge success”.