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‘Idle $100m cabotage fund, disservice to indigenous shipping companies’

Stakeholders’ in the nation’s maritime sector have decried the protracted silence and inactivity of the management of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) in resuming the effective disbursement of the over $100 million Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund (CVFF).

Reviewing the situation at the gathering of leading public relations officers of maritime and related organizations, in Lagos, experts decried that indigenous shipping companies are facing serial extinction due to lack of access to CVFF and barrage of unfavourable policies that have been frustrating ease of doing business.

According to them, quarantining the over $100m in the CVFF over the years has created a scenario that defeated the original statutory target by government in establishing the intervention funding window.

In his anger-laden submission, the Public Relations Officer of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Dr. Kayode Farinto, averred that lack of patriotism and urge to technically frustrate the efforts of local operators cannot be unconnected with the thinking of the authorities withholding the facility.

He argued further that “Our indigenous ships will continue to die because of the fact that we are not saying the truth. The Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund takes care of assisting our indigenous ship owners with funds. The CVFF holds nothing less than N70bn in an escrow account. What happens to that fund?” Farinto queried.

Going down memory lane, Special Adviser on Seafarers Affairs to the President-General of the Maritime Workers’ Union of Nigeria (MWUN), Henry Odey, recalled that “During the Liberian civil war, Nigeria succeeded in rescuing her citizens trapped in the country because the Nigerian National Shipping Line (NNSL) was still operational.

While recalling that the NNSL had a training ship made for cadets, which carried cargo and cadets to give them sea-time, Odey described as a national embarrassment, the current trend whereby authorities in NIMASA are shuttling up and down across the globe begging for no existing assistance with sea-time training and allied logistics for Nigerians.

Odey queried “How would you think that the other countries would like to train your cadets for you to compete with them”?

“It is a shame on our country because we are doing nothing. Do you think you can go to the Philippines and ask them to train your cadets so that you can compete with them? I worked on board the British ship, Dempsa, and if you were not a good sailor, nobody would employ you. But today, nobody cares”, SA to MWUN boss averred.