Indigenous ship owners in Nigeria will soon have access to the much-awaited $124 million Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF) domiciled at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
The CVFF was established by the Cabotage and Inland Shipping Act 2003 to provide finance to operators to maintain vessels, purchase new vessels, stay in business, build capacity and create employment.
The fund is derived from two per cent of the revenues of the ship owners and has been in operation since 2004.
However, none of the operators has been able to access the fund.
According to the Act establishing the fund, the Minister of Transportation is empowered to establish guidelines for its disbursement to eligible operators.
After approval from the National Assembly, the fund can then be disbursed.
The Act also stipulates that selected applicants will send in their companies’ applications for the financing of the procurement of ships to the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), which will send the applications to the banks warehousing the fund.
However, despite relentless agitation by Nigerian ship owners that the federal government disburse the fund in line with set down regulations, nothing has been done.
But documents obtained thursday by newsmen revealed that NIMASA has initiated moves to commence the disbursement of the fund.
It was gathered exclusively that the agency has set up a 15-man committee headed by a former Director-General of NIMASA, Mr. Raymond Omatseye, to among other things, facilitate the disbursement and review of the CVFF guidelines.
The committee whose members include the President, Ship Owners Association of Nigeria (SOAN); President, Association of Manning and Crewing Agents of Nigeria (AMCAN); and African Ship Owners Association, was also given the mandate to source, facilitate Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Nigeria for ship building and repairs by foreign ship building, repair yards.
The NIMASA stakeholders’ joint committee, according to the document, will oversee the implementation of NIMASA’s five-year strategic plan for the cessation of grant of cabotage waiver.
Other terms of reference of the joint committee include: Adopt the use of technology and automation of the ship registry to drive the strategic plan and online registration of cabotage vessels, engage the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), National Petroleum Investment and Management Services (NAPIMS), Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), NLNG and PPMC to key into the plan.
Also, the joint committee was mandated to understudy what other maritime nations did to succeed in the implementation of their cabotage laws, set up task and deadline for performance of each activity by identified partners, review all previous reports of various committee and stakeholders’ engagement on capacity building and consider their recommendation for implementation.
Furthermore, the joint committee will also create awareness and effect publication of investment opportunities in the cabotage marine sector; facilitate bareboat charters with purchase option, facilitate joint venture partnership between foreigner and Nigerians in the maritime sector, gather information for the enhancement of database for cabotage operations.
The committee is also to evaluate the implementation of the strategic plan and submit report of same to the executive management every six months and facilitate submissions arising from the marine notice on the requirement for publication of five-year vessel engagement plan, forecast by employers of cabotage vessels.
Other members of the committee include; Nigerian Shippers Association (NISA), Managing Director Nigerdock Plc, FZE, Snake Island, Lagos; Cabotage Services Department, NIMASA; and the Registrar of Ships, Nigerian Ship Registry.
The Director General of NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, at an interactive session with journalists in Lagos last year, had said the fund would be disbursed this year.
He said the fund was meant to help grow the capacity of indigenous ship owners and provide the needed capital for them to acquire vessels.