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Operator backs NIMASA on CVFF

Operator backs NIMASA on CVFF
Says Fund inadequate, laments poor ship financing
Management of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, has allayed the fears of maritime operators, especially those in the shipping sub sector of the industry of its commitment to ensuring that players get all necessary assistance to enhance their operational capacity; including the disbursement of the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund, CVFF.
This is even others have expressed concern about the purported inability of Nigerian commercial banks to fund critical shipping assets.  Contrary to insinuation that government may have deployed the CVFF to other uses, the NIMASA Director General, Dr. Dakuku Peterside assured last week, that the matter is receiving necessary attention, hinting that the fund is not sufficient to achieve any milestone in the present circumstances.
Peterside explained at the second edition of the agency’s Maritime Forecast which took place last week that efforts are ongoing to attract other windows of support to enhance capacity development of local ship operators.
His words, “We have been engaging with government at the highest level to push for special intervention fund, special interest rate and other incentives that will drive optimal performance in the sector. We shall not relent in our drive to put the right framework together to help beneficiaries and investors have good return on investment. The country is also making huge investments in human capacity development in the sector, which means that more Nigerians will get involved in shipping, especially, in shipping operations”
Stakeholders who are not happy that the CVFF disbursement has suffered undue delays owing to convoluted politicking have continued to demand for the fund disbursement. Last week, the League of Maritime Editors had during its 20th anniversary lecture held in Lagos, with the theme “Indigenous Fleet Development: What Option”, also x-rayed the sub sector capacity building challenges, and urged NIMASA to disburse the fund without further delay.
The League’s President, Mr. Kingsley Anaroke in his welcome address said, “We the League join other well meaning Nigerians and maritime stakeholders to call on the government to disburse without delay the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund to deserving beneficiaries even as we condemn the secrecy with which the fund is managed by NIMASA”, adding “It is appalling that even NIMASA cannot give a good account of how much has accrued into the Fund. 
Another frontline maritime player in the shipping sub sector, and Managing Director of Victory energy Resources Limited, Otunba Sola Olattunji, claimed that government is playing an unacceptable politics with the CVFF, which he said is a dedicated fund for fleet development and should be treated as such.
He said, “The CVFF was actually contributed by foreign ships coming to Nigeria and they have been contributing that fund for 13 to 14 years but we don’t know if that money is there. So you can see part of the problem we are talking about. If it was a capital reserved to empower ship owners and maritime operators, and the law was put in place, why should you be begging anybody to implement the law?
“The money is meant for members of Ship Owners Association of Nigeria, to support them to acquire and expand their fleet. Fifteen years down the line, the people in NIMASA have sabotaged it in connivance with other agencies of government, including NNPC. They prefer to promote foreign economy at the expense of their own economy.”
 Also speaking on the development, ship brokerage agent and maritime resource person, Mr. Charles Okorefe identified lack of policy focus as the bane of the non disbursement of the Fund. Nonetheless, Okorefe acknowledged the inadequacy of the CVFF to provide a strong steer in driving local ship fleet.
“In the past fifteen years or so the CVFF came into effect, nothing substantial has been done in terms of disbursement. And because of that when players go out to bid for contracts from NNPC or the foreign majors, they are not able to compete because their vessels are old; many of them are not sea worthy.  And there is no way you can compete with the more formidable foreign ship owners who have all the resources and niche to drive their trade when you are coming with rickety vessel.
“It is not as if we lack expertise or operators, we have them, but do they have the capacity, no. Do our banks understand shipping financing, no. Even if they do, they are weak in terms of their capital base, so they cannot finance vessels acquisition; that is the truth. And the fund in the CVFF as we speak, they say in the region of $120m USD is not even enough to buy a very good ocean going vessel. So what this means is that the FGN still need to assist that Fund and assist indigenous ship owners so that the Cabotage Trade dream will not be a mirage.”
Shittu Supports Council on Registration of Port Users
Immediate past National President of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA, Prince Olayiwola Shittu has voiced his worry over the lack of understanding of the recent introduction of operators’ registration fee by the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, NSC.
He argues that as the nation’s port economic regulator, the agency has the responsibility of profiling industry players for obvious reasons, noting that the proposed registration fee is not way out of the Council’s purview, and would also help in maintaining a data base of industry players. 
His words, “I think the reaction is coming because money is involved. Shippers’ Council has the right to register those operating in the system because the Council is the commercial regulator of the port industry. They must know those they are regulating, so the registration is not the issue, people are reacting because of the monetary aspect of it, the truth however is that the Council is looking at it as a measure of control.
“The influx of people in the port is because of the lacuna with the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding of Nigeria, CRFFN, which recognized everybody as a freight forwarder. You just register with CRFFN, they give you their ID card, they show you to Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, they give you port pass, you are now in the port. They ask you say you are an agent, agent of what?  If you are a ship chandelier, you register as a ship chandelier; if you are transporter, you register as a transporter.
“There is no terminal you enter without been registered, with the list of your employees, with their photographs and other things, it is a measure of control. So if the Shippers’ Council is going to regulate, it must put a valid framework in place. Assuming somebody goes to the Council to complain, XYZ collected money from me but has not delivered my cargo, how would the Council trace the agent involved if they don’t have a data base through registration?”, he asked.
This is even as the Council has affirmed its mandate to implement the registration fee policy after due sensitization and consultation with stakeholders, for possible input on how best to drive the policy and achieve the intended gains for all players. Reacting to opposition against the proposed port service providers registration fee, the Executive Secretary/CEO of the NSC, Barrister Hassan Bello said the Council have in no way veered into the purview of other agencies as it is erroneously been propagated by some stakeholders; and maintained that the Council is acting within its statutory purview.
 Speaking through the Council’s Director of Consumer Affairs, Chief Cajethan Agu, Hassan explained that Section 4 of the Port Economic Regulation gave the Council the power to register all port service providers. Describing the proposed registration as work in progress, he said the Council made the idea public as part of its role to properly sensitize stakeholders on all issues relating to regulation before embarking on enforcement.
Hassan said, “It is a mandate given to us by the federal government. There is no clash of interest; it is a law of the federal republic of Nigeria.”
A number of critical stakeholders including the National Association of Freight Forwarders and Air Consolidators, NAFFAC, Association of Maritime Truck Owners, AMATO, have opposed the proposed policy, citing official trespass amongst other reasons.

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