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Indigenous ship owners in Nigeria lament oil price decline

Engr. Greg Ogbeifun, President, SOAN
The
Ship Owners Association of Nigeria (SOAN) has lamented the effects of the sharp
decline in price of crude oil in the international market.

 Many
crude oil exporting nations including Nigeria have in the last one year been struggling
with a gradual and consistent fall in the price of the crude oil from over $120
per barrel to less than $40 per barrel, which is yet unstable.
The
SOAN President, Engr. Greg Ogbeifun, who spoke in an interview, said that more
than 95 per cent of shipping activities that the Nigerian ship owners engaged
in revolved around the oil and gas activities.
This
covers both the upstream and downstream of the petroleum.
Ogbeifun
said that with the concentration of shipping activities on the oil and gas
sector, the sharp decline in the price of crude oil naturally brought about a
drastic reduction in the level of activities in both the upstream and downstream
segments of the industry, thereby adversely affecting the shipping component.
He
said: “Shipping activities in Nigeria have been restricted to the upstream and
downstream segments of the oil and gas sector because the International Oil
Companies are only ship charterers.
“So
the dwindling fortune of the industry occasioned by the decline in the crude
oil price is currently taking its toll on the Nigerian ship owners, and so we
are operating on the skin of our bodies.
 “In
the light of this fact, shipping activities in the country are still at a zero
level because everything revolves around the oil and gas activities.

“Therefore,
what affects the oil and gas activities affects the shipping activities, which
is not good enough, especially given the huge size of the nation’s market and
also being an import-dependent country,” he said.
Ogbeifun
said that Nigerian ship owners must now brace up to diversifying their
operations, especially since the present government is also considering
de-emphasizing oil and gas as the only revenue earner for the national economy
by promoting non-oil exports.
He observed that indigenous shipping
companies should begin to think in the direction of participating in container
shipping business, especially within the coastal and inland waters, which is
also in tandem with the intent of the Coastal and Inland Shipping Cabotage
policy.
He
suggested that Nigerian ship owners should begin to think in the direction of
acquiring or going into bareboat charter of feeder vessels that would takeover
containers and other bulk cargo brought into Lagos, but meant for ports such as
Port Harcourt, Onne and Calabar by the likes of Maersk Line.
He, however, suggested that the Federal Government and some of its
agencies such as the Nigerian Shippers Council should make the negotiations
with these multinational shipping line that freight container cargo meant for
places like Onitsha, Aba and other Eastern states to the nearest seaports.

Ogbeifun,
who doubles as CEO of the Starz Group, an indigenous shipping line and
operators of the Starz shipbuilding yard based in Port Harcourt, Rivers State,
argued that this would reduce the pressure on the nation’s roads as well as the
worsening carnage through which many have died and goods worth several billions
of naira lost in the process.

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