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Industry watchers, stakeholders voice fears over continuing safety of CVFF

…As NIMASA insists on
review of modalities for disbursement

Some ship-owners as well as
industry watchers have expressed worries
and fears
about the
continuing safety of the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund
(CVFF), as
speculations in public domain suggest change of
some institutional heads, even in the maritime industry.

Presently, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and
Safety Agency (NIMASA), responsible for shipping development, collects  the Sea Protection Levy, the Maritime Fund,
as well as the CVFF, a two-per
cent contribution backed by
law, from e
very carriage contract, from shipping
operators. 
Investigation by NOMMA shows that while the CVFF
collection, which began sequel to the enactment of the Coastal and Inland
Shipping (Cabotage) Act 2003, had already exceeded $150million, the Agency has
not disclosed collection from both the Maritime Fund and the Sea Protection
Levy.
While the Sea Protection Levy was instituted to bequeath Nigeria with cleaner waters, like other maritime
nation’s like Benin Republic and Ghana, the nation’s waters remains a dirty
brown, littered with plastics bottles, pure water
sachets and human
defecation.
Correspondents who visited both the Ijora and Otto
Oyingbo axis
in Lagos, saw commercial
cart operators emptying bags of dirt into the lagoon; even as mini-tanker
vehicles continue to pump human
defecation into the water, with reckless abandon.
Subsequently, the nation’s waters particularly in Lagos are perpetually kept dirty; siltation is worsen
by dregs
 and
concerned stakeholders seek answers to what
NIMASA is doing as the agency saddled with the
responsibility with  the
 Sea Protection Levy in its care
A shipping operator bemoaned the situation of
pirates attacks, particul
arly in the
Niger Delta area, even as he noted the pronounced absence of automated
monitoring drones.

“Go and ask them, they will confirm it: ship owners who operate in the
Niger Delta zone are either paying the hoodlums
heavy sums of Ship Protection Levy or the dash in and dash out, after
concluding heavy private naval security on board!”



Sharing similar views, the
President, Nigeria Indigenous Shipping Association (NISA), Aminu Umar
, said ship-owners from
first-hand experiences can actually say that
pirates have taken control of Bonny
Anchorage, leaving Warri Anchorage in precarious conditions, with only the
Lagos anchorage being relatively safe.
He also lamented the shipowners present state of utter helplessness,
grieving the institutional
laid-back disposition to shipowners degenerating situation.  
Speaking further, Aminu Umar pleaded with the
NIMASA to bring the money in its coffers, particularly the Cabotage fund since
it was contributed by the shipowners, stressing that making it available for a
judicious utilization by competent shipowners would serve Nigerians better.

He specifically called for immediately review
of the modalities for the disbursement, noting that the time action is now.

Umar said: “Finance is a key issue
challenging growth of the sector. S
o the CVFF
which we have been contributing for over 10 years should be disbursed as
promised. If done, this will go a long way in assisting the players to buy some
of these maritime assets.

“We have also not heard anything
about the maritime fund, which NIMASA is holding. We hope this term, the Minister
of transportation and the management of NIMASA will look into it and see if
they can put both funds together for us to support our operations.”
The ship -owner alleged that NIMASA
had continued to fail on its promise and duty to disburse the CVFF, which is
meant to support shipping development by way of acquisition of more vessels.

He pointedly identified the Agency’s
  failure to provide ships with safety nets as being responsible for
vessels to engage private security personnel on board their vessels whenever
they sailed to the Niger Delta Region.

Umar said: “Every ship-owner that
goes into the Delta has to take his own private security, and it is costing us
a lot. Yet, every ship that comes or goes out of Nigeria pays a levy to fund
securing of Nigeria waterways. Unfortunately, it is not done. And NIMASA is the
agency saddled with that responsibility.

“But we hope that in the coming
administration which this government is continuing, they would be able to
create the safety net, to ensure safety of vessels, particularly in the Niger
Delta area, which has been so dangerous.”

Also speaking on the CVFF issue,
the outgoing President of Ship Owners Association of Nigerian (SOAN),
Engr. Greg Ogeifun, said it was worrisome that the government through NIMASA
had yet to disburse the CVFF to indigenous operators, making it difficult for
them to compete favourably with other international players.

He was however optimistic as he
believes that the ongoing collaboration with the Government and the NIMASA would
turn the key and unlock the fund.

“I think Nigeria maritime sector has
grown tremendously and the Nigerian content act is working with NIMASA to give
opportunities to Nigerians who want to be ship owners.

“The challenge still remains that the
funds that are statutorily designed to help the acquisition of ships by
Nigerians are still being locked up by NIMASA and the ministry of transport.

“That fund has to be released to
enable Nigerians acquire the ships and be able to take their rightful position,
otherwise the opportunities for foreigners will continue to be there.”

Founder of the Indigenous Ship-owners
Association of Nigeria (ISAN), Chief Isaac Jolapamo, expressed his
disappointment against NIMASA for not disbursing the CVFF until now, after
almost two decades.

The shipping guru said he had lost
hopes on any positive development taking place, considering the plans, promises
and the lack of actions.

He said: “I have lost hope on
anything that has to do with the maritime industry and the CVFF. Though the
CVFF cannot support acquisition of vessels that are needed, but it is something
in the right direction. It is our contribution.”

Jolapamo said NIMASA had shown
confusion on what to do, rather than consider a basic qualification of
ship-owners with high standard technical and commercial management experience,
to access the funds.

He said that since the shipping
sub-sector is an operator-induced one, NIMASA should do well to consider people
with core competences, and disburse the funds to drive the plan for the
industry growth and sustainability.

The ship-owners also faulted NIMASA
on insecurity of the nation’s maritime domain, where various maritime crimes
have continued to strive.

The incoming SOAN
President, Dr. McGeorge Onyung has in the meantime pledged to leave no stones
unturned, until NIMASA disburse
s the CVFF. 

Responding to clarify NIMASA’s
position, the Director General of the agency, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, said
ship-owners should no longer operate in fear as NIMASA has recently
strengthened maritime security architecture.

He said: “We are acquiring Unmanned
Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). We are going to do air surveillance, we will acquire
special mission aircrafts, special mission helicopters. We are going to be
doing 24 hours surveillance on air, land and on the sea. (No time frame was
indicated however).

“Once the Deep Blue Project comes on
stream fully, it will take care of all security needs in our maritime domain
and there will not be need for vessels to engage their own private security
anymore, as we just want to ensure that every vessel is safe to navigate our
waterways.”

He said that the CVFF currently has
$150 million USD, and that the agency was reviewing the guidelines with
intention of engaging the stakeholders preparatory to disbursement.

“For the CVFF, you know it is a
creation of law and it is actually supposed to help bring down the cost of
acquiring vessels and assets in the maritime industry. As we speak, we have
over $150 million in the CVFF
. We are currently reviewing the guidelines
and we are going to engage with stakeholders.

“Mr President has given an approval,
so, the moment we complete the review of the guidelines, we will put machinery
in motion to disburse the CVFF,” Dakuku said.  

He explained further that the “Sea
Protection Levy” referred to by some ship-owners is a fund created by
regulation and the regulation is pursuant to the MARPOL convention.

He said: “The sea protection levy has
nothing to do with security, but to protect the sea from pollution.
So, ship-owners are supposed to contribute some money to the sea protection
levy, to enable us monitor the seas against pollution and to respond when there
is pollution. But many persons keep mistaking the sea protection levy for a security
levy.

“For the Maritime FundIt
is supposed to be used by NIMASA to develop maritime infrastructure, and to
build maritime capacity. We are doing so many things with the fund, and one is
the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS). And the maritime fund
is not for ship owners, it is for NIMASA to utilise to develop infrastructure.”

The ship-owners have, however,
declared that they would only trust what the agency says when they begin to
observe a change, in the right direction.

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