The Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, Monday received the committee report he constituted in April to revive the country’s national shipping line.
On presentation of the report from the Chairman of the committee, Mr. Olu Olusoji, in Abuja, the minister immediately constituted an implementation committee which he said would be headed by the Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Mr. Hassan Bello.
According to him, it has become expedient to constitute the implementation committee immediately because government attaches premium importance to the revival of the national shipping line, adding that it will greatly impact on the socioeconomic development of the country.
Amaechi said international regulator and willing investors in the industry have given Nigeria August as deadline to put all the necessary framework and foundation for viable international maritime activities which will attract foreign investors.
The minister said: “Investors have given us August as deadline on this issue. And we have said government is going to use part of the cabotage fund in this direction.
“We must also advise on how to choose who qualifies to benefit from the fund because the 60 per cent that we have must be accessed from the cabotage as part of their equity contribution.”
He however warned the committee members not to allow private vested interest in the utilisation of the cabotage fund jeopardise government’s good intention in the allocation of the fund to ship owners at the detriment of national interest.
Amaechi said: “I will leave that to the committee; I don’t want to see your private interest because everybody wants to access the fund. The law states that the minister decides, and that is why I have said NSC should chair the committee.”
According to him, “If 50 percent out of the 5,000 ships that landed in Nigeria in 2014 were Nigerian ships and managed by Nigerians, the country would have saved $2.2 billion.”
He said Nigerian seafarers that would have been engaged to work on the fleet would have been earning about $3,000 per month. “So you can imagine the number of families that would have benefitted from that and these are the kind of loses that we are making by not having ships carrying our cargoes in the international waters.”
Akinsoji said international cargoes generated are carried by foreigners and foreigner ship as the country presently does not have ships in the international waters carrying dry cargo.
While pleading with Amaechi not to allow the report gather dust, he said the roadmap to the successful establishment of a Nigerian fleet is the implementation of the report as well as the repositioning of NIMASA.
He said: “On our part, we have taken a bold step to advise the minister on the way forward on the establishment of a Nigerian Fleet Implementation Committee (NFIC) in flying Nigeria’s flag in international waters.”