We expect the industry to have positive growth. It is nice to know that the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) is coming out with a strategy for 2018 which they hope to publish within the first quarter. We are all looking forward to that and hoping that the strategy will encompass some of the issues that was raised in the outgone year. For the ship owners association, we are expecting that the effort that has been made by the outgoing interim management committee of the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN), Oron will help restructure and reposition the academy to begin to produce better seafarers for ship owners to use on their vessels. We are also hoping that the dwindling tonnage of our cabotage fleet in the register will be addressed by government through reviewing the tax laws that are making the operations of the industry players very difficult.
We also intend to engage the relevant government agencies such as the National Petroleum Investment Management Services (NAPIMS) to work with the International Oil Companies (IOC) to review the issue of vessel charter rate which were substantially reduced by up to 20 to 25 percent by the drop in oil price. Most vessel operators as a result were finding it difficult to operate their ships and meet their financial obligations to the financing institutions that helped them acquire their vessels. Unless the rate are reviewed again upward in line with the increasing price of oil which is now up to $67 per barrel, the few remaining ship owners will completely disappeared by the year 2018 unless something is done urgently by the NNPC and the IOC. So that is going to be the focus that ship owners will be looking at in 2018, dialoguing with these agencies to see how they can ameliorate the hardship that we are facing in operating our vessels.
Concerning the CVFF, the money will be shared because there is no risk as the Minister (of Transportation) was thinking. So going forward on the disbursement of the fund, the ship owners association is not going to make an issue out of it because it is a national issue and it is up to the ministry to act accordingly. We hope the minister who we all know has passion for the industry will revisit that matter for the benefit of the industry and the country.
What we hope for in 2018 is the disbursement of the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF). We need to see that the disbursement is done to prospective ship owners who are qualified. I understand the Transport Minister said he is not going to disburse the fund because of what happened then in the aviation industry but I do not think we should be comparing aviation and the maritime industry. I think one of our responsibilities as ship owners is for us to come together and meet with the minister to address his fears so that the funds can be disbursed to those who are qualified. We also hope to see a lot of patronage from companies to Nigeria ship owners. We hope to see the implementation of the cabotage regulation, local content regulation and implementation of any other regulations to support Nigeria ship owners. Also in 2018, we hope to see that the security and safety of our waters are permanently addressed. We hope that the foreign exchange rate will come down so that ship owners can be able to source foreign exchange to buy spares and other items that we may need for our vessels. We hope our banks too would be able to provide funds to finance more of shipping asset.
My expectation is that we should just build on the foundation that has already been laid. Laying a foundation is not an easy task but once we get it right, all we need to do is to build on it and accelerate progress. There should be a lot more awareness in the marine industry; at least we should be better than where we are coming from. The truth is we are still under performing as far as marine activities are concern. We are just scratching the surface; we have not been able to dig into marine business in Nigeria yet at all. My hope is that more people will show interest and government will begin to support the industry more than it has done in the past because if they do, and we all buy into it, it will remove pressure from the road. So my expectation is that we should do better than what we have done in the past. So, going forward, we should do more to secure our waters. There should be collaboration between government and the ship owners or the operators of vessels in Nigeria. We all need to come together and know that if we make the water safer than what it is right now, it will create business for marine activities in the country and government will earn more from taxes and revenue.
If government is not engaging the private sector enough for them to get the right advice on how we can together work to secure the waters, we will be working in different direction. We do not believe the government alone can do it nor do the private owners have the capacity to do it on their own, so there has to be collaboration to work together. If we have that principle in mind, we will be able to make our water ways secure like we find in other parts of the world. We can improve from where we are at the moment, there is room for improve.