More facts are emerging as to why ships owned by Nigerian shipping companies are unable to compete in both coastal and international trade.
SHIPS & PORTS DAILY had reported exclusively in its edition of 9th September, 2013 that no fewer than 90 per cent of shipping companies owned by Nigerians have either completely shut down their operations or were barely struggling to survive.
But former President, Nigerian Association of Master Mariners (NAMM), Captain Adewale Ishola, told SHIPS & PORTS DAILY that most Nigerians ship owners are unable to compete against their foreign counterparts because “they have got old tonnages and their ships are not maintained.”
Ishola, who is a visiting lecturer and examiner at the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN), Oron, Akwa Ibom State, said because the indigenous operators do not get jobs for their ships; they are becoming overwhelmed with the daily running cost and routine maintenance costs of their vessels.
“The running cost continues everyday because you must still feed the crew; you must still pay their salaries and as you have a crew on board you must pay them whether the ship is working or not and they must be fed. They must be given water because that’s what the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC 2006) is all about and you must buy bunker because the vessel has to be kept running. You know what happened when some ships were washed ashore; most of the ships didn’t have bunker on board. There was no fuel to start the engines with for them to run to safety when the storm came. So you can see the problem; the problem of maintaining the vessels which are old tonnages is a big problem for the ship owners,” he said.
The Master Mariner appealed for government support to revive the fortunes of the Nigerian shipping companies through prompt disbursement of the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF) and the ship maintenance subsidy instituted by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
“If these things can happen, if these vessels could come back to work again then, they will meet international standards again and then there will be no discrimination about import vessel and then kicking the indigenous away from coming alongside to do Ship-to-Ship (STS) transfer with them,” he stated.
He further stated: “I think government needs to look closely into their problems and see how they can assist them. I know it is not easy. I know some have borrowed money from banks and finding it difficult to pay and some are even losing their properties. I have heard about it; it is a statement of fact. And the banks are using the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) to pursue them about. You know it has not been easy for them at all. I have always suggested one thing that if we are allowed to export our crude oil on Cost and Freight (C & F), not the Free on Board (FOB) trade term the government is still using, life will become better for Nigerian ship owners. Nigeria is the only OPEC member that still doesn’t carry her own product for export. You can see how much money we are losing.”
Ishola also lamented the state of manpower development in the Nigerian maritime industry. While commending NIMASA and the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) for training Nigerians to become seafarers, he called on other government agencies to support the aspiration of the country in becoming a seafaring nation.
He said it would difficult for an individual to sponsor himself or herself to train as a seafarer.
“In our days, shipping companies had to sponsor cadets. No maritime institution in the United Kingdom will admit any student without a shipping company sponsoring that cadet to that institution. But we don’t have situations like that now,” he said.