Lack of adequate indigenous tonnage to compete against foreign vessel owners has been identified as the major cause of the high cost of doing business in Nigeria.
A maritime lawyer, Barrister Osuala Nwagbara, who stated this while fielding questions from journalists at a sensitization workshop for importers on Wednesday, noted that because of total dependence on foreign-owned vessels for the nation’s import and export trade, the foreign owners, take advantage of the situation to hike freight rates.
Nwagbara stated that, when the private sector is empowered to acquire oceangoing vessels, foreign vessel owners would not dictate the pace in the country’s shipping sector.
“The reason rates are very high in the West Africa sub-region and particularly in Nigeria is because Nigeria does not have sufficient tonnage to put foreign vessel owners in to competition. If you don’t have your own vessel that can compete with foreign vessel owners, the tendency is for them to dictate the rate and throw it at you and take it or leave it. But when you have your own platform that can pick the goods, export or bring them here when the foreign liners hike their fees, there will be competition and they will be force to reduce their fares,” he stated.
On reviving the defunct Nigerian National Shipping Line (NNSL), Nwagbara said that he is not in support of it, but for the indigenous shipping companies to be empowered, even as he blamed the government for the NNSL’s collapse.
He noted that freight rates in other West Africa countries are not as high as Nigeria’s, because, according to him, they have deliberate policies in place.
“NNSL have come and gone. Government is a bad business man. I think that the future of the maritime industry lies with the private sector. The private sector should be empowered to own enough vessels, manage them well and then make the best of it. I don’t support resuscitating the Nigerian National shipping line because it would go the way government businesses go in this country. Government business in this country is seen as no man’s business but the private sector should be encourage through release of fund to members of ISAN so that they acquire enough vessel to be in trade in international shipping,” Nwagbara said.
He added: “The rates are higher in Nigeria than Cotonue, Ghana and some other neighboring countries because as at today we don’t have any vessel that is government owned but in this other countries, they have deliberate policies on ground where government have vessels that go all over the world.”
He assured that Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), the agency overseeing the disbursement of the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF) is doing everything possible to streamline the procedure for disbursement of the fund.
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