Some Maritime Industry stakeholders on Friday hailed Federal Government’s plan to abolish cabotage waivers to foreign vessels, in addition to granting special incentives capable of encouraging indigenous ship ownership in a move to entrench an effective the Cabotage Act.
The stakeholders made their observations in Lagos, saying it was possible to end waivers to foreign vessels and give room for Nigerians to own ships.
This was sequel to Government’s position on Wednesday through the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), serving a five-year notice/ plan to bring to an end, waivers given to foreign vessels trading on the nation’s waters.
Speaking on the issue, Mrs Obigali Obi, Director-General of Nigerian Chamber of Shipping also counsel that efforts should be geared toward resuscitating the Ajaokuta steel Company because the country could build ship with a functional steel company, which would in turn encourage the springing up of cottage industries.
“There is nothing wrong in the administration of the Cabotage Act, as that will help to create the much needed jobs for Nigerians.
“But we need to tread with caution while trying to implement that, knowing that we are dealing with an international trade variant of our economy.
“Many of the infrastructure that we need to anchor this on, are not yet available; the manpower to manage the platform and provide services onboard are still not there,’’ she said.
Another stakeholder, Mrs Margaret Orakwusi, appealed to the Federal Government to ensure that the banks would grant loans to Nigerian shippers at a single-digit rate to boost ship ownership and development.
“I thank God that people in government are thinking in this direction that we, the operators, have been longing for. If we get it right now, the economy will be shielded from negative international economic reflex.
“Cabotage is good; it will resonate the sector and foster expansion in all ramifications while engaging the cadets in the system.
“The whole idea is to have a succession plan that will midwife a full blown cabotage regime that will be of benefit to Nigerians instead of the foreigners trading on our waters.
“It has been observed that the Cabotage Act, since inception in 2003, has, to a large extent, favoured foreign ship owners while killing indigenous ones,’’ she said.
The NIMASA Director General had said that cessation of cabotage waivers would begin with a two-year plan to end waivers to fishing trawlers, tugs, offshore supply vessels, barges, house boats, tankers of below 10,000 GRT and vessels such as FPSOs.
According to him, the plan will see an end to building of such vessel from outside the country in four years, to give room for Nigerian indigenous ship building and development