As the Federal government gets set to ban foreign vessels operating in the country without the input of the local ship builders, the Nigeria Merchant Navy Officers and Water Transport Senior Staff Association has faulted the plan describing it as premature.
It will be recall that the Federal government early this month through the Nigerian Content Development Management Board (NCDMB) announced that it would place a ban on the purchase of vessels from abroad without input from local ship builders in Nigeria.
According to the Director General of NCDMB, Ernest Nwapa, such vessels would not be allowed to operate in the country from January 2015 as the policy was aimed at developing local capacity in line with the local content initiative of the Federal Government.
Speaking in an interview with our correspondent in Lagos recently, the President, Merchant Navy Officers and Senior Staff of Water Transport, Engr. Matthew Alalade contended that since the country is not building vessels locally yet as well as did not have enough resources to build, it would be a wrong decision to carry out such ban.
According to him,” you want to improve the economy of other countries around us here, you want to make other vessels divert to other places and they will dump our products there. The local ones will come and take it from there and bring them here. My own suggestion is that it is not mature for us to do that now”.
However, Alalade admitted that Nigeria was capable of producing small craft but quickly added that the problem was that it was yet to start.
“Like the Niger Dock, it is capable of building small crafts but I don’t know the confidence the local shippers will have in them. That is another thing. But I believe as a mariner that we are capable of building small crafts”, he said.
Also speaking, the Secretary, Nigeria Merchant Navy Officers and Water Transport Senior Staff Association, Comrade Julius Efokpor noted that Nigeria was not fully mature to engage only Nigerian vessels for now owing to the fact that it had no ship yard and that the country was not building ships as the cabotage act encouraged it to do.
“When they say that, they are trying to kill the cabotage because we are not even there yet. If we do that today, the industry will collapse in the sense that there will be no operation, oil industry will be killed, the fishing industry will be killed, every aspect of the maritime industry will be killed because foreigners are more in the industry, and their vessels are more in the industry than the Nigerian vessels”.
“And if the Federal Government wants to encourage Nigerian to possess vessels, it is a very serious capital intensive project, probably, they will roll out some funds as a revolving loan among the Nigerian ship owners and it will take a long time for them to meet with the demands in the industry”, Efokpor said.
On his part, the Assistant Secretary of the Association, Mr. John Okpono recalled that Nigeria through the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) recently performed the ground breaking ceremony of a ship yard and a dockyard adding that the only dockyard available in the country was for ship repair.
He said, “To me as a person, my position is that it is a wrong step towards the right direction. It is totally wrong. The cabotage said 60 percent of the Nigerian Officers will there in the vessel, 40 percent will come from the foreign counterpart”.
“What it means is that from 40 percent, you teach the 60 percent within a period of three years, you are expected to hand over. But for you, you have not gotten an operating ship yard; you want to ban the one that is bringing the oil. Maybe it is a proposal”.