Currently serving on three separate bodies: Federal, State and the Apex Maritime agency, NIMASA, the President of Shipowners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Engr. Greg Ogbeifun actually beat his tight schedule at the weekend to announce, in a pre-election media briefing that SOAN is finally set to engage the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) on the issue of Cabotage Vessels Financing Funds (CVFF) disbursement! It was a chat that truly shed light on what Nigerians stand to gain, from a focused and vibrant body!
How many investment has SOAN made in the nation’s economy?
Amongst SOAN members, I think we presently have about a hundred vessels. We have appropriately 100 vessels.
But, with respect on investment, we will not like to give the impression that the acquisition of assets or vessels, is the only investment that you can make in this business; because the acquisition of assets is just one little aspect of the investments you can make in this business.
You definitely make investments in your organizational structures, you make investment in the engagement of the appropriately skilled personnel to run the business, you can make investments in the people that you need to run the company.
You can make investment in the acquisition of the premises that you would need to run the company. I think we should open our minds to understand the scope of investments that SOAN members have made!
As for ongoing investments, you must understand that such aspect may be largely driven by the opportunities that are available.
Like we all know, in the last couple of years, especially beginning from the drop in oil prices, activities in the industry have gone down. Now, what do I mean by that? I don’t think NNPC has awarded any reasonable contracts that would encourage our members to rush and re-invest in assets.
We also know that the down-turn in the economy and the structures of the new financial administration of the economy is such that the banks or the financial institution right now, are a little bit handicapped; let alone been able to even go into new projects.
Be that as it may, one or two of our members have made some investments that are tangible and reasonable.
I would be glad to mention some of them, the C&I Leasing have acquired about four assets that are waiting to arrive to service contracts; and the STARZ has just concluded the acquisition of a new build, waiting to come into the country and it is only the finalization of the funding that is currently delaying the arrival. But generally and currently, everybody is being cautious, especially in investing.
However, the area in which most of our members are seriously investing on now is the area of preparing their vessels, getting their vessels ready for a time when the economy pulls through; by taking their vessels to dry dock; for maintenance, renewing their class and of course, getting their organizational structures tightened for the period when the economy will pick up again
What is the state of the Nigerian fleet implementation committee?
I want it to be in record that even though I am a member of the Fleet Implementation Committee, I am not authorized to speak or give any reports on this platform, on the activities of the Committee, even though I am aware that the committee is making very substantial progress, towards actualizing the mandate giving to them.
You said your Association is going to support your members. How does SOAN intends to supports its members?
That is the reasons we decided to establish those four committees, I earlier mentioned. The goal is to be able to assist our members.
The number one committee is Technical Committee. The reason for that is multi-purpose. The technical committee would be responsible for identifying the technical issues or challenges that affect members’ operations.
For example, most of the people working at the upstream, are working with the IOCs (International Oil Companies) and from time to time, issues arise that put pressures on members; the Technical Committee’s responsibility would be to identify such issues as it affect the members; and then to proffer solutions or ideas on how each member can handle it.
For instance, only yesterday, one of my members told me of how his company was able to engage a chatterer to alter the dollar – naira equation payment to help them meet their Dollar obligation; that member has offered to come and talk to the general house on what they did; and what other members can also do, to help themselves!
So, that kind of event would be organized by the Finance and Membership Committee. They will organize the session for our members; and then, the gentleman who is also our member would come and tell us what he did to get what he secured!
For the ethics and privileges, you should understand that we just don’t want run an Association that has no control or discipline when it comes to issues of ethics even in our business!
So, the Ethics and Privileges Committee, would for instance, be responsible for draining up the guidelines as to how we should respond to issues; and how we should address issues that are not too pleasant.
So, instead of people taking certain actions that will not portray the right image of the industry, they will be able to organize sessions where we can brainstorm on those issues and take a common position on such issues.
For example, if a member’s vessels get arrested, or your shipyard gets shut-down for no justifiable reasons, instead of going on a head-long Collision, the Ethics and Privileges Committee would look at the issues critically; and would articulate an approach of engaging the appropriate authority towards finding a solution; so that the issue doesn’t get out of hand.
The Training and Capacity Building, is a very important one. Here, we are talking about the cadetship training scheme. I want you to understand that the scheme is not just about putting the cadets on a ship; it is about the things that the cadets are also supposed to achieve, especially during the period that they are on board the vessels!
So, this committee would be responsible for standardizing skills and working within the requirements of the STCW conventions and NIMASA’s; and ensuring that the cadets we put on our ships are actually going through the process of meeting the requirements that they need to meet, while they are on board the vessels, preparatory to going back to college for their COC (Certificates of Competency)
What is the position of the ship-owners on the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund (CVFF)?
This is something that SOAN intends to engage the authorities on now, because we need to fast-track it
Somebody asked me how much we have contributed as SOAN members to the fund.
Let me use my company STARZ as an example. It has contributed over $1.2m in to it. The C&I Leasing has contributed $1.88m into the CVFF; Slock has contributed about a million dollar or more; and so is Sea-buck which has contributed over $1.3m into it.
So, we have all contributed positively and if we have genuine transactions that needs supports, we have a right to go to request for it.
I believe that the new administration and Government that is here today is responsible and desirous of breaking the jinx that’s been dogging the CVFF; and the only way to do it, is to test the waters.
So some members of SOAN who have genuine transactions, we have written, applying for CVFF, and we are waiting to see how they are going to react to our requests and we intend to collectively engage ourselves on this.
Look at our cases, get whoever you need to get to do the transactions, raise analyses and all of that; and ensure somebody says something. We will not take it lying low!
We are not going on a confrontation, but you see, the people in government responsible for that fund right now, they need ideas on how to appropriately disburse it without risking the funds; and then, wait to see visible achievements by that disbursement.
So it is going to be a case of engagement. So I don’t want you to go out there and report it wrongly.
But we are going to engage collaboratively to see how can do it. But you must understand that if you don’t have a request, then they will be no reason to worry yourself on how to disburse it. But now that we have made some requests, we believe they are going to look at it and I am sure that at some point, the appropriate authorities will invite us to collect it; and say ‘let’s see how we can make it happen’.
And I want to give them the assurances that if they disburse the funds, it will not be abused and the desired results will be achieved. So, that’s is on CVFF.
***Engr. Greg Ogbeifun is serving as an active member, ministerial committee for the restructuring of Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron. He is also on Governor Obaseki’s committee for the restoration of Gelegele Port, Edo State; as well as a distinguished Special Adviser to NIMASA’s Director General, Dr. Dakuku Peterside for good administration of the agency.
To be Continued