Ship import dips to N319b on forex scarcity

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As Govt generates N1.2bn in 12 months from alien card

Importation of vessels to Nigeria has dropped from N774billion ($2.15billion) in the last two years to N319 billion ($885.9million) due to scarcity of foreign exchange (forex).

It was learnt that the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN’s) forex policy has made it difficult to get more vessels into the country from China, United States (U.S.) and South Korea since last year.

Already, the government has reviewed import duties on luxury yachts, boats, tug boats, oil platforms, bulkers and barges from 20 per cent to 70 per cent of the value of the vessels.

Also, it was revealed that lack of forex has made it difficult to import spare parts, which could be used to maintain the old ones rusting on the sea.

Before the forex challenge, the country imported some vessels worth $2.04 billion from the Republic of Korea between 2013 and 2014.

Also, $266.6million worth of vessels were imported from U.S; $405.9million from China; $108million from Netherlands; and $19.45million from Turkey. Also, $28.49million ship were imported France; $14.04million from Indonesia; $12.56million from Romania; $23.4million from Singapore and $17.27million from the United Kingdom.

Investigation revealed that some of the vessels, which were acquired for cabotage, are idle on the Nigerian waters as coastal shipping is now exclusively in the hands of Indians, Greeks and Lebanese.

It was gathered that foreign shipping lines still dominate the country’s coastal trade, while their local counterparts, that acquired loans to purchase vessels had gone bankrupt.

Nigerian Ship Owners Association of Nigeria (NISA) President, Captain Niyi Labinjo, said the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) had been reluctant to give the Nigerian shipping companies jobs because their ships were too old  to safely transport petroleum products to and from larger tankers offshore.

He lamented that some of his ships have been idleas long as nine months without a job.

Labinjo said: “As the sixth largest oil producing and exporting country, with proven crude oil reserves at 37,070 million barrels; and proven natural gas reserves at 5.111 billion cubic metre, coastal shipping is exclusively in the hands of Indians, Greeks and Lebanese. Nigerians are completely out of it.

“Officials of NNPC give many excuses. They say, ‘your ships are leaking’. When it isn’t leaking, they will say, ‘your papers aren’t complete; you don’t have insurance’. When you have everything, ‘your ship is first class, your ship is insured’; they will tell you don’t have enough bollards.”

He stressed that some  of the vessels, which could not work in Europe and Asia, where stiff enforcement of regulation of cabotage trade are found, find their way into Nigeria to do business.

“This can be calculated. Nigerians import about 1.8 billion litres of petroleum products every month and that gives you N5.4 billion every month, so, that is what Nigeria is losing monthly,’’ he added.

In the meantime, the Federal Government generated N1.2bn in the last one year from the sale of the Combined Expatriate Residence Permit and Aliens Card to foreigners living and working in the country.

It was gathered that the money was remitted to the government by Continental Transfer Technique Limited, the technical partner to the Nigeria Immigration Service, which is in charge of the scheme.

The CERPAC, otherwise known as green card, is mandatory for all expatriates in the country and is renewable every year.

The Media Manager, CONTEC, Mr. Tunde Ayansanwo, confirmed on Monday that the firm had remitted N1.2bn to the Federal Government as proceeds of the green card issuance, adding that the new CERPAC centres had also assisted the immigration service in checking illegal migration and compliance with immigration control issues.

He explained that the creation of additional 28 CERPAC centres nationwide by CONTEC had greatly assisted in biometric screening of foreigners coming into the country, thereby mitigating the risk associated with terrorism and terrorist activities.

The deployment of more CERPAC centres was also said to have led to improvement in harmonisation of data, while reducing duplications hitherto associated with the paper card issuance, thus boosting investors’ confidence in the country.

Our correspondent gathered that about 56,000 foreigners were working in the country, but a large number of them were said to have left due to the economic recession which had negatively impacted their companies and earnings.

Findings indicated that some African countries like Ghana, Togo, Sierra Leone, Niger Republic and Cote d’Ivoire had expressed interest in setting up CERPAC centres to register aliens in their countries.

It was gathered that the five countries had made representations to the NIS and CONTEC to assist them in setting up a similar scheme in their domains.

Ayansanwo said the new centres had resulted in reduced cases of issuance of fake residence permits and alien cards as well as scamming of genuine expatriates seeking to engage in fruitful ventures in the country.

He said, “In August, heads of immigration services from the Economic Community of West African States’ member countries were in Nigeria during which they visited the NIS CERPAC centre in Abuja.

“Five countries expressed interest in setting up a similar scheme on a public-private-partnership arrangement with CONTEC Global.”

Nation with additional report from Punch