Renowned Nigerian Shipowner and Founder of the Indigenous Shipowners Association(ISAN), Chief Isaac Jolapamo took a hard look at the lacklustre nation’s domestic shipping and highlighted that the story would have been different, if the stakeholders had actualized an African Protection and Indemnity (P&I) Club, alongside the Cabotage Act, at the desired time.
Consequently, the failure to midwife an African P&I Club, while the
Indigenous Shipowners Association in Nigeria pushed for a workable cabotage regime, have largely played a severe restraining factor to an evolution of a vibrant Cabotage regime.
He insists that an African P&I Club would at least, have provided some supportive, motivating functions to operators and other stakeholders.
A Protection and Indemnity (P&I) Club is a non-governmental, non-profitable mutual or cooperative association of marine insurance providers to its members, which consists of ship owners, operators, charterers and seafarers under the member companies.
“It would have helped our shipping development in addition to the formation of ISAN Shipping Line that was done at the instance of the government at that time.”
Though concerned that, that dream for an Africa P&I Club wasn’t concluded, Jolapamo was confident that a P&I Club would have served the good of the sector, to help shipowners access block finances with the best portfolio management for such funds.
Speaking in an interview, Jolapamo expressed worry that even the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF) had taken so long to be disbursed.
His greatest concern is that the authorities in charge may end up not considering the requisite qualification of operators for the disbursement.
He said: “The basic qualification to access the fund should be a high standard technical and commercial management experience of the company that is applying. That is what they adopt in other climes.
“But we have never used that as a criteria here. And unfortunately, we don’t even know what has happened to the money.
“When we started the indigenous ship owner association, which brought about the cabotage, the intention was that the government would grow the industry in such a way that we will have a shipping line, and have a P&I club.
“We even thought that they ploughed the cabotage funds to acquiring ships for the operators and take part of that for ship maintenance, for people to keep running what they have. But there were too many interests. It was later we heard that some of the money was given to hair dressers.”
Speaking on setting an agenda for growing the maritime industry, Jolapamo wants the government to allow experienced operators guide policy formulations that would actually drive operations in the industry.
“The agenda should be to unlock the idle potentials in the industry. We need to reord our programme and policies in the light of the present global realities.
“If they realise that the industry has the capacity to provide the desperately looked for jobs for younger generation and help to reduce poverty and improve the standard of living of the people, then it would be on track,“ Jolapamo said.
He recalled that as a staff of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) over 40 years ago, his department ensured that Nigerian operators in the industry were offered opportunities for jobs, just so that they grew the shipping industry using indigenous businesses.
He said: “I was a pioneer staff of the NNPC and then we made concerted effort to bring in Nigerians for the jobs. We had more than 70% of Nigerians providing NNPC vessels that time. But now, the reverse is the case. It is very difficult to break into the walls they have built.”
Jolapamo feels disappointed that such efforts to grow the indigenous shipping business do not get government attention again, as foreigners seem to have dominated the business of providing vessels for the NNPC.
“You can say there are Nigerian vessels in NNPC, but I as an individual and with my years of experience know where the vessels are coming from. I know that they belong to the Pakistanis, the Indians and some Greeks.
“It can only be corrected when you pick Nigerians who have the experience of the jobs. You just do service to your nation and not because you need to like their faces,” Chief Jolapamo concluded.