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Auto policy will paralyse RORO terminals, Shippers’ Council warns

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Cargo Tracking Note (CTN), Mr. Hassan Bello, NSC Boss-- Maritime First Newspaper

…As Customs arraigns Lebanese over N48m duty fraud

The Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) on Tuesday warned that the implementation of the automotive policy introduced by the Jonathan administration in 2013 has the potential of wrecking the operation of roll-on-roll-off (RORO) terminals in the country.

Deputy Director and Head, Public Affairs of the NSC, Mr. Ignatius Nweke gave this warning in Lagos on Tuesday at a Town Hall Meeting organised by Ships & Ports Communication Company to discuss implementation of the contentious policy.

“A word of caution and advise to NAC (National Automotive Council) because when you have a policy that is coming in and there are other policies that have been in existence, one needs to tread with caution.

“We need to understand what is on ground and gradually launch ourselves into the programme taking into consideration that some years back we went into port concessioning and some concessions were given to some ports in the area of the cargo that will come into such port and if you go up and say okay, fine, there are certain things in terms of importation and duties that will stop such cargoes coming in, the return on investment will be affected; the economy equally will be affected.

“So I advise, Nigerian Shippers’ Council equally advises, that we go into wide consultation with stakeholders. Consult as much as possible with the stakeholders, freight forwarders, NARTO (National Association of Road Transport Owners) and all that are required to make this policy a success,” Nweke said.

Several other stakeholders who attended the meeting cautioned against hasty implementation of the policy.

The general consensus was that Nigeria should focus on areas where it has comparative advantage like the manufacture of tyres.

Stakeholders at the meeting also advised that the Federal Government should allow auto assembly plants roll out Made-in-Nigeria vehicles first before applying high duty rates and levies on imported vehicles.

Meanwhile, checks by SHIPS & PORTS DAILY has revealed that activities at RORO terminals in Lagos have practically been grounded with the terminals handling less than 30% of their installed capacities.

The drop in cargo volume at the terminals is attributed to the hike in tariff as a result of the auto policy which has caused Nigeria to lose more than 60% of its import vehicle volume to the port of Cotonou.

Meanwhile, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) on Wednesday charged a Lebanese, Fares Chawich, before a Federal High Court, Lagos, over alleged intent to defraud the Federal Government of N48 million.

Chawich, who resides at No. 27A, Bishop Oluwole St., Victoria Island, Lagos, is standing trial on a five-count charge bordering on fraud.

Chawich is charged alongside Emmanuel Ekong of No. 17, SoboArobiodu St., GRA Ikeja, Lagos, who is still at large.

The prosecutor, Julius Ajakaye, told the court that the accused committed the offences on May 18 within Lagos metropolis.

Ajakaye alleged that Chawich broke the seal of the Nigeria Customs on five cars in a bid to defraud the government of N48 million being unpaid duties on the vehicles.

He said the duties payable on the vehicles were N14.5 million, N10 million, N8.1 million, N7 million and N8.4 million.

The offences contravened Section 145 (5) of the Customs and Excise Management Act, Laws of the Federation, 2004.

The accused, however, pleaded not guilty.

Counsel to the accused, Chris Emeh, told the court that he had filed a bail application supported with a 19-paragraph affidavit and a written address for the accused.

The prosecutor, however, did not oppose the bail application, but asked that the valid international passport of the accused should be deposited at the court.

Justice Saliu Saidu, however, granted bail to the accused in the sum of N10 million with two sureties, who must reside within Nigeria and also have an evidence of a landed property in Lagos.

July 8 has been fixed for commencement of trial, while the accused was remanded in custody pending when the bail conditions would be fulfilled.

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WAIVER CESSATION: Igbokwe urges NIMASA to evolve stronger collaboration with Ships owners

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…Stresses the need for timely disbursement of N44.6billion CVFF***

Highly revered Nigerian Maritime Lawyer, and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mike Igbokwe has urged the Nigeria Maritime Administration and safety Agency (NIMASA) to partner with ship owners and relevant association in the industry to evolving a more vibrant merchant shipping and cabotage trade regime.

Igbokwe gave the counsel during his paper presentation at the just concluded two-day stakeholders’ meeting on Cabotage waiver restrictions, organized by NIMASA.

“NIMASA and shipowners should develop merchant shipping including cabotage trade. A good start is to partner with the relevant associations in this field, such as the Nigeria Indigenous Shipowners Association (NISA), Shipowners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Oil Trade Group & Maritime Trade Group of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA).

“A cursory look at their vision, mission and objectives, show that they are willing to improve the maritime sector, not just for their members but for stakeholders in the maritime economy and the country”.

Adding that it is of utmost importance for NIMASA to have a through briefing and regular consultation with ships owners, in other to have insight on the challenges facing the ship owners.

“It is of utmost importance for NIMASA to have a thorough briefing and regular consultations with shipowners, to receive insight on the challenges they face, and how the Agency can assist in solving them and encouraging them to invest and participate in the maritime sector, for its development. 

“NIMASA should see them as partners in progress because, if they do not invest in buying ships and registering them in Nigeria, there would be no Nigerian-owned ships in its Register and NIMASA would be unable to discharge its main objective.

The Maritime lawyer also urged NIMASA  to disburse the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF)that currently stands at about N44.6 billion.

“Lest it be forgotten, what is on the lips of almost every shipowner, is the need to disburse the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (the CVFF’), which was established by the Coastal and Inland Shipping Act, 2003. It was established to promote the development of indigenous ship acquisition capacity, by providing financial assistance to Nigerian citizens and shipping companies wholly owned by Nigerian operating in the domestic coastal shipping, to purchase and maintain vessels and build shipping capacity. 

“Research shows that this fund has grown to about N44.6billion; and that due to its non-disbursement, financial institutions have repossessed some vessels, resulting in a 43% reduction of the number of operational indigenous shipping companies in Nigeria, in the past few years. 

“Without beating around the bush, to promote indigenous maritime development, prompt action must be taken by NIMASA to commence the disbursement of this Fund to qualified shipowners pursuant to the extant Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (“CVFF”) Regulations.

Mike Igbokwe (SAN)

“Indeed, as part of its statutory functions, NIMASA is to enforce and administer the provisions of the Cabotage Act 2003 and develop and implement policies and programmes which will facilitate the growth of local capacity in ownership, manning and construction of ships and other maritime infrastructure. Disbursing the CVFF is one of the ways NIMASA can fulfill this mandate.

“To assist in this task, there must be collaboration between NIMASA, financial institutions, the Minister of Transportation, as contained in the CVFF Regulations that are yet to be implemented”, the legal guru highlighted further. 

He urged the agency to create the right environment for its stakeholders to build on and engender the needed capacities to fill the gaps; and ensure that steps are being taken to solve the challenges being faced by stakeholders.

“Lastly, which is the main reason why we are all here, cessation of ministerial waivers on some cabotage requirements, which I believe is worth applause in favour of NIMASA. 

“This is because it appears that the readiness to obtain/grant waivers had made some of the vessels and their owners engaged in cabotage trade, to become complacent and indifferent in quickly ensuring that they updated their capacities, so as not to require the waivers. 

“The cessation of waivers is a way of forcing the relevant stakeholders of the maritime sector, to find workable solutions within, for maritime development and fill the gaps in the local capacities in 100% Nigerian crewing, ship ownership, and ship building, that had necessitated the existence of the waivers since about 15 years ago, when the Cabotage Act came into being. 

“However, NIMASA must ensure that the right environment is provided for its stakeholders to build and possess the needed capacities to fill the gaps; and ensure that steps are being taken to solve the challenges being faced by stakeholders. Or better still, that they are solved within the next 5 years of its intention to stop granting waivers”, he further explained. 

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Breaking News: The Funeral Rites of Matriarch C. Ogbeifun is Live

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The Burial Ceremony of Engr. Greg Ogbeifun’s mother is live. Watch on the website: www.maritimefirstnewspaper.com and on Youtube: Maritimefirst Newspaper.

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Wind Farm Vessel Collision Leaves 15 Injured

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…As Valles Steamship Orders 112,000 dwt Tanker from South Korea***

A wind farm supply vessel and a cargo ship collided in the Baltic Sea on Tuesday leaving 15 injured.

The Cyprus-flagged 80-meter general cargo ship Raba collided with Denmark-flagged 31-meter wind farm supply vessel World Bora near Rügen Island, about three nautical miles off the coast of Hamburg. 

Many of those injured were service engineers on the wind farm vessel, and 10 were seriously hurt. 

They were headed to Iberdrola’s 350MW Wikinger wind farm. Nine of the people on board the World Bora were employees of Siemens Gamesa, two were employees of Iberdrola and four were crew.

The cause of the incident is not yet known, and no pollution has been reported.

After the collision, the two ships were able to proceed to Rügen under their own power, and the injured were then taken to hospital. 

Lifeboat crews from the German Maritime Search and Rescue Service tended to them prior to their transport to hospital via ambulance and helicopter.

“Iberdrola wishes to thank the rescue services for their diligence and professionalism,” the company said in a statement.

In the meantime, the Hong Kong-based shipowner Valles Steamship has ordered a new 112,000 dwt crude oil tanker from South Korea’s Sumitomo Heavy Industries Marine & Engineering.

Sumitomo is to deliver the Aframax to Valles Steamship by the end of 2020, according to data provided by Asiasis.

The newbuild Aframax will join seven other Aframaxes in Valles Steamship’s fleet. Other ships operated by the company include Panamax bulkers and medium and long range product tankers.

The company’s most-recently delivered unit is the 114,426 dwt Aframax tanker Seagalaxy. The naming and delivery of the tanker took place in February 2019, at Namura Shipbuilding’s yard in Japan.

Maritime Executive with additional report from World Maritime News

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