…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
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
“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
“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
“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.
“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
“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
“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