Finance Minister Mrs. Kemi Adeosun and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) have been urged to facilitate the establishment of a maritime bank to boost trade.
Speaking at a forum organised by over 600 cargo owners, importers, exporters and shippers in Lagos, a maritime lawyer, Mr. Dipo Alaka, pushed for the establishment of the bank with the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund (CVFF) to address inadequate funding of the sector.
Alaka said such bank had become imperative because only few banks were responding to cargo owners, importers, exporters and manufacturers’ needs. He said over 12 years after the passage of the Cabotage Act, the sector was still under-funded.
The Federal Government, he said, should use the Cabotage funds domiciled with the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to empower Nigerians wishing to acquire vessels. He called on Transportation Minister Rotimi Amaechi and NIMASA Director-General Dr. Dakuku Peterside to facilitate the establishment of the bank.
A cargo owner from Belgium, Mr. Rasheed Muritala, said the bank would eliminate the funding problems in ports’development and operations, ship building and acquisition, ship repairs, marine safety and environmental protection, among others.
He pointed out that the reason Nigeria could not compete in the supply of shipping services at the ports and in multi-modal transport services in the sub-region was yet to be addressed. He said despite banks’ consolidation, they were yet to appreciate the maritime sector’s peculiarity and adequately support its funding.
An industrialist, Chief Raphael Johnson, said it was time for the Federal Government, in collaboration with stakeholders, to drive the right policies that would enable Nigeria become a hub of ship finance companies as was presently the case in Singapore.
He stated that a confluence of critical stakeholders, government, shipowners and the finance sector was imperative to induce the much-needed development in indigenous shipping. Johnson said many stakeholders, government, banks, shipowners, who ventured into ship-financing either shied away from it or traded blames having had their “fingers severely burnt”.
To move the industry forward, Muritala said parties should return to the drawing board and provide for holistic, unbiased appraisals, deliberations and resolutions geared towards the advancement of the sector.
“In Belgium, Netherlands, United Kingdom and the United States, they have maritime development banks that give out money to the industry at almost one per cent interest rate. But contrary to what is obtainable in those countries, in Nigeria, you have banks giving loans at interest rates of between 20 and 25 per cent per annum,” he said; adding that Nigerian banks must forgo short-term profits and support long-term maritime projects.
Banks, he said, must take long-term view of funding projects and recognise the value that sustained investments would have on the sector.