NFIC Identifies Zero Import Duty on Vessels, Tonnage Tax, Among Other Incentives, Necessary for Growth of Indigenous Fleet

Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) and chair of the Nigerian Fleet Implementation Committee (NFIC), Barr Hassan Bello,

By Piriye Kiyaramo

Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) and chair of the Nigerian Fleet Implementation Committee (NFIC), Barr Hassan Bello, says his committee has so far identified zero import duty on vessels and tonnage tax, among other incentives that are necessary for the growth of indigenous fleet, just as he called for a deliberate government policy that will provide incentives to aid indigenous operators boost fleet capacity.

Bello disclosed that the Nigerian Fleet Implementation Committee which he chairs, is currently discussing the need to abolish temporary importation permit, shipping sector support fund of about -2%per annum/9%, waiver of export tariff for use of Nigerian vessels and right of first refusal for National Carriers in the procurement process for cargo.

Speaking on the occasion of the 20th Anniversary Lecture/ Awards and Patrons’ Investiture ceremony under the theme, “Indigenous Fleet Development, What Options”, organised by the League of Maritime Editors and Publishers in Lagos on Thursday, Bello identified incentives as “comparatively simple but reliable ship registration procedure” which is efficient and full of integrity.

He said the committee is discussing the issuance of work permit only upon verification of unavailability of ratings or officers; change of Nigeria’s crude oil policy, CAC to adopt FIRS’s zero duty for ship finance registration and preferential berthing privileges.

He further disclosed that the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo has so far expressed delight at the prospect of the country trying to find ways to return to international shipping and has directed the NFIC and the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC) to review the proposal and work out the details of incentives stating a holistic and credible approach to address the issues and represent for consideration and approval.

With the directive from the VP, Bello said the Committee has held meetings with the NIPC to work out the modalities for the granting and implementation of incentives to achieve the development and sustainability of the national fleet.

He said the Vice President equally charged his Committee to identify partnerships, benefits and the role of the private sector in achieving the Nigerian fleet project.

Bello said such incentives shall be institutionalized to avoid political influence and made reliable for investors’ trust.

Other incentives he advocated include, “a very strong safety administration system and procedures in support and protection of the registered ships, a systematic approach to the establishment of merchant shipping security and administration that provide confidence in shipping trade and understanding of the international shipping community;

Establish a reliable statistical data for the manning of flag ships and well coordinated training, examination and certification of seafarer in Nigeria; strategic plan and implementation procedures to ensure availability of cargo for interested indigenes; concern for ships’ repair and husbandry; reasonable protectionism for national fleet in operational procedures even when such requirements are not statutory or institutionalized; reliable communications and assistance to fleet; all entities concerning the carriage of national cargo should develop common interest on the sustainable success of the policy.

Bello argued that such enabling environment of national incentives will go a long way in fostering growth and development of the indigenous fleet in Nigeria.

Meanwhile, the League of Maritime Editors and Publishers in Nigeria has urged the federal government to disburse the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund (CVFF) to deserving ship owners without any further delay, even as the body condemned what it described as “the secrecy with which the fund is manged by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA)”

President of the league, Mr Kingsley Anaroke who stated this on the occasion of body’s 20th anniversary lecture and award ceremony in Lagos on Thursday, described as “appalling NIMASA’s inability to give a good account of how much has accrued into the fund”, lamenting “a situation where the Nigerian Ship Registry under the maritime administration is unmanageable”.

“The modest contributions of the maritime industry are not even captured in the micro and macroeconomic indices measurement space, meaning that we are blinking in the dark while the leadership is quiet. No wonder the Presidency has failed to appreciate the worth of the maritime industry. The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) is yet to understand the magnitude of the maritime sector.” He regretted.

Even as industry operators eagerly await federal government’s fulfilment of last year’s pledge to disburse the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund (CVFF) to ship owners in the first quarter of 2019, the body decried bureaucracy and legislative myopia as major impediments to the implementation of the Cabotage Act and the CRFFN Act. Adding that “Absence of some legislative instruments are not the problem of the maritime industry, but legislative enforcement and political will to deliver performances and harness the vast potentials that abound in the sector,” he maintained.

He reiterated the urgent need to come up with measures to unlock the maritime potentials to become opportunities, by empowering indigenous maritime operators to grow the industry.

He said the Nigerian maritime journalists and publishers share the fate of Nigerian indigenous ship owners whose operations have been stifled by lack of funds in a business environment where many opportunities exist.

“You can imagine where at least 50 perecnt of Nigerian-profiled ship owners have functional revenue-generating vessels regardless of their sizes, how much job opportunities would have been created in different families.

“Imagine how much the nation would have saved as billions of dollars being frittered away as expenditure on cadet training and sea time experience abroad”, He queried.

The maritime editors’ league president reminded the authorities that maritime media publishers are critical stakeholders in the sector and should be treated as such.

“With about 65 magazines, newspapers and online independent publishers in the sector, they have a combined workforce of over 1255 staff with almost zero advert patronage from the maritime agencies and operators, yet they have been adjudged as the most active in Africa.”

Therefore, the body called on all maritime and port regulatory agencies and private sector operators to avail the maritime press needed support”, saying that the needed support can be expressed within the framework of capacity-building and local content legislation already in place.

The maritime editors promised to take advantage of government and stakeholders’ engagement to drive the needed changes in the sector. “We shall retool and deepen our advocacy strategy, strengthen our capacity in research-based work and investigative reporting; but more importantly, strive to make leaders more accountable to the people.”