FUNSO OLOJO

Indigenous ship owners, whose businesses have largely become insolvent due to lack of jobs, can now heave a sign of relief as their Greece counterparts have come to their aid.

In a show of solidarity, the ship owners in Greece have offered to give 40 ships to their Nigerian counterparts on’’ hire purchase’.

At an impressive ceremony in Lagos, the Nigerian ships owners under the aegis of Nigeria Ship owners Association(NISA) signed a Memoramdum of Understanding(MoU) with their Greek counterparts .

At the attendance were officials of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency(NIMASA), Federal Ministry of Transport and Nigerias ambassador to Greece,Ambassador Lawrence AyodeleAyodeji.

According to the terms of MoU, the Ship owners in Greece will supply 40 vessels to their Nigerian counterparts on a special arrangement that will allow the Nigerians to defray the cost of the vessels within two years of delivery after which they can take full possession.

Also, Greece, under the agreement, will build a ship yard in Nigeria as well as a college where they will train Nigerians.

The partnership was facilitated by Ambassador Ayodeji who declared that the historic union will revalise the maritime industry and put the indigenous ship owners in good stead to effectively take advantage s of the Cabotage trade which has always been dominated by foreigners.

An elated Captain NiyiLabinjo, the President of NISA, said that the essence of the partnership between Nigerian and Greece shipowners is to create jobs for Nigerians.

He disclosed that the ships, which will be of various classes and tonnage, would eventually belong to the indigenous ship owners within two years.

‘’We have signed the agreement between us and Greeks and Nigeria will acquire the 40 ships in not less than 24 months.NISA is providing a platform for younger and unborn generations and I wish the ships will be growing from 40 to 60 and to 100.

He lamented that out of 600 vessels operating on oil and gas, only 10 per cent of them belongs to Nigerians.

Labinjo said that one of the major challenges inhibiting the Cabotage regime is government’s lack of political will to fully implement it, adding that the waiver clause has been abused.

He said in countries where Cabotage is practiced, there is a price to pay, describing it as tonnage in line with the job to be done.

‘’Whenever a country introduces Cabotage, it wants to secure the domestic trade and there is nobody in the world except for Nigerians that will allow its domestic trade by foreigners as we have done in the last 12 years and that is why today it is quite pathetic’’

He claimed that if the potentials in the maritime industry are well harnessed, the sector could  create wealth and jobs for the teaming unemployed youths.

According to him, the sector can generate between N3 to N7 trillion per annum.

He further noted that the Nigerian maritime laws are excellent enough to discourage foreign participation in the Cabotage regime, adding that implementing the policies should be a pivotal objective of an agency like NIMASA.

Labinjo, who wore animated looks throughout the event, believed that the provision of 40 vessels by the Greek shipowners to their Nigerian counterparts will enable them to effectively participate in the Cabotage trade while appealing to the Federal government to protect domestic operators in the coastal trade against the domineering influence of the foreign operators.

‘’Nigeria can make a disposable income of three to seven trillion naira annually from maritime, even the oil and gas sector does not make that much when compared’’ he said.

Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Transport, Alhaji Mohammed Bashir said that Nigerian ship owners are gradually coming of age and that government will not relent in its effort to encourage the success of the CabotageAct , through enforcement.

He said President Buhari had constituted a National Economic Council which had put NIMASA and Nigerian Ports Authority on the front line of Nigerian business.

Executive Director, Labour and Cabotage Service of NIMASABarrister CallistusNwabueze, who represented Patrick Akpobolokemi, the Director-General of NIMASA, refuted claims of the agency’s involvement in the issuance of 5,238 waivers.

‘’Anybody who seeks to do Cabotage business in Nigeria must submit itself to the statutory regulatory powers of NIMASA’’, he declared.

He also called on NISA members to embrace peace among its members urging them to interface with NIMASA on issues bothering on Cabotage rather than take laws into their hands.

Leader of the Greece delegation; Mr. Constantine Kokkos called on both parties involved in the partnership to cooperate in order to meet the dynamism of maritime and shipping business.

‘’Greece is a country that always loves to cooperate with people of Nigeria, most especially as it affect shipping. This is one of our tasks and I believe that Nigerians maritime sector is important for the economy and we have to cooperate’’

‘We will start with building shipyard and government will assist because we have to create jobs for Nigerians.We are going to establish a college where we will train Nigerians’’,Kokkos said.

The Nigerian Ambassador to Greece; Ambassador Lawrence AyodeleAyodeji, said the partnership between Nigerian ship owners and their Greece counterparts will further boost the relationship between both countries in the area of international trade.

He said Greece economy is strong in maritime activities and that the MoU that has been entered into by both countries will bring about economic growth for them.

He also disclosed that Greece has been in such a partnership with other African countries, especially Ghana, which has been in a similar collaboration with Greece for the past six years.

 

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