Stories by Isaac Anumihe
The Federal Government’s plan to have a new national fleet is attracting more interests and discussions in the maritime industry.
A few days ago, the Group Managing Director (GMD) of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Maikanti Kacalla Baru told shipowners that a total of 771,689,625bbl (107,179,115mt) of crude oil was lifted from Nigeria in 2015. He also said that a total tonnage of the nation’s crude oil was freighted to UK using a 130,000 tonne vessel (which could take 950,000bl). To this extent, he recalled that a total of about $6,165,800,104 was paid to foreign shipowners. Some of these monies, the GMD lamented, could have been saved if the nation had a national fleet for crude oil afreightment.
“Assuming that the total tonnage of the nation’s crude oil was freighted to UK using a 130,000 tonne vessel (which could take 950,000bl), it means that a total of about $6,165,800,104 was paid to foreign shipowners. Some of these monies could have been saved if the nation had a national fleet for crude oil afreightment” he lamented.
If this disclosure is anything to go by, what Nigeria has lost for over 10 years since the national fleet was in limbo is simply unimaginable.
It is disheartening to know that NNPC has contract with traders to sell crude on freight on board basis (FOB) because of lack of vessels to lift crude to the market where it would sell the product at appropriate pricing. It is against this backdrop that the call for the return of the national fleet has intensified recently.
In view of the interest the national fleet has generated, the Federal Government has constituted a committee to screen shipping operators interested in acquiring part of the 60 per cent holding for Nigerians.
The fleet is expected to have a 40 percent foreign ownership. The committee which, expectedly, has commenced work, will work out the modalities of operation and ensure that the new national carrier endures.
According to the chairman of Shipowners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Mr Greg Ogbeifun, the Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, had assured of government’s political will to ensure that the new project gets cargo to carry. He assured that the government is determined to do everything possible to ensure that the new national carrier succeeds.
Recall that Nigeria and Singapore recently reached an agreement to establish a private-sector driven National Carrier with stakeholding of 60 to 40 per cent respectively.
The agreement was reached after a meeting in Singapore between the Nigerian delegation led by the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers Council, Hassan Bello, and representatives of Pacific International Lines – one of the biggest ship operators.
Bello, who is also the chairman of the Committee for the Actualization of the National Carrier set up by the Ministry of Transportation, said while the Pacific International Lines (PIL), is expected to own 40 per cent of the stake, private Nigerian ship operators are expected to own the other 60 per cent.
“We have a working relationship with PIL in Singapore; they are one of the big ship operators. They are extremely capable and operate to international standards. With the arrangement, they are expected to have 40 per cent of the venture while Nigeria is expected to have 60 per cent. “What we have now is a sector dominated by foreign ships and they dictate to us. We have no choice but we have these cargoes, so we should have the ships. No matter how wide or long our coast line is, no matter how long our inland water is and how our ports are, if we do not have the ships, then we cannot pretend to be a maritime nation.”he said.
But before the new national fleet arrives, it is important to know what led to the liquidation of the Nigerian National Shipping Line (NNSL).
According to the former Executive Secretary of Nigerian Shippers Council, Alhaji Adamu Biu, NNSL collapsed because Nigeria acquired 19 ships at once and after some years, they all aged at the same time and the cost of maintenance became a problem. So, Nigeria decided to sell them off as scraps.
He suggested that in view of the cost of maintenance, ships should not be acquired en bloc so that their maintenance won’t pose a problem.
NNSL was liquidated in September 1995. Its assets were assumed by the newly formed National Unity Line (NUL). The NUL, fully owned by the Nigeria Maritime Authority, began commercial operations in July 1996 as Nigeria’s national flag carrier. The NUL had just one ship, MV Abuja. In August 2005 the government put the NUL up for sale. The company now has no vessels, but owns a shipping licence. In July 2010 it was reported that the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), the successor to the Nigerian Maritime Authority (NMA), had completed arrangements to establish a new national shipping line for Nigeria. A fresh attempt was made to relaunch and sell the NUL in 2011.
According to NNPC GMD, the history of the establishment of a national fleet dates back to 1957 when Nigerian National Shipping Line was established. The company, he said, started operation with three vessels in 1959 and by 1979 had 24 oceangoing vessels in its fleet. He, however, regretted that the company did not last before it collapsed.
“Unfortunately, as we all know, the company was later sold by government due to dwindling fortune. There have been recent talks in national dailies that government is planning to establish another national shipping line. Perhaps lessons have been learned on what led to the collapse of the country’s first national shipping line. It is not out of place for a nation to want to own a national fleet; countries like China and India have state-owned shipping companies that are being run profitably. China COSCO Shipping Corporation Limited which is state owned is among the largest shipping companies in the world today. Also, India’s state owned shipping company (Shipping Corporation of India) has grown from a modest beginning of 19 vessels to a conglomerate with about 80 ships,” he said.
According to Baru, the establishment of a national fleet for crude oil afreightment could be considered a noble idea, considering the possible benefits to the nation. He, however, suggested that an enabling environment has to be put in place for the operation of a thriving national fleet.
Seme generates N1bn revenue for November
The Seme Command of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) generated N1,247,131,069.14 as revenue for the month of November 2016.
The spokesman for the command, Mr. Taupyen Selechang, said in a statement that the command also made 99 seizures with a Duty Paid Value (DPV) of N82,884,308 million for the month of November 2016.
According to him, the revenue generated exceeded the monthly revenue target of the command with N59,131,069.14, adding that the upsurge in the revenue figure of the last quarter justifies the command’s open door policy and its commitment to excel in revenue generation viz-a-viz anti-smuggling operations.
“The resolve of the command to remain resolute in actualising the vision/mission of the service and the policy thrust of the Comptroller General of Customs, Colonel Hameed Ibrahim Ali, without compromise cannot be overemphasised,” he said.
However, he said, the Customs Area Controller, Dimka Victor David, has attributed the revenue figure to the commitment of his management team, the cooperation and compliance level of the stakeholders and the host communities that are ready to partner with him in transforming the Command. He stressed that being firm and persistent to the principle of transparency, diplomacy and fairness despite forces of distraction, is gradually stabilising the command’s revenue drive. He reiterated that the command will continue to facilitate and provide a conducive and level playing ground for every genuine trader that uses the Seme international land border as a corridor to the West African sub-region.
He said that Dimka attributed the success to the firm stand taken by the Valuation Unit in generating values and the resolve of the Republic of Benin to comply with the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed on August 4, 2016. “This has actually translated to the higher revenue generated despite the numerous challenges that would have ordinarily hampered the revenue generated,” he said.
“In one of the briefings to his management team and patrol leaders, the Customs Area Controller highlighted that the posting of a proper officer to a particular duty post is predicated on the fact that the officer is conversant with the books of instructions that guide his modus operandi, hence infraction observed will be traced to where it originated from and the culprit made to face the consequences of his action. Therefore, the need for carefulness and uprightness in discharging official functions among officers and men of the Service cannot be overemphasised,” the statement said.
On the Yuletide season, the Customs Area Controller disclosed the need for the officers and men to ensure that the entire border is fortified against smuggling activities and cross border crimes of any kind. He also cautioned the unprofessional use of arms among operational officers, stressing that arms should be used only when the conditions for usage become unavoidable.
Dimka warned that a situation where the border environment and communities always witness a lot of cross border vices and crises during the Yuletide season will not be encouraged nor tolerated under his watch.
He enjoined officers and men of the command to maintain a high level of discipline, professionalism and patriotism in the discharge of their responsibilities while observing the 7Cs as their operational guidelines, charging all patrol leaders to ensure that Seme Command remains blocked to smugglers.
NPA urges Fashola to allocate funds for Wharf Road reconstruction
Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Ms Hadiza Bala Usman, has appealed to the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, and the National Assembly to make budgetary allocation for the reconstruction of Creek Road in the 2017 Budget and also hasten completion of the trailer park opposite the Tin-Can port to keep the haulage trucks away from the road.
Usman made the appeal following the gridlock that characterises the road to the Apapa Wharf. She also called for synergy between the federal, state governments and other stakeholders to find a permanent solution to the perennial gridlock on that road.
She urged port users to always subject themselves to the security checks at the gates leading to the ports and warned unauthorised persons to stay away from the ports, while threatening to sanction those who break the rule.
Usman said this when the inter-agency committee on port decongestion, which has members drawn from the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing; Lagos State Ministry of Transport; NPA; Nigerian Army, Nigerian Navy; Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) and Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) paid her a courtesy call.
After receiving briefs on the palliatives done on the Wharf Road, she promised to reach out to the management of Dangote Group and Floor Mills of Nigeria on their pledge to carry out the reconstruction of the Wharf Road under their corporate social responsibility. She further gave the committee two weeks to report back to her on the progress made on ensuring that reconstruction resumes on the road.
She also promised to personally reach out to the Minister of Power, Works and Housing to make him appreciate the importance of the reconstruction of the port access roads.
She thanked the government of Lagos State on the interest it has shown on the reconstruction of the port’s access roads, saying “work must start now because of the importance of the roads.”
According to her, the General Electric of America, which is billed to become the concessionaire of Nigerian railways, has assured that it would commence haulage of cargo from the Apapa Port to the northern part of the country immediately the concession is completed in 2017.
She noted that the poor state of the roads into Apapa was killing trade facilitation and affects the smooth delivery of cargoes to importers.