The Director General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr Dakuku Peterside, on Monday said that the agency had opened discussions with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) seeking a special interest rate for maritime assets acquisition in the country.

He said that this monetary measure would support the current efforts of the agency targeted at attracting potential investors into the sector.

Peterside, who gave this hint on Monday during the Maritime Stakeholders Interactive forum in Calabar, Cross Rivers State, noted that other industries such as the textile and manufacturing industry were already enjoying some concessionary interest rates on bank facility through the support of the apex bank.

The NIMASA boss therefore pointed out that extending such monetary gesture to maritime industry would improve the assets base and by implication, properly position the entities in the sector to operate more efficiently and improve their contributions the nation’s economic growth.

He explained: “We are committed to providing opportunities for investors through public and private partnership. This applies especially to investments in maritime infrastructure, shipping and ancillary services, offshore services, ship building repairs as well as marine and bunkering services.

“In this regard, we are engaging the Central Bank of Nigeria to create a special interest rate for maritime infrastructure development and maritime assets acquisition in Nigeria this is aside looking at the early disbursement of the Cabotage Vessel Financing Funds”, Peterside added.

Speaking further, the NIMASA boss said that there existed enormous potentials that remain untapped in the country’s maritime sector.

The Director General noted that the Ports located in the Eastern flank of the country, comprising Calabar, Port-Harcourt and Onne, were crucial to the nation’s economic development and that all hands must be on deck to ensure that the Ports function optimally.

He explained: “For us to harness our maritime potentials, the ports in the Eastern flank must be fully utilized. The eastern zone is the most critical because out of the 7 functional seaports in Nigeria 3 are domiciled in the eastern zone and it also harbors over 70% of the 275 terminals that are in the country but unfortunately in terms of cargo reception there is no corresponding relationship between the facilities available and the reception of cargoes because the eastern zone accounted for less than 20% of the vessels that visited the Nigerian ports in 2016 and 2017”.

According to him, the available statistics shows that there is need for serious collaboration with stakeholders in the sector to ensure that the environment is made more conducive for sustainable growth devoid of threats such as piracy and other maritime crimes.

Earlier in his remarks, the chairman of the Governing Board of NIMASA, Major General Jonathan India Garba said that the Eastern zonal area had a lot to offer in terms of shipping business for the country.

He explained that all stakeholders should support the agency in its sustained efforts to create an enabling environment for maritime business and operations to thrive

The Managing Director of Starz Marine, Engineer Greg Ogbeifun, commended the Dr. Dakuku Peterside-led management on the sensitization and awareness that the agency is creating to attract investors into the maritime sector.

In his remarks, a former Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Captain Adamu Biu, said that government was not totally responsible for the previous stagnation of the maritime sector and urged investors to explore opportunities in the industry for national benefits.

He said that the time had come for stakeholders to support NIMASA to bring the much needed development to the Maritime sector.