The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), has said that it would soon commence the disbursement of Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF) with a view to achieving its objectives.

The Director-General of the agency, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, noted that the disbursement of the fund had become imperative in the face of growing challenges in the maritime sector, particular the constraints associated with the implementation of local content development under the cabotage regime, inadequate infrastructure, skills gap and uncooperative attitude of some institutions, which are reluctant to invest in the sector.

The NIMASA boss, who was represented by Deputy Director, Maritime Labour Services, Mr. Victor Egejuru, a breakfast meeting organised by the Nigerian-American Chamber of Commerce (NACC) in Lagos, pointed out that some of the institutions preferred short-term loans rather than long-term facilities thereby undermining their capacity to grow the industry.

Peterside recalled that prior to the present regime, the maritime space was dominated by foreigners, adding however that now existing legislation and regulatory policies have created a more supportive environment for indigenous players to compete favourably.

Specifically, he cited the Cabotage Act which had restricted the use of foreign vessels and foreigners from participating in the coastal trade, adding that NIMASA has been implementing the provisions of the Act through promotions, financial assistance and by encouraging Nigerians investors to go into joint venture.

According to him, the enforcement of the Act is being done by the agency in collaboration with the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) due to the fact that the Board interfaces with oil majors who give out these contracts.

On the seafarer’s development programme, the agency’s director general disclosed that the programme was in progress with over 2000 Nigerians trained in first-class maritime institutions overseas.

The NIMASA boss said: “Some of these people have graduated, some are already working in Nigeria, the essence is to ensure that at least if we say these vessels must be manned by Nigerians, we will have the capacity to take over from these foreigners.

“We are also looking at the provision of incentives in terms of giving tax waivers and the like to Nigerians who import maritime related equipment so that they can favourably compete with their foreign counterparts,” he added.

Peterside hinted further that the agency had conducted the capacity audit of the shipping sector to determine the country’s capabilities and by so doing, to enable the agency to fill any existing gaps.