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End cabotage waiver to foreign vessels, stakeholders tell FG

Some stakeholders in maritime on Friday hailed Federal Government’s plan advised the Federal Government to abolish cabotage waivers to foreign vessels and grant incentives that would encourage indigenous ship ownership in the spirit and letter of  the Cabotage Act.

The stakeholders  gave the advice in an interview with  News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)  in Lagos state.

They said that it was possible to end waivers to foreign vessels and  give room for Nigerians to  own ships.

The Federal Government had on Wednesday presented to the public, a five-year plan to bring to an end, waivers given to foreign vessels trading on the nation’s waters.

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The Director-General of the Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr Dakuku Peterside, made this known at  a two-day Stakeholders’ Consultative Meeting in Lagos.

Mr Obigali Obi, Director-General of Nigerian Chamber of Shipping, said that efforts should be geared toward resuscitating the Ajaokuta steel Company because  the country could build ship with a functional steel company, which  would in turn encourage  springing  up  of cottage industries.

“There is nothing wrong in the administration of the Cabotage Act, as that will help to create the much needed jobs for Nigerians.

“But we need to tread with caution while trying to implement that, knowing that we are dealing with an international trade variant of our economy.

“Many of the infrastructure that we need to anchor this on, are  not  yet available; the manpower to manage the platform and provide services onboard are still not there,’’ she said.

Another stakeholder, Mrs Magret Orakwusi, appealed to  the Federal Government to ensure that  the banks would grant loans to Nigerian shippers at a single-digit rate to boost ship ownership and development.

“I thank God that people in government are thinking in this direction that we, the operators, have been longing for. If we get it right now, the economy will be shielded from negative international economic reflex.

“Cabotage is good; it will resonate the sector and foster expansion in all ramifications while engaging the cadets in the system.

“The whole idea is to have a succession plan that will midwife a full blown cabotage regime that will be of benefit to Nigerians instead of the foreigners trading on our waters.

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“It has been observed that the Cabotage Act, since inception in 2003, has, to a large extent, favoured foreign ship owners while killing indigenous ones,’’ she said.

NAN reports that NIMASA director-general had said that cessation of cabotage waivers would begin with a two-year plan to end waivers to fishing trawlers, tugs, offshore supply vessels, barges, house boats, tankers of below 10,000 GRT and vessels such as FPSOs.

According to him, the plan will see an end to building of such vessel from outside the country in four years,  to give room for Nigerian indigenous ship building and development (NAN)