Amaechi Unfolds Plans to Float New National Shipping Line

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John Iwori

The Minister of Transport, Mr. Chibuike Amaechi, has unfolded the Federal Government’s plan to float a new national shipping line.

Amaechi who spoke at a Maritime Technical Summit in Lagos, explained that the new national carrier of ocean-going vessels would not be funded via the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF).

He disclosed that he would be holding a meeting next week with some experts in maritime industry and ship owners to arrive at decisions on establishing the national carrier.

As a result of government interference and mismanagement, Nigeria’s national shipping carrier, Nigerian National Shipping Line (NNSL) Limited established in the late 1970s was grounded. It was succeeded by the National Unity Line (NUL) which also lasted only a few years and had since collapsed.

Ameachi stated this while speaking at a maritime technical summit organised by the Association of Marine Engineers and Surveyors (AMES) in Lagos. At the summit which attracted stakeholders in the maritime industry, he reiterated the federal government’s determination to float a new national shipping line as part of efforts to develop the shipping sector.

Against the insinuations in some quarters that the billions of naira which had accrued into the Fund (CVFF) would be used to acquire the national carrier, Amaechi said the present drive to set up a national shipping carrier would be based on a partnership with private investors.
The minister restated the need for a performance audit of agencies in the sector to ascertain what the challenges are with a view to addressing them with input from experts.

His words: “I am determined to ensure that we get a new carrier and I will not disburse Cabotage fund for that. By next week, I will be meeting with some experts and ship-owners and make decisions on establishing the national carrier. We will also create a group that will move it forward.

“The performance audit will tell you how to move the industry forward. It makes you know what the problems are and make possible suggestions on how to move forward. Even when the performance audit is over, I will not make those decisions alone, I will try and meet experts in the industry and we will share these views with them.”
Amaechi also spoke on the need to upgrade the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN) Oron to strengthen its capacity to produce skilled manpower for the sector, and pointed out that the academy would have been well equipped and developed by now if the fund invested to establish the Maritime University, Okerenkoko had been put into it.

“Anybody who has invested in Okerenkoko should have invested the money in MAN Oron. That is why the institution has not developed. We cannot continue to build another institution when we have not equipped existing ones.”
President of AMES, Charles Uwadia had earlier in his remarks called for a holistic review of the maritime sector human capacity development. Uwadia said the failure of the sector was due to lack of in-depth technical input in maritime policies and their implementation in line with international best practice.

He added that the decline in standard, quality and profitability of the ships of Nigerian flag was as a result of their poor technical standards occasioned by the owner’s reluctance to comply with national and international standards and regulations.

Former Alternate Permanent Representative to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), Mr. Olu Akinsoji in his presentation said individuals with specialised knowledge especially in human capacity development are required to ensure policy formulation and implementation to move the sector forward.
Akinsoji explained that most of the challenges faced in the sector are due to the deficit of human capacity development, which according to him must be looked into before establishing a new national carrier.