By Stephen Ubanna
The 360 members of the Nigerian Licensed Ship Chandlers Association, NLSCA, are no longer finding it funny being in the business. This is because foreign Ship Chandlers with the support of the Nigeria Collaborators in government had taken over their jobs of providing visual services and supplies of ship food store that could take a shipto sail from any of the Nigerian ports to their base in Europe, North America and the Asia country of China.
There is no gain saying the fact that there are about eight seaports, 120 private Creeks and an where ships sail to discharge their cargoes in Nigeria and an additional eight oil terminals and rigs in the Niger Delta region in which oil tankers that call at to carry their cargoes.
Chukwuemeka Martins Enebeli , the National President of the Association and Coordinator of the Local Content Shipping Group of the Nigeria Chambers of Commerce , Industry and Agriculture, NACIMA, lamented that the ships are serviced by foreign Ship Chandlers , leaving out members of the Association in the cool. He confirmed that there are about 12,000 to 15,00 ships that call at the nation’s ports yearly.
Given an insider information, he disclosed that the country is losing about $10 billion yearly on the Upstream sector of the nation’s oil industry as a result of the domination of the foreign Ship Chandlers . . He confirmed that there are less than 1 percent of Nigerians participation the sector which was not good enough for the country that could boost of over 300 qualified Chandlers that could compete witheir foreign counterparts any day. The argument of some of the foreign Ship Masters and the Engineers and was that Nigerians do not have the required manpower to provide the supplies and services for the smooth sail of their vessels, a source said.
Going by the findings of the Administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, his government had conceptualized the Ship the local content Management Board to protect Nigeria Ship Chandlers. The government was said to have given the Board the mandate to ensure that 95 percent of Ship supplies, services and visuals are handled by Nigerians i in the nation’s maritime sector but the services are still being provided by foreigners to the exclusion of Nigerians.
An angry Enebeli said the Ships that call at the nation’s ports had no reason to exclude Nigeria Chandlers from providing their services because Nigeria importers had paid the rate before sailing to Nigeria.
Investigation by the Magazine shows that it cost between $6million and $10 million for a ship to sail to Nigeria with cargo and discharge at any of the country’s seaports. It is not surprising why most of the vessels that called at the nation’s seaports are ready to sail back empty to their base. the worries of NLSCA, was that the cargo being freighted to Nigeria ports are meant for the Nigeria market but the Ship Chandlers overseas take the Ships requirements from their own country.
the Association leadership are optimistic that if Nigerians were made to take over the provision of these auxiliary services on ships sailing to the nation’s seaports currently being handled by the foreign ship chandlers, the country would record a gross turnover of about $15 billion from the business yearly.
given an insider information, Enebeli, he NLSCA president disclosed that their problem started in 1987, with the establishment of Nigeria Maritime Authority, NMA, , now baptized the Nigeria Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, by the then Military President, General Ibrahim Babangida. The agency was ostensibly set up to regulate the nation’s maritime sector. He stressed that the agency had failed to protect Nigerian Ship Chandlers as expected in the law setting up.
He noted that what the officials of the agency are interested about was the collection of the 3 percent levy on ships that call at the nation’s ports . This is in addition to the undisclosed amount collected from the shipssea protection levy on vessels sailing to Nigeria ports.
He challenged Dakuku Peterside, the Director General, NIMASA, to go into the agency financial records and tell the country how much interest had accrued from the 3 percent levy on ships as the sea protection levy .
He confirmed that past and present Director Generals of the agency had failed woefully from implementing its regulatory role of protecting the nation’s maritime sector but laid much emphasize on the award of Contracts to political Cronies, globe- trotting, training and retraining of staff both within and outside the country which runs into millions of dollar yearly. He said NIMASA has the wherewithal to support the indigenous shipping Companies to encourage them. This is because many of them had lost their ships to their oversea suppliers as they could not pay, thus making nonsense of the Cabotage Act.
The scrapping of the Building and Ship Acquisition Fund, SBSAF, by former Head of State, late General Sani Abacha because of its abuse by those who collected loan from the fund gave an insight to the level of decay in the agency.
Notwithstanding the ineffectiveness of NIMASA to protect the interest of Nigeria ship chandlers, Enebeli said members problem became worse in 2006 with the Concession of the country seaports by former President Olusegun Obasanjo as many of them were barred from entering the ports, let alone providing services to ships that call at these ports by the terminal operators. The most guilty , according to him, wa Port Multi-services Terminal Limited, one of the terminal operators at Tin-can Island port.
It was learnt officials of the terminal ensured that Nigeria Chandlers had no access to the terminal to avoid coming into contacts with the Ship master or Engineer who might want to need their services and pay cash or give out contract for ship store supplies to any of them.
He recalled that when the Nigeria Ports Authority, NPA, was in total control of the movement of ships that call at the nation’s ports, they got jobs to service the foreign ships , stating that there was no moment of idleness by members
He stated further that the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, also ensure that they were given jobs by ships calling a t the portsbecause the Customs and Excise Management Act , CEMA, of 1958 was clear on the use of Nigeria Ship Chandlers by vessels calling at the seaports. He said Customs Authorities gave approval to Nigeria Chandlers to attend to vessel needs as they did their jobs effectively.
The Magazine was informed that only those who were qualified were assigned to attend to ships at Apapa, Tin-can Island and Port Harcourt Area 1, and Calabar ports.
Perhaps to restore the dignity of Nigeria Chandlers, Enebeli and his group had suggested the need for President Muhammadu Buhari to give an Executive Order to Rotimi Amaechi, Minister of Transport to put in place a standing Committee to regulate the nation’s maritime sector as NIMASA had failed to create enabling environment for the business to thrive. The Group said that any thought of setting up an adhoc- Committee to look into their case would be a waste of time and funds because of past experience.