The Federal Government has reiterated its readiness to float a new national shipping carrier for the country. Erstwhile national shipping carrier, Nigerian National Shipping Line Limited (NNSL), was liquidated in 1995 following its poor management and inability to remain afloat.
Since then several attempts to float another national shipping carrier have not seen the light of the day as shipping practitioners continue to bemoan losses they are incurring due to absence of a national carrier.
However, the Director General of NIMASA, Mr. Patrick Akpobolokemi, said the federal government has concluded plans to partner the private sector to float a new national shipping carrier.
Akpobolokemi disclosed that at the just concluded national workshop on PPP strategy for infrastructural development and modernization in the Nigerian maritime sector, organised by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) in collaboration with the Infrastructure Concession Regulation Commission (ICRC).
According to him, President Goodluck Jonathan has tasked NIMASA to ensure that the national carrier is brought back during his administration.
The NIMASA boss explained that government is trying to do this by involving a Public Private Partnership (PPP) initiative in order to avoid the pitfalls that led to the liquidation of NNSL over a decade ago.
He said: "When the NNSL was liquidated, it was because it was managed by government, so, in the next six months, working with the private sector, we want our shipping line back. When this comes on board, it solves the challenge of securing sea time for cadets. Right now, we are investing so much in sea time training, but perhaps we may just spend little of this money if we train them locally in addition to wealth creation.
Foreign sea time training is even a source of capital flight. It is uncalled for because it is a very big setback. Therefore we are determined by the grace of God that in the next six months, we want to make sure this national carrier comes back and Mr. President has also told us to work on this national carrier issue to come to stay in his administration." Akpobolokemi tasked members of the Nigerian Ship owners Association (NISA) to mount pressure on the agency on the status of the national carrier project on weekly basis, because according to him, there must be no room for failures. "We cannot afford to disappoint Nigerians", he declared.
Also speaking at the forum, Director General of ICRC, Alhaji Aminu Dikko said the idea to float a national carrier is coming at a time that the dearth of infrastructure development in the country has limited productivity.
According to him, government has always provided infrastructures and funded it, instead of committing private sectors which according to him can easily access loans within and outside Nigeria to facilitate projects.
He explained that ICRC was formed by the federal government to correct these anomalies. "This is coming at a time that lack of adequate infrastructure is seriously limiting the country's productivity, growth and competitiveness," Dikko said.
Chairman, Board of Directors, Oil and Gas Free Zones Authority, Dr. Chris Asoluka, in his remarks as the chairman of the occasion, said that government has finally realised the importance of the private sector in maintaining infrastructure.
"It would appear that government has realised that it does not have the monopoly of ideas and resources, and the PPP arrangement is an invitation to the private sector in terms of idea contribution", he said.
He explained that there will be a buy-in of the private sector because people will understand how decisions are arrived at. According to Asoluka, the secrecy of government will no longer be present and this will bring about confidence in financing.