CBN should enforce maritime desk in banks

CBN should enforce maritime desk in banks


CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele

By Bukola Lawal

Now that we envisage the removal of waiver clause in the Coastal and Inland Shipping (Cabotage) Act Amendment Bill, it is important that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) enforces creation of Maritime Desk in all commercial banks in the country. The Cabotage Act is the Bill that reserve commercial transport of goods and passengers within Nigerian coastal and inland waters for vessels wholly owned, manned and built as well as registered in Nigeria by Nigerians.

Conversely, the waiver clause not only allows foreigners to partake but seems to have allowed foreigners to dominate the shipping trade. This has been repeatedly bemoaned by the Industry players as a major defect of the Bill, militating against indigenous shipping growth.

A new development emerged as the Government announced cessation of the grant of the waiver for five years and it must be sustained. Nevertheless, this is still below stakeholders’ expectation of total removal which should be enforced at the expiration of the cessation period. It is alarming that only with this proclamation, 33 percent cabotage vessels registration has already been recorded by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency saddled with the responsibility. And here comes a cautionary question – what are the plans to sustain the development?

To support shipping activities, especially on the aspect of vessel acquisition and ship building and repair yard, financing and refinance among others are germane. As such, Financial Institutions have major roles to play with a robust relationship with the stakeholders. I recalled the agitation for a creation of Maritime Bank by the Industry Stakeholders years ago to seek effective service delivery from the commercial bank on shipping related requests and to fostering indigenous capacity. The great effort only brought about skeletal operations to handle marine related request within some commercial banks.

Based on the Industry need; it is high time for the apex bank enforced the creation of maritime desk within all commercial banks. This will enable Financial Institutions to effectively handle envisioned upsurge request sequel to removal of the waiver clause in the Cabotage Act. To that effect, building the capacity of the bank officials who will be designated to man the desk is a function of the accredited maritime institutions.
It is therefore, on this premise that qualitative education and technical skills of this category of stakeholders would be assured. Banking experience alone is not enough to deliver.

You can see how elements of development intertwine. An important thing to note is that the Industry is supported by the well structured Training Institutes like Nigerian Maritime Academy, Oron in Akwa Ibom State, Institute of Shipbrokers, Chartered Institute Logistics and Transport, Universities domiciled with Maritime Department and a host of others who are expected to address the training need.

Let me congratulate the littoral states for this development which is capable of unlocking the hidden potentials that abound in the states through the waters. The multiplier effects will surely involve the landlocked states and neighbouring countries as well. However, understanding the fundamentals of the Nigerian maritime industry should be in a front-burner.

Thus far, I cannot imagine a maritime country like ours; naturally endowed, geographically located and blessed with a large resources base of waterways spanning 10,000 kilometers and about 3,800 kilometers navigable with 853Km long coastline from the Atlantic Ocean running through seven southern states of the Federation. Alas!! She is still struggling to take advantage of her maritime potentials.

Therefore, the Government through her concerned Agencies should critically x-ray the guiding principle on commercial, operational and regulatory aspects with regards to contemporary issues in shipping development and to commercialize all the activities in the water to boost revenue and improve contribution of the sector to National economic growth.

The apex bank, while structuring a credit facility scheme to support the shipping sector, single digit should be considered as foreign operators were encouraged by their various countries with access to single-digit interest rate fund to take advantage over the indigenous operators. Even at that, I advise the indigenous operators not to be too eager in signing credit facility without detailed understanding in order to steer clear of avoidable consequences.

Indeed, the Indigenous Ship owners have been coming together to articulate their needs, what their operations require and at a time, I initiated “A Gap Analysis”— a proposal to identify challenges of the shipping sector. In the same vein, other stakeholders like Credit Officers and Risk Analysts, Maritime Desk Officers, Government Agencies, Ports Terminal Operators, Oil and Gas companies, Lawyers, Charterers, importers and exporters, Marine claims consultants and Insurance Companies and Underwriters, Freight Forwarders, Clearing Agents, Manufacturers, to mention but few, should not be left out in the discourse towards sustaining this new development.

Bukola Lawal,
Former – Acting Director General, Nigerian Chamber of Shipping.

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