Hassan Bello

As part of measures towards the realisation of its desire to re-float a National Carrier in the country, the Federal Government is concluding plans to appoint a transaction adviser that would midwife the final process of establishment of the new shipping line.

This is sequel to the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding MoU, with Pacific International Lines PIL, a Singapore-based international shipping line, which takes 40 per cent equity in the new shipping line while Nigerian investors take 60 per cent.

Minister of Transport, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi had on assumption of duty constituted a committee comprising both public and private sector operators charged with the responsibility of working out the framework for the establishment of the new National Carrier, which is headed by Barrister Hassan Bello, Executive Secretary/CEO of the Nigerian Shippers Council.

Bello, while speaking in an interview, disclosed that with the signing of the MoU with the PIL and emergence of the Nigerian investors, the government is at the verge of appointing a transaction adviser, who would take over the job from the committee, having formulated the framework.

According to him, the transaction adviser, which is a professional body made up of experienced people, especially in transactions such as this in marketing the prospective investors and would be expected to provide a linkage between the technical partners, other investors and the financial institutions.

He noted that when this is done, the private sector operators would take it from there since the venture is designed to be private sector-led while the government plays the role of a catalyst, an enabler by providing the necessary environment for the business to thrive and blossom.

“You can agree with me that the business is a viable one. We have been able to arouse the interest and consciousness of the private sector operators and hopefully, they will take it to the next stage with the support of the government”, Bello said.

The NSC-boss also disclosed that the Federal Government is working on several incentives that would make any investment in the new shipping line worth the while to encourage the prospective investors and any other one that might want to invest in the country.

It was further gathered that when the company fully takes off with certain number of vessels that would fly the Nigerian flag, the shipping line with be granted a National Carrier Status, which also comes with so many incentives.

Bello said: “When the company takes off and has acquired up to four or five vessels, which would naturally fly Nigeria’s flag, the Federal Government would grant it a National Carrier status, which will give it access to priority berthing at the Nigerian Ports Authority, tax holiday moratorium and many other incentives that would attract more investments”.

On the argument in some quarters that Nigerian investors should have been given 70 per cent equity in the new shipping line and 30 per cent given to the PIL investors, Bello said that it was even difficult getting Nigerian ship owners to pick the 60 per cent, arguing that it would have been more difficult marketing 70 per cent them, a development that might further delay the entire process.

He disclosed that a lot of people showed interest when they heard that the government was re-floating the national carrier but completely lost interest when they heard that the government would not commit any kobo to the venture, as it is strictly designed to be private sector-driven.

The Federal Government had following the demise of the Nigerian National Shipping Line NNSL, the nation’s former National Carrier, which was 100 per cent owned and funded by the government swore not to engage in such business but rather provide the enabling environment for private operators to do that.

Stakeholders believe that the demise of the former National Carrier was totally cost by government’s over-bearing influence on the company in the appointment of the management team, most of which was done on the basis of political patronage, mismanagement of the resources as well as using the ships, which ought to run profitably as avenue to favour friends and family members, as some consignments were carried free of charge.