A Nigerian flagged vessel

Strong indications emerged that the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency NIMASA, and the Bureau of Public Enterprise BPE, may collaborate in the proposed refloating of the defunct Nigeria Unity Line NUL.

The NUL, was established following the liquidation of the Nigerian National Shipping Line NNSL, the nation’s former national carrier in 1995 when it became insolvent by the military junta of late General Sani Abacha with only one vessel, MV Abuja, which used to be a training vessel for Nigerian cadets, also went under as a result of poor management, nepotism, corruption and incompetence of the management.

Director General of NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, who gave this indication when he played host to the Director General of the BPE, Alex Okoh at the Burma Road Apapa, headquarters of NIMASA, said the agency was willing to partner the Bureau to refloat the defunct National Shipping Line.

According to the NIMASA-boss, the growth trajectory of any nation especially as it relates to seaborne commerce to a very extent is defined by its tonnage capacity, a development that makes the refloating the demised National Shipping Line necessary.

“The greatest asset in the maritime space is the vessel itself and if there are no vessels, one cannot be a major player. You can only be a major player in name, but in reality you will not get maximum benefits from trade”, the DG said.

Peterside also argued that the only way to guarantee the efficiency and effectiveness of shipping, which will add value to the economy, is through the involvement of the private sector.

It was however gathered that the Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi has initiated a process whereby people from the private sector will pull resources together to float a National Fleet, facilitated by the Ministry and NIMASA. The process which expected to enhance the Nigerian Flag is still ongoing.

Investigations further showed that the Ministry appointed a National Fleet Implementation Committee, headed by the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, Barrister Hassan Bello, who is also working closely with the agency to realise this aspiration.

The DG said: “The emphasis of the Federal Ministry of Transport is to drive a process where we will refloat the National Fleet, this time with the core investors that will own 49 per cent of the equity, whereas, Nigerian ship owners will own 51 per cent of the shares of the firm and the firm will also be given the National Career Status. We are looking at different models, hence the importance of this engagement, so that we can review what has happened over time and choose the best model”.

Meanwhile, the DG of the BPE, while speaking during the visit, commended the strides of the Dr. Peterside’s led management of NIMASA in repositioning the maritime industry, saying that the BPE, as the agency of the Federal Government responsible for sector reforms and enterprise reforms would partner NIMASA in its bid to reposition the industry. He also emphasised that businesses are better managed by the private sector and that government has very little to do in business apart from creating an enabling environment for businesses to strive.

“BPE will be willing to partner NIMASA in its quest to revive the National Unity Line in collaboration with the private sector.“We have looked at the Nigeria Unity Line and the only tangible asset they have is operating license. The license confers on the enterprise certain privileges, deriving from the Cabotage Act and also from the Local Content policy. This can be the foundation for the building block of a virile shipping business in Nigeria”, he said.

He therefore called on the Agency to take a common position with the Bureau in realising the privatisation mandate, which will be forwarded to the National Council on Privatisation as the strategic way forward for handling this particular enterprise.

Recall that as part of NIMASA’s commitment to ensuring a robust maritime industry, it has continuously worked closely with the Ministry of Transport, which has been at the forefront of championing the revitalisation of the National Shipping Line through private sector participation.