The Federal Government in the time past, created various intervention funds to aid the acquisition of ships by Nigerians. These intervention funds were necessary since Nigerian banks had been incapable of providing effective financing, while those banks that were able, had been reluctant because of perceived notion that such loan facilities might be difficult to recover as most vessels owned by Nigerians are idle on the seas.
In the 1980s and 1990s, government, through the defunct National Maritime Authority (NMA), created the Ship Acquisition and Ship Building Fund (SASBF).
While a few number of genuine ship owners benefited from the SASBF and bought ships, albeit old and rusty, several politicians, briefcase ship owners and cronies of the then military junta also dipped their hands into the fund and diverted the money to other uses.
Suffice it to say that the fund was suspended in the late 1990s and many of those who borrowed from the fund also refused to pay back to government.
Recognising that the need to empower Nigerian ship owners and support them in buying vessels so that they can compete in the global maritime business cannot be compromised, government introduced the Cabotage Vessels Finance Fund(CVFF) as an appendage of the Cabotage Act. Guidelines for the implementation of the CVFF were launched in 2006.
As at the last count, the CVFF had over 100 million dollars in its kitty awaiting disbursement.
The difference between the administration of the CVFF and past intervention funds such as the SASBF is that whereas the SASBF was disbursed directly by government through the maritime administration, CVFF will be administered through four select banks as PLIs.
Under the new arrangement, Nigerian Maritime Adminisration And Safety Agency(NIMASA) acts as the approving authority and guarantor for the beneficiaries, while the PLIs are responsible for granting loans and recovering same.
For over two years, operators have been clamouring for the disbursement of the fund and we hope this will make a whole lot of difference to indigenous shipping in Nigeria.
For no reason should anyone who has no business with shipping be allowed to access the fund, while effective monitoring system must be put in place to monitor the activities of loan beneficiaries and ensure timely recovery of all loans granted.