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Indigenous Shipowner decries operational challenges, calls for Govt support

 An indigenous shipowner, Mr Osita Onumonu,
has cried out over the challenges facing indigenous shipowners, which he said
had made it difficult for them to partake in the coastal trade.

Speaking at a News conference in Lagos,
Onumonu said the situation had degenerated because the government had failed to
ensure full implementation of the Cargo Vessel Financing Funds (CVFF).

“Shipowners have not been able to access the
CVFF, which is supposed to assist in vessel acquisition.

“If the funds were available to the
indigenous shipowners, it would have helped in job creation.
“My application for some of the fund from the authorities failed because the
bank said there was no sufficient fund when I went there,” Onumonu said.

The shipowner described the indigenous
players in the sector as ‘endangered species’ due to lack of jobs to run and
sustain their business.

“We are an endangered species because even
when you have a vessel, you are not able to get jobs when you do not have
someone to influence the job.”

He, therefore, called on the government to
ensure that the indigenous shipowners get fully engaged in the coastal trade to
enable them achieve the goal of shipping development and job creation.

He lamented his ordeal of vessel arrest for
over 18 months now by the Nigerian Navy.

He said his vessel, MT Sapphire1, was arrested on Feb. 18, 2014, while in a
Ship to Ship transfer operation of AGO, having obtained all necessary clearance
as a registered shipowner.

He said that while the operation was on, the
vessel also had its Automatic Identification System (AIS) on to ensure quick
security alert against any pirate attack.

According to him, when the attack
unfortunately happened, the Navy came in, but ended up arresting the vessel and
its crew for investigations.

Onumonu however lamented that after clearance
by the Civil Defense Corps, the Navy still held the vessel in its custody,
where subsequently, the vessel lost all the 1.8million litres of AGO it had.

He said his greatest challenge at present
remained how to get back his vessel, which should be active in trading or
charter to sustain his business.

Onumonu commended the choice of Mr Calistus
Obi as Acting Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and
Safety Agency (NIMASA) owing to his experience in the maritime industry.

He said that having such experienced persons
to handle the affairs if the agency would benefit the industry.

Onumonu, however, noted that even if
government would opt to appoint another person in that position, an experienced
hand in the industry would pay off.

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