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Demise of Nigerian-owned Shipping Companies

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Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers
  • Demise of Nigerian-owned Shipping Companies

For several years, shipping has been recognised as one of the catalysts for socio-economic development. Shipping has since the ancient times, been at the fore front of opening up and connecting the world and thus is a major driver in the process of globalisation. Specifically, container shipping has been both a cause and effect of globalisation. Container shipping is believed to be the world’s first truly global industry.

Container shipping could claim to be the industry which, more than any other, makes it possible for truly global economy to work. It connects countries, markets, businesses and people, allowing them to buy and sell on a scale not previously possible. As a matter of fact, it is impossible to imagine world’s trade, and ultimately our lives as consumers, without container shipping. Shipping has led to a phenomenal growth in world merchandise trade, which has consistently grown faster than output.

In 2006, for instance, goods loaded at ports worldwide are estimated at 7.42 billion tonnes, up from 5.98 billion tonnes 2000. The value of total world export increased from $6.454 trillion in 2002 to $40.393 trillion in 2005, representing an increase of 64 per cent. However, the reverse seems to be the case in Nigeria. It is on record that no fewer than 90 per cent of shipping companies owned by Nigerians have either completely shut down their operations or barely struggling to survive.

Some of the indigenous shipping companies include: Equitorial Energy; Oceanic Energy; Morlap Shipping; Peacegate; Pokat Nigeria Limited; Al-Dawood Shipping; Potram Nigeria Limited; Joseph Sammy, Genesis Worldwide Shipping and Multi-trade Group all in Lagos; Niger-Delta Shipping in Warri, Delta State; and Starzs Investment Group in Port-Harcourt, Rivers State.

Of all the companies listed above, only two can be said to be operating viable businesses while others, representing 83 per cent of the companies, are either completely dead or are in comatose.

Ironically, all the shipping companies based in Lagos are either dead or struggling to survive while the ones in Warri and Port-Harcourt are thriving.

The companies, which the General Secretary of the Indigenous Shipowners Association of Nigeria (ISAN), Capt. Niyi Labinjo, described as “struggling heavily”, have mostly downsized and are operating with less than 20 per cent of the workers they had about two years ago.

Findings also revealed that all the companies are heavily indebted to banks and are mostly unable to service the loans they took to buy ships.

Labinjo, who is also the President of Al Dawood Shipping, disclosed that most of the ship owners have resorted to selling their landed properties to enable them service their bank loans, while others have lost prime properties to the banks.

The companies, sources volunteered, also owe their crew arrears of salaries ranging from six to 14 months, while some have sold off their vessels.

Checks also revealed that Genesis Worldwide Shipping, which was once seen as a thriving indigenous shipping company just four years ago, has completely gone under with not a single ship to operate.

The company, at its peak less than five years ago, had six ships.

The same fate has befallen Joseph Sammy Nigeria Limited with one of its staff members describing it as “almost dead.”

The only vessel left in the company’s fleet, MT Kemepade, was stolen recently. The ship was taken to a ship breaking yard in Ghana and the breakers were about to commence work on it before the owners found out. The case is in court in Ghana.

CVFF Fund to the Rescue

Piqued by the spiral effects of the death of indigenous shipping due to lack of funds and unfavourable policies, maritime stakeholders have decried the federal government’s decision to warehouse over $100 million in the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund (CVFF) while its purpose suffers.

Speaking at a breakfast meeting organised by the Shipping Correspondents Association of Nigeria (SCAN) for public relations officers of maritime and related organisations, the Public Relations Officer of the Association on Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Dr. Kayode Farinto, said the problem was due to lack of patriotism.

“Our indigenous ships will continue to die because of the fact that we are not saying the truth. CVFF ought to assist our indigenous ship owners with funds. The CVFF holds nothing less than N70 billion in an escrow account. What happens to that fund,” he said.

Similarly, the Special Adviser on Seafarers Affairs to the President-General of the Maritime Workers’ Union of Nigeria (MWUN), Comrade Henry Odey, said that Nigeria was only able to rescue citizens trapped in Liberia during its civil war because the Nigerian National Shipping Line (NNSL) was still operational.

While stressing that cadets from the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN), Oron are half-baked, the retired sailor recalled that the NNSL, “had a training ship made for cadets, which carried cargo and cadets to give them sea-time.”

Faulting the new trend whereby the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) shuttles from country to country seeking assistance with sea-time training, Odey said: “How would you think that the other countries would like to train your cadets for you to compete with them?

“It is shame on our country because we are doing nothing. Do you think you can go to The Philippines and ask them to train your cadets so that you can compete with them? I worked onboard the British ship, Dempsa, and if you were not a good sailor, nobody would employ you. But today, nobody wants to care.”

On his part, the publisher of maritime daily, Ships and Ports, and Chairman, Board of Trustees of SCAN, Mr. Bolaji Akinola, noted that “indigenous shipping is dead.”

He blamed the situation on NIMASA, which he said, has lost focus on shipping development.
Akinola noted that NIMASA was now a money-making agency as its three per cent freight levy on ships has made it a big attraction for political appointments, adding that while CVFF grows in idle billions of naira in escrow account, MAN Oron continues to churn out ill-trained and ill-qualified cadets.

According to him, no fewer than 6,000 of those cadets are today stuck with their National Diploma programme because they could not get the required one year sea-time training to proceed for Higher National Diploma.

NIMASA to Disburse CVFF Fund

However, the Director General of NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Peterside has assured Nigerian ship owners that the agency is making frantic efforts to disburse the CVFF in line with set down regulations.

Peterside said the fund is with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) due to the Treasury Single Account (TSA) policy.

He said that in line with its cargo support initiative for indigenous practitioners, the agency is already getting the support of the presidency to change the Nigerian terms of trade from Free-on-Board (FOB) to Cost Insurance and Freight (CIF).

But he lamented that many Nigerian ship owners are not ready to take advantage of the opportunity when it finally arrives.

Peterside identified lack of debt facility from Nigerian banks and high interest rates as major challenge confronting Nigerian ship owners. He stated that NIMASA was ready to crash the interest rate in order to allow Nigerian ship owners compete favourably against their international counterparts.

According to him, “We are determined to disburse CVFF according to the law and according to regulation. We are dedicated, we are committed and we are passionate about disbursing it. We would match the CVFF fund with some money coming from the financial institutions, this will crash the rate of borrowing, and that is why we are passionate about disbursing CVFF to bring our own funds to come almost at the cost of nothing and match it with their own fund coming at the rate of 25 per cent, the first thing that would happen is that the rate would crash from 25 per cent to a one digit interest rate. CVFF is lying at the CBN under TSA arrangement, we are working hard to disburse it, and it is over a hundred million dollars.

“We are in talks with the CBN. We want to change the terms of trade from FOB to CIF, but how many persons are prepared for this regime? If we get NNPC to change the terms of trade and we are getting the support of the presidency, if we get it changed, how many of us are ready?”

Peterside said that the NISFCOE is apt because it would enable NIMASA meet critical private sector investors who would translate its vision.

According to him, NIMASA depends on private sector energy to set frame work and it is ready to partner anybody that has concepts that can change its story.

Also a former Director General of NIMASA, Temi Omatseye said that the Minister of Transport needs to be properly guided on how to draw attention of financial institutions to benefits of supporting shipping trade in Nigeria.

He said changing the terms of trade from FOB to CIF would only require a presidential order.

On her part, a ship owner and former President of Trawler Owners Association, Mrs. Margaret Orakwusi said it is wrong for government to keep holding on to the CVFF fund. Rather, she advocates that the fund be used as seed money to set up a maritime bank.

According to her, “CVFF does not belong to the federal government. It is our money, the government is only to monitor it, but they are now squeezing life out of us.”

Is the CEO/Founder of Investors King Limited. A proven foreign exchange research analyst and a published author on Yahoo Finance, Businessinsider, Nasdaq, Entrepreneur.com, Investorplace, and many more. He has over two decades of experience in global financial markets.

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Crude Oil

Oil Prices Steady Ahead of Crucial OPEC+ Meeting on Output Cuts

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Crude Oil - Investors King

Oil prices stabilized in Asian trading on Monday as markets turned their attention to an upcoming OPEC+ meeting, where producers are expected to discuss maintaining voluntary output cuts for the remainder of the year.

This critical meeting, scheduled for June 2, will be held online following a brief postponement, OPEC announced last Friday.

The Brent crude oil, against which Nigerian crude oil is priced, stood at $82.36 a barrel, while the U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil rose by 28 cents to $78 per barrel.

The stabilization in prices comes after a week of declines with Brent ending last week about 2% lower and WTI losing nearly 3%.

This downturn was influenced by minutes from the Federal Reserve’s recent meeting, revealing that some officials are open to further tightening interest rates if deemed necessary to control persistent inflation.

Market activity is expected to be relatively subdued on Monday due to public holidays in the United States and the United Kingdom.

However, anticipation is building around the OPEC+ meeting, where producers will deliberate on extending the current voluntary output cuts of 2.2 million barrels per day into the second half of the year. Sources within OPEC+ suggest that an extension is likely.

Sugandha Sachdeva, founder of Delhi-based research firm SS WealthStreet, expressed confidence in the potential extension, stating, “Oil futures are expected to maintain today’s gains due to expectations of the cuts being extended.”

She also highlighted the influence of upcoming U.S. Producer Price Index (PPI) data on market movements, which will shape the Federal Reserve’s approach to potential rate adjustments.

Combined with an additional 3.66 million barrels per day of production cuts valid through the end of the year, these measures account for nearly 6% of global oil demand.

OPEC remains optimistic about continued growth in oil demand, forecasting an increase of 2.25 million barrels per day for the year, while the International Energy Agency (IEA) anticipates slower growth of 1.2 million barrels per day.

Analysts at ANZ noted that they will be closely monitoring gasoline usage as the Northern Hemisphere enters summer, a peak season for driving holidays.

They commented, “While U.S. holiday trips are expected to hit a post-COVID high, improved fuel efficiency and EVs could see oil demand remain soft,” but added that this could be offset by rising air travel.

This week’s market dynamics will also be influenced by the U.S. personal consumption expenditures (PCE) index, due to be released on May 31.

The PCE index is regarded as the Federal Reserve’s preferred measure of inflation, and its findings could provide further indications of the central bank’s interest rate policies.

In a related development, Goldman Sachs has revised its forecast for 2030 oil demand upwards to 108.5 million barrels per day from the previous 106 million barrels per day.

The investment bank also projects peak oil demand to occur by 2034 at 110 million barrels per day, followed by a prolonged plateau until 2040.

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Nigeria’s Oil Sector Sees $16.6bn Investment Boost, Plans $20bn Expansion

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Steel sector

Minister of State for Petroleum Resources (Oil), Heineken Lokpobiri, announced on Monday that approximately $16.6 billion in investments have been committed over the past year.

This significant influx of capital marks a period of rejuvenation for the oil sector following years of stagnation caused by policy inconsistencies and the delayed passage of the Petroleum Industry Act.

Lokpobiri shared these updates during a briefing in Abuja, where he highlighted the achievements in the oil sector since President Bola Tinubu assumed office on May 29, 2023.

The minister emphasized that the government’s efforts to create a more investment-friendly environment have paid off, attracting substantial foreign and domestic investments.

Rekindling Investor Confidence

“One of our main objectives has been to create an environment where investments can thrive,” Lokpobiri stated. “Today, I am pleased to announce that our efforts have rekindled investor confidence in the sector.”

He pointed to notable investments, including $5 billion and $10 billion commitments in deepwater offshore assets, and a $1.6 billion investment in oil and gas asset acquisition.

The surge in investments is attributed to a series of roadshows in the United States and Europe, which successfully showcased Nigeria’s potential and the government’s commitment to sectoral reforms.

This renewed global interest is also evident in the ongoing bid rounds for new assets.

Production Increase and Strategic Initiatives

A significant achievement since President Tinubu took office is the increase in crude oil production.

“When we took office, production was at approximately 1.1 million barrels per day, including condensates,” Lokpobiri reported. “Today, I am proud to report that we have increased our production to approximately 1.7 million barrels per day, inclusive of condensates.”

To achieve this increase, the government has undertaken several strategic initiatives.

These include revamping redundant oil assets, continuous engagement with international oil companies, and resolving industry disputes.

Efforts to protect critical assets and reduce oil theft have also been intensified, with collaborations between private security firms and government agencies leading to a sharp decline in crude oil theft.

Upcoming $20bn Expansion Deal

In addition to the recent investments, Lokpobiri revealed that the Federal Government is on the verge of finalizing a $20 billion deal aimed at further boosting oil and gas production.

During a meeting with Olivier Le Peuch, CEO of Schlumberger Limited, Lokpobiri disclosed that negotiations with major investors are nearing completion. “Investments of over $20 billion are coming. One company alone will invest $10 billion,” he noted.

This deal, once consummated, will represent one of the largest single investments in Nigeria’s oil sector in recent history, promising to significantly enhance the country’s production capacity and economic growth.

Ongoing and Future Projects

Lokpobiri also highlighted the commencement of production from Oil Mining Leases (OMLs) 13 and 85, managed by Sterling Exploration and First E&P respectively.

These projects are expected to produce an average of 20,000 and 40,000 barrels per day, further bolstering Nigeria’s output.

This period of renewed investment and increased production is a testament to the government’s commitment to optimizing the nation’s oil and gas assets.

President Tinubu’s administration aims to sustain this momentum, ensuring continued growth and stability in the sector.

Government Transparency and Accountability

In line with President Tinubu’s directive for transparency, all ministers have been tasked with presenting their performance reports to the public.

The Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, announced that the first-anniversary celebrations will include sectoral media briefings by the 47 federal ministers, starting on Thursday.

These briefings are designed to keep Nigerians informed about the government’s achievements and ongoing initiatives.

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Oil Prices Stable Amid Federal Reserve’s Talk of Interest Rate Tightening

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Crude oil - Investors King

In a landscape where global oil markets often sway with the slightest economic shifts, stability can be a rare commodity.

However, amidst discussions from the U.S. Federal Reserve regarding potential interest rate adjustments, oil prices have remained surprisingly steady.

Brent crude oil, against which Nigerian oil is priced, gained 10 cents, or 0.1% rise to $82.00 a barrel, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil edged up 7 cents to $77.64 a barrel.

The Federal Reserve’s release of minutes from its recent policy meeting unveiled deliberations on the possibility of raising interest rates to combat persistent inflationary pressures.

The minutes stated, “Various participants mentioned a willingness to tighten policy further should risks to inflation materialize in a way that such an action became appropriate.”

Such discussions surrounding interest rates can have a profound impact on oil demand. Higher interest rates typically result in increased borrowing costs, potentially constraining funds that could otherwise stimulate economic growth and, consequently, oil consumption—particularly in the United States, the world’s largest oil-consuming nation.

Additionally, the Energy Information Administration’s report indicating a 1.8 million barrel rise in U.S. crude stocks last week, as opposed to an anticipated draw of 2.5 million barrels, added a layer of complexity to the market dynamics.

This unexpected increase in inventory weighed on market sentiment, despite ongoing efforts to balance supply and demand.

Furthermore, global physical crude markets have been grappling with subdued refinery demand and abundant supply, exacerbating the pressure on oil prices.

Analysts from Citi highlighted recent market softness, attributing it to weaker data encompassing rising oil inventories, tepid demand, and refinery margin weakness, compounded by the looming risk of production cuts.

Russia’s announcement that it surpassed its OPEC+ production quota in April due to “technical reasons” added another dimension to the market narrative.

The Russian Energy Ministry revealed plans to present a compensation strategy to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) Secretariat shortly.

Against this backdrop, anticipation mounts ahead of the OPEC+ meeting scheduled for June 1, where crucial decisions regarding production cut levels will be deliberated.

Despite uncertainties surrounding the meeting’s outcome, industry experts foresee challenges in significantly tightening the market in the near term, potentially leading to a rollover of existing voluntary cuts.

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