- Ship Import Dips to N319b on Forex Scarcity
Importation of vessels to Nigeria has dropped from N774billion ($2.15billion) in the last two years to N319 billion ($885.9million) due to scarcity of foreign exchange (forex).
It was learnt that the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN’s) forex policy has made it difficult to get more vessels into the country from China, United States (U.S.) and South Korea since last year.
Already, the government has reviewed import duties on luxury yachts, boats, tug boats, oil platforms, bulkers and barges from 20 per cent to 70 per cent of the value of the vessels.
Also, it was revealed that lack of forex has made it difficult to import spare parts, which could be used to maintain the old ones rusting on the sea.
Before the forex challenge, the country imported some vessels worth $2.04 billion from the Republic of Korea between 2013 and 2014.
Also, $266.6million worth of vessels were imported from U.S; $405.9million from China; $108million from Netherlands; and $19.45million from Turkey. Also, $28.49million ship were imported France; $14.04million from Indonesia; $12.56million from Romania; $23.4million from Singapore and $17.27million from the United Kingdom.
Investigation revealed that some of the vessels, which were acquired for cabotage, are idle on the Nigerian waters as coastal shipping is now exclusively in the hands of Indians, Greeks and Lebanese.
It was gathered that foreign shipping lines still dominate the country’s coastal trade, while their local counterparts, that acquired loans to purchase vessels had gone bankrupt.
Nigerian Ship Owners Association of Nigeria (NISA) President, Captain Niyi Labinjo, said the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) had been reluctant to give the Nigerian shipping companies jobs because their ships were too old to safely transport petroleum products to and from larger tankers offshore.
He lamented that some of his ships have been idleas long as nine months without a job.
Labinjo said: “As the sixth largest oil producing and exporting country, with proven crude oil reserves at 37,070 million barrels; and proven natural gas reserves at 5.111 billion cubic metre, coastal shipping is exclusively in the hands of Indians, Greeks and Lebanese. Nigerians are completely out of it.
“Officials of NNPC give many excuses. They say, ‘your ships are leaking’. When it isn’t leaking, they will say, ‘your papers aren’t complete; you don’t have insurance’. When you have everything, ‘your ship is first class, your ship is insured’; they will tell you don’t have enough bollards.”
He stressed that some of the vessels, which could not work in Europe and Asia, where stiff enforcement of regulation of cabotage trade are found, find their way into Nigeria to do business.
“This can be calculated. Nigerians import about 1.8 billion litres of petroleum products every month and that gives you N5.4 billion every month, so, that is what Nigeria is losing monthly,’’ he added.