Ship owners and major stakeholders in the maritime industry have applauded the federal government’s plan to ban the importation of foreign built vessels into Nigeria, in its bid to promote ship-building in the country.

The stakeholders described the move as the maritime industry’s boldest policy till date.

The stakeholders stated this in reaction to the 15-man committee set up by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), to facilitate foreign direct investment (FDI) in Nigeria for ship building and repairs by foreign ship building, repair yards.

The NIMASA committee will oversee the implementation of NIMASA’s five-year strategic plan for the cessation of grant of cabotage waiver.

Foremost shipping mogul, Greg Ogbeifun, hailed the move but warned that government’s sincerity would soon be proved, when it comes to policy implementation stage.

“I was away when I heard about the federal government’s announcement through NIMASA, of the phased plan to gradually stop the importation of foreign built vessels into the country.

“For me, it is probably the boldest policy statement that has been made in the industry, with respect to genuinely wanting to grow in-country capacity, in the area of ship building: especially, home-grown ship building industry.

“The government has come out with that statement and it very commendable and bold. But, we have to understand that it behoves on every one of us to make that happen. Primarily, it behoves on the people who acquire ships from abroad to see this as a positive step towards investing in this country, for this country, for the people of this country, for our economy; and when we talk about this, everybody wants to talk about the ship owners,” he said.

He added: “Who are the ship owners? You can think of a company like Starsz, you can think of the company like Marine Platform and many others, but don’t forget that NIMASA is a ship owner, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) is a ship owner. So, the ship owners we are talking about are both in public and private sectors.

“Therefore, we have to come together to understand, that this policy that the Government has come out with, laudable as it is, will affect even the government, because the government through NPA is one the biggest buyers of ships in the country.

“Government cannot come out with that policy and tomorrow you hear that NIMASA is now ordering for patrol vessels and security patrol vessels from Damen Shipyard or wherever; or that the Nigeria Ports Authority, who as you know, a few months ago, brought in new tug boats built by Damen, will also go back to Damen to still bring in ships from abroad when they have made such a policy statement.

“So, when I read it; I said: this is great! This is because, initially, everybody will first look at the international oil companies (IOCs), who are the main employers of vessels, particularly upstream and thinking: ‘Waow! What are the Totals and the Exxon Mobil or Shell of this world going to do, now that this policy has come out?!’

“So, it is a laudable, bold policy; but the implementation is what all of us have to be ready, to contribute to. It is not going to be left only for the government; neither to the IOCs, nor for the ship owners!” he highlights, saying the implementation must be seen as a collective responsibility of all the above, as well as the entire Nigerian media!”

Another stakeholder who does not want his name in print said a faithful policy implementation would soon dovetail into a vibrant steel industry, with serious explosion in employment opportunities for Nigerians, stressing, “It is beyond just looking at boats!”

He made a separation between ship building and ship repair-yards, from Niger dock, LADOL, Starzs and others, and highlighted the much they could easily contribute, if well harnessed.

But he also indicated a need for true government’s support, through desirable taxation regime, maintaining that direct government patronage, via a direct policy pursuit is for now, lacking.