The National Unity Line (NUL), a former government -owned shipping firm was acquired about four years ago by a private shipping company. The new owner later dropped the acquisition idea and asked for a refund of its investment when the government failed to assist the firm to transform into a national career status. But the government is now considering the resuscitation of the company.
The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) may soon resuscitate the defunct National Unity Line following the inability of the Bureau of Public Enterprises to sell off the moribund shipping firm floated many years ago by the agency to replace the Nigerian National Shipping Line, which was liquidated 15 years ago.
The Nigerian Unity Line was first sold about four years ago to Sea-force Shipping Company, which initially paid the sum of $20 million only for the same company to ask for the refund of the deposit about a year later.
Sources said the company took the action when it was becoming obvious that it might not be possible for it to act as a national carrier as expected. It was thought that the government would assist the then new owner of the NUL to lift crude oil across the seas on behalf of the Federal Government.
The government under the headship of then President Olusegun Obasanjo actually gave it the assurance that it would be nurtured to become a national carrier to lift crude oil but the arrangement could not be sustained because of the end of tenure of the former president.
The Director-General, Mr. Temisan Omatseye, dropped the hint at a media parley few days ago in Lagos. He explained that five ships would be acquired for shipping business, adding one tanker, two liners and three bulk ships would be acquired by the agency in collaboration with the private sector.
Omatseye said there has been significant increase of funds for the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF) from less than $7 million in July 2009 to over $55 million in June 2010, representing 685 per cent increase.
According to him: “Arrangements for the administration of the CVFF have reached advanced stage and the first batch of disbursement would be concluded shortly through the primary lending institution such as Diamond Bank, Skye Bank, Fidelity Bank and Equitorial Bank.
“We have recorded 240 cabotage vessels in the cabotage special registry as against 45 vessels when we assumed office. This represent 450 per cent increase.”
Omatseye stressed that NIMASA would provide the policy and legal framework for the establishment of ship demolition and recycling facilities in the country. He said the project had attracted tremendous favourable interest from investors.
He hinted that plans were on by the agency to establish more maritime academies to address the current challenge of acute shortage of qualified seafarers.
Omatseye also noted that the agency had facilitated matchmaking between indigenous shipping companies and their foreign counterparts in Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines and United States of America.
He also explained that management was planning to implement public sector cargo support scheme in line with the provision of section 36 of NIMASA Act and the Nigerian Content Development Policy objective.
In addition, he said that NIMASA had complied with the directives of the ministerial committee on payment of seamen gratuity by paying all affected people.
He mentioned that new condition of service for Nigerian seafarers on board fishing and coastal vessels in line with the standards of the National Joint Industrial Council (NJIC).