Covid-19 hits Nigeria’s indigenous shipping as 40 vessels get laid-off

•We are accumulating losses —SOAN


AS the harsh realities of the Covid-19 pandemic bite harder on global economy, indigenous ship owners in Nigeria have continued to count their losses following the lay-off of 40 vessels from charter services by major oil companies in the nation’s oil lifting business.

Speaking exclusively to the Nigerian Tribune, President of the Ship Owners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Dr. George Onyung stated that indigenous ship owners are currently taking stock of their losses to know how to approach relevant government agencies for possible economic stimulus.

According to Onyung, “Following the Covid-19 pandemic, oil companies have laid off over 40 vessels from charter. Some of our members were definitely affected and it’s really a painful development.

“In a situation where we don’t even have enough vessels, and we are being laid-off by the oil companies, it’s painful because these vessels have huge loan obligation on them. We have various overhead cost and many of those vessels have huge interest accruing on their loans.

“If you noticed, since the Covid-19 pandemic broke out, every sector of the economy has been shutting down, but shipping has not. This is because over 90 percent of global trade is done through shipping. For the world to survive the Covid-19 pandemic, it is important that shipping business continue to be engaged. Shipping is the driver of global economy.

“So you can imagine the implication of the lay off by the oil firms on indigenous operators. If the sector does not get attention in this covid-19 pandemic trial period, it may collapse.”

On possible way forward for beleaguered ship owners who were affected in the lay off by oil companies, the SOAN President stated that it is important for the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) not to group the maritime sector with other sectors in its economic stimulus plan.

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“The CBN is currently putting together an economic stimulus plan for struggling sectors affected in the Covid-19 pandemic, but it is important that the maritime sector is not grouped along with these sectors because if the CBN provides a N500bn stimulus package, only the maritime sector alone can take up all that money.

“We are currently consulting our members who have been affected to know the amount of stimulus package that we will need. If we don’t do this, our indigenous shipping industry may collapse. Right now, it is difficult to ascertain the extent of loss that indigenous ship-owners are faced with. Last week, I called every member of SOAN to find out how they are faring with the effect of Covid-19 on business and family.

“We are compiling our losses to know how to approach the relevant agencies of government for necessary stimulus package so that indigenous shipping does not collapse in this country. Ultimately, the CBN is the government arm that is trying to salvage the economy; however, we might have to access any stimulus package through the agencies that are regulating us.



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