The Managing Director, Nigeria Export Import Bank (NEXIM), Mr Roberts Orya, has said that arrangements have been concluded for ECOWAS to float a shipping concern that will serve the sub-region.
Orya told in Abuja on Wednesday that the company, “Sealink” Shipping Company, is to be established by ECOWAS at the cost of 60 million dollars.
He said the company, initiated by NEXIM, under Public-Private-Partnership, would own a vessel and was expected to begin operations in December or in January, 2015.
He said the company would handle mainly cargo consignments.
He explained that the company was set up to promote the development of a regional maritime business that would be private-sector driven.
Orya said the shipping concern would be of immense benefit to Nigerian manufacturers and exporters as it would allow a structured access to markets in West and Central Africa.
“The project is aimed at boosting maritime trade among member countries of ECOWAS as well enhancing regional integration.
“We are looking at December, 2014 or January, 2015 to take off.
“The kind of ship that we are having is the one that will be able to carry both passengers and goods because people are used to trading with their own goods,” he said.
“The project is ready and we are currently doing a capital-raising of 60 million dollars.
“Three weeks ago, we were in Abidjan for a road show on it and we will be in Duala (Cameroon) for another one soon and another one will be held in Nigeria later,” he said.
The NEXIM boss said that the sub-regional shipping business would be all-inclusive as it would involve all stakeholders in the Anglo-phone and Franco-phone blocs in the area.
“We want each and every country to have a sense of ownership in the business because there are some concessions that you might be asking from various governments.
“At this point in time, we are allocating offer to various governments and when the offer closes and the people from that country have not been able to take up their shares, then we can allot it out,” Orya explained.
He said that Sealink was expected to promote and facilitate reckoning with Nigerian products within and outside Africa, in addition to becoming a major step in deepening trade within ECOWAS.
According to him, the Sealink venture will greatly reduce the period it takes to transport goods through the sea to neighbouring countries and drastically reduce the cost of doing business within the community.
“If you want to take goods to Ghana from Nigeria by road, it takes six days with a lot of hassles.
“But, if you want to move it by sea, it takes 60 days because you will use European vessels to take the goods to Europe first and then bring it back to Ghana,” Orya said.
He said that “with Sealink, it would take one day or two to freight goods from Nigeria to Ghana by sea using Sealink.
He said that the company would promote increased trade flows and opportunities within ECOWAS, “considering the huge capital flight from the region through the absence of sea trade infrastructure”.
According to him, by the time the project takes off, it will encourage and enhance Small and Medium Enterprises because there will be market for their products outside the country.
While expressing concern on the level of informal trade within ECOWAS region, he said that the shipping initiative would help in documentation of trading activities within the region.