Nigeria is said to have lost over $70 billion to foreign ship chandlers in the last 16 years, an equivalent of $4.375 billion yearly loss.
Within this period, over 5000 direct employment and 20,000 indirect employment were also lost to the dominance of chandling business by foreigners due to the inability of Nigeria to design policy that will favour local operators.
In an interview with the press in Lagos, Felix Anaye-Benson, a former ship chandlers who left the business three years ago, said that 95 per cent of chandlers are no longer in the business due to financial burdens and lack of support from the government to compete with the foreigners.
He said most chandlers who were chased out of the industry by their foreign counterparts are now into clearing and forwarding, farming and other businesses to survive.
“In the previous years, ship chandling was one of the wings in the maritime sector that generate foreign exchange into the government’s coffers because everything we do has to revolve around dollars. Today, the dollars are being taking back to the foreign countries.
“The foreign counterparts have more financial muscles to send us out of business because they are being supported by their government. And shipping companies chose the foreigners above us despite local content gives us upper hand. But the law is being shelved aside by these shipping companies and engage the services of the foreigners,” he lamented.
Meanwhile, the National President, National Council of Managing Director of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), Lucky Amiwero, said presently, ship chandling is facing a lot of challenges like capital base and a lot of ship chandlers are left the business and the industry is just there.
“In the 60s, 70s and 80s, ship chandling business thrived within the port environment. But for now, it is not as booming as it used to be for the local chandlers. So there is need for government to intervene and see how they can have supporting role because it is an area where alot of foreign exchange can be repatriated back into the country,” he said.
According to him, ship chandling business are supposed to be handled by Nigerians because they actually obtained their licences from the Nigeria Customs Service.
“Ship chandlers provide those things that ships need, which will make the ship last for time being. They have ship stores and all the rest, which include food and other things.
“The issue of foreign dominant is not only synonymous to ship chandling. If you go to Customs agents, you have the same problem and the rest.
The ship chandling business is a supplying thing and it needed a kind of government participation to assist the ship Chandlers to be able to have more capital base to be able to do this job,” he added.
Meanwhile, Advisory Head/CEO, Kamany Marine Services Limited, Charles Okorefe, said the question that should be asked is that who licenses the foreign ship chandlers?
He said If they are operating within the port environment and that is a critical question to be asked.
“It is the same Customs that licenced Customs brokers or what you called clearing agents, it is the same Customs that licences ship chandlers. So if the Customs dedicate their responsibility and feels foreigners deserve more to do, then Nigerians who are supposed to handling the job, it is their responsibility to cry out because we have chandlers association but I’m not sure if they are still exist.
“So when they must is a vacuum, there must always be occupied. I know there is used to be chandlers association, I know if it was still there, they will not allow such anormalies to happen. But if it is no longer there and a vacuum is created, it must be filled.
“So the issue with indigenous chandlers, it is their territory and it is their right to protect it because Nigeria cannot go to London or Italy for instance, and be licenced as ship chandlers.
So the ball is in the court of Nigerian licenced chandlers, they have form theirselves together again if the association has broken up because it is their right and their food they are taking out of their mouths,” he said.
He said the Customs has to determine the criteria for licencing ship chandlers because it is an indigenous thing that goes a line with the cabotage act.
He added that ship chandlers business has to be localised for indigenous people, adding that there is nothing foreingers are doing that indigenous people cannot do in terms of chandling.
“Chandling is simply replenishment of food stuffs and spare parts for vessels, supply of fresh waters and possibly fuel to the vessels. Those are the basic responsibilities of chandlers and the shipping companies also that give their jobs to foreigners, is it that they create department of chandling in their offices? That is another issue that may need to look into because usually it is the shipping companies that allocate chandling jobs to chandlers.
“So if they decided to create their own in-house chandling department that is another issue that needs to be investigated. These are the issues you need to look into otherwise, chandling is supposed to be localised basically for Nigerians because it is our maritime net and it is our duty to handle jobs,” he said
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