AMCON takes over vessels, shipping firms, tank farms, others over Maritime Debt

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About N8.5bn petroleum products at stake

THE Asset Management Company of Nigeria, AMCON, a Federal Government of Nigeria’s bad-debt/loan management establishment, has commenced moves to take over some maritime assets which include tank farms and ships owned by indigenous shipping firms. This appears as a result of the failure by owners of those assets to pay back various loans they took from different commercial banks.
It was learned that about four tank farms located at the Ibafon petroleum products jetty in the Apapa area of Lagos have been put up for sale, while others were put up for lease. Some of the assets that were put up for sale as disclosed on the AMCON website include 76.9million litres of petroleum products at two tank farms at ibafon, Apapa, with the total value put at N8.5billion. Besides the tank farms, about six ship owners, whose names could not be ascertained at the time of this report, are presently on AMCON’s debtor list. AMCON’s Public Relations Officer, Mr. Jude Nwauzor, confirmed the take-over of several marine assets by the agency, but could not comment on some of the seized assets as many of the cases are still in court. However, he promised to throw more light on the matter as soon as AMCON is able to do so. “I may not be able to give you the list of assets seized so far in the maritime industry, because many of the owners have taken us to court and the case is in court. So commenting now or releasing names may lead to sub judicial trial kind of, but as soon as we have the go-ahead, I will inform you and give you full list of some of these assets”, he said.
Confirming the indebtedness to our correspondent, a top executive member of the Ship Owners Association of Nigeria, SOAN, said the association was already collating the list of its debtor-members, even as he blamed government policies for the woes bedeviling ship owners in the country. He said: “These issues are common knowledge; we are still collating how many companies are involved, but you need to ask yourself who controls the policy and who makes the business work. What makes the businesses fail; it’s the policy of government. This matter is in court, so it’s really not something that we begin to discuss on the pages of newspapers. “There is room for dialogue with government and that is why we are an association, so we are open for dialogue and discussions. If we are owing, it doesn’t mean we don’t know what we are doing, every economy thrives on credit, we will pay; but let them dialogue with us; we are open for discussion”, he stated.
Also addressing the issue, the President of Nigeria Indigenous Ship Owners Association, NISA, Mr. Aminu Umar, stated that there is a need for the government to intervene to get the ship owners out of the debt. According to him, ship owners have already written to the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, on how ship owners and the entire maritime industry can benefit from the N2.3 trillion stimulus package announced by the Federal Government. He added that no member of his association has come up to say he or she is having a bad debt with AMCON.
Reacting to the development, former Director-General of the NIMASA, Barrister Temisan Omatseye, said that he was aware of the development adding that many of the assets became toxic at a time. Omatseye who is a maritime lawyer, a shipowner, and operator, also said that the bad loans were sold to AMCON and some of them were some of the maritime assets in question. According to him, “AMCON’s action is not in the best interest of Nigeria and the maritime industry. These vessels are supposed to be generating revenue to offset these debts.” The former NIMASA boss also blamed the woes of the indigenous ship owners on the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, which did not give Nigerian ship owners long term contracts, adding that these long-term contracts are given to foreign ship operators.

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