Heritage Bank Plc has said it plans to provide financing for building critical maritime infrastructure and other aspects of transport sector projects once policies driving the projects are well structured.
In a statement on Tuesday, it said with this, the maritime sector through Nigerian Port Authority would get improved infrastructural boost.
The Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Heritage Bank, Ifie Sekibo, disclosed this as one of the panelists at the International Association of Ports and Harbours Africa regional conference in Abuja, with the theme “African ports and hinterland connectivity”.
He stated that banks were willing to provide the necessary financing and support but the operators must be clear on where they were headed.
“The government will need to develop policies that will manage infrastructure programmes and we as bankers will give support. We are sure we can support, and we are sure going to support,” he said.
The managing director said Heritage Bank decided to sponsor and attend the conference to understand the focus of the industry.
He also said the banks were willing to offer and work on the possibilities of developing long-term loans with lower interest rates for operators in the industry.
Sekibo said although “there is the cabotage fund and shippers are taking advantage of it, we are still struggling, with the kind of long-term funding shippers need to attain the level of optimisation they need and talks are in progress. We are engaging the relevant stakeholders to make sure we get loans at cheaper interest rates for them but that cannot happen overnight.
“The commercial rates today are in the neighbourhood of 20 per cent to 23 per cent but the cabotage is between nine and 13 per cent interest rate. But how many of them have been able to borrow from the cabotage fund given the requirements?” he said.
While stating that the fund was just for ship building, he added that other aspects of intermodal transport infrastructure to decongest the ports would require external financing.
According to the statement, President Muhammadu Buhari has advised that every port should have the complement of rail infrastructure.
“To complement the improvement in trade facilitation, we have improved on upgrading infrastructure. Our projection is that by the end of 2021, we will have standard gauge railway across the main North-South trading route,” it stated.