Ships trading on Nigerian waters
The management of Nigeria’s apex regulatory authority, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has reiterated its readiness to implement the provisions of the Coastal and Inland Shipping Trade Act 2003, otherwise called Cabotage.
This is coming on the heels of stakeholders’ clamour for the effective implementation of the Act over the years.
Among other things, the Cabotage Act, which borrowed substantially from the provisions of the Jones Act in the USA stipulated that only vessels built in Nigerian shipyards, owned by Nigerians and crew by Nigerians have the statutory right to engage in coastal and inland shipping trade in Nigeria.
Though it has a provision for the granting of waiver to vessels which intend to engage in Cabotage but does not meet the requirements to obtain waiver from the Federal Government through the Federal Ministry of Transport.
However, the clause in the provision of the Cabotage Act rather than being the exception has become the rule as thousands of waivers had been granted to foreign-owned vessels to engage in Cabotage which by the provisions of the Act are strictly meant for Nigerian owned vessels.
Thousands of job openings in the Cabotage trade have also been taken by foreign nationals, particularly Indians and Filipinos.
Director General of NIMASA, Mr. Ziakede Akpobolokemi, stated this in a keynote address he presented at a one-day sensitisation forum on the implementation of Cabotage, which took place at the Maritime Resource and Rescue Co-ordinating Centre (MRRCC), Kirikiri, Apapa, Lagos.
According to him, the agency has identified the challenges in the implementation of Cabotage and was poised to address them.
The NIMASA helmsman, represented at the event by the agency’s Executive Director, Finance and Administration, Mr. Adeniran Aderogba, said it would do everything possible to ensure the implementation of the Cabotage Act.
His words: “We have through Cabotage place restrictions on inland and coastal enterprise in drilling rigs, anchor handling tugs, crew boats, utility boats, maintenance vessels, pipe laying vessels, dredgers, and badges to small crew boats and water crafts.
“We are also compelled to quickly enable national capacities in these areas to such international levels of efficiency and safety for which the oil and gas industry has become renowned, to avoid suffocating our local oil and gas industry. Associated with this challenge is the financing of vessels and ships under Cabotage.
“The Act created the Cabotage Vessels Financing Fund (CVFF) for the purposes of promoting the development of indigenous ship acquisition capacity through offering financial assistance to Nigerians in domestic or coastal shipping enterprise.
“NIMASA has grown modest capital accumulation in levies, charges and waivers for CVFF. Efforts are being made by the agency and the participating banks to ensure effective disbursement and utilisation of the funds in line with the extant rules.
“We are embarking on continuous training and development, laced with special motivation for Cabotage enforcement officers to promote deeper personal commitment and create disincentives for under-billing and other compromising abuses,” he said.
Continuing, Akpobolokemi said: “It is pertinent to point out that shipping is indeed an international business and is globally regulated.
NIMASA recognises that in enforcing Cabotage, there is need to build a creative balance between laudable forces of nationalism which Cabotage represents and the market forces of industry in oil and gas as well as maritime, which drive competitiveness.
“We are aware of our own limitations in administration of the regime and especially enforcement capacity. With 13,000 square kilometres of water body and a coastline of 853 kilometres along the Gulf of Guinea, a claim to the inland waters of 12 nautical miles and territorial sea of 24 nautical miles, an exclusive economic zone of 200 nautical miles and a continental shelf of 200 nautical miles, it remains a daunting challenge to physically monitor bunker activities or other trade within Nigerian waters with a view to enforcing Nigeria’s claims under the Cabotage dispensation.
“Notwithstanding, we are addressing such challenges through rigorous and painstaking approaches including public private partnerships to improve compliance and enforcement”, he added.
Maritime expert and former Commissioner of Finance in Imo State, Chief Chris Asoluka, in his contributions at the occasion which attracted several stakeholders, stressed the need for the agency to constitute an action plan committee for the implementation of Cabotage in the country.
According to him, such a committee would be saddle with the responsibility to review past ministerial reports from previous committees on issues about full implementation of Cabotage Act, with a view to determine those requiring administrative action and implementation strategies to reposition the maritime industry for greater growth.
He explained that members of the committee would also take critical look at previous recommendations made from previous committees on the needs to implement Cabotage in Nigeria to encourage growth of indigenous shipping in the country.