By Vincent Obia
There is glamour, glitz, and glam. Quality and elegance, staff and guests sashaying in shapes and colours of designer labels. A huge party, complete with flashing blue disco lights and comperes doing what they know best. Black is also on display, with most guests loyal to a black tie dress code. And the hall decoration: a portrayal of class and the reliability and ubiquity of blue. Each and every little thing about the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) Merit Awards and Corporate Dinner is a reflection of the new management led by Dr. Dakuku Peterside.
A tough act to follow, Dakuku knew what he wanted when he led his team to organise a night out for maritime stakeholders and other members of corporate Nigeria, individuals and groups continually striving for achievement, producing results, and delivering progress: a celebration of excellence.
Aptly tagged “A Nautical Night of Excellence,” it is an evening to honour outstanding industry stakeholders and NIMASA staff. The date is January 12, and venue, Eko Hotels and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos.
“The maritime industry in Nigeria has grown from strength to strength, especially in the past two years,” Dakuku says. “Our stakeholders, players in the industry are doing great exploits. They are breaking old records, they are setting new standards.”
He explains, “Today, it is globally acknowledged that Nigeria is a force to reckon with in the maritime community. All of this could not have been possible without our people. Our people are the reason we are making giant strides, doing great things. Their sacrifice, their selflessness, their commitment, the professionalism, and their resilience.
“Aside from our people, our stakeholders have been wonderful. We acknowledge that in the industry, we are facing a lot of tailwinds. Despite these challenges, our stakeholders have been resilient, they are doing great exploits, they are making giant strides.
“So tonight, we have gathered all of you, great and mighty men and women, to celebrate our people, to celebrate our stakeholders, to celebrate excellence, to celebrate the resilience of a people, to celebrate accomplishment, to celebrate the best of the best.”
The quality of attendance matches the classiness of the venue.
Former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd); Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote; and renowned economist, entrepreneur, and founder of The Tony Elumelu Foundation, Mr. Tony Elumelu were among the crème de la crème of Nigerian business and politics at the occasion. Others were the governors of Edo, Kebbi, and Ondo states, Godwin Obaseki, Abubakar Bagudu, and Rotimi Akeredolu, respectively.
It was hosted by Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, and chaired by Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha, who was represented by Minister of Budget and Planning Udo Udoma.
Royal fathers of the day were the Emir of Kano, Mallam Muhammad Sanusi II, and the Ooni of Ife, Enitan Adeyeye Ogunwusi.
There were also heads of maritime agencies and captains of maritime industry, including Chairman of the NIMASA Board, General Jonathan India Garba (rtd); president of Nigerian Ship Owners Association, Aminu Umar; chairman of the Nigerian Ship Owners Forum, Mrs Margaret Orakwusi; former Director General of NIMASA, Temisan Omatseye, among others.
NIMASA organised the shindig not only to honour outstanding staff and industry players, but also to entertain them. Music acts, like Mr. Easy, Flavour, Tiwa Savage, and Rude Boy Paul, combined performances with bantering comperes – Osakioduwa, Chi Girl, and Toby Bakare – to make the congenial event even more glorious.
The awardees’ list is a most telling evidence of a newfound regulator-operator harmony in the Nigerian maritime industry. They include MAERSK Nigeria Limited, Shipping Company of the Year 2018 – Vessel Traffic (Foreign) award; GAC Shipping Nig. Ltd, both Shipping Company of the Year 2018 – Cargo Throughput (Foreign) and Shipping Company of the Year 2018 (Regulatory Compliance) Foreign; and West Atlantic Port Services was Indigenous Shipping Company of the Year 2018 – Vessel Traffic.
Others are Blueseas Maritime Services, Indigenous Shipping Company of the Year 2018 (Cargo Throughput); Integrated Shipping, Indigenous Shipping Company of the Year 2018 – Regulatory Compliance; Atlantic Shrimpers Nig. Ltd, Nigerian Registered Shipping Company with Highest number of Nigerian Flagged Vessels; Pan Afrique Maritime, Manning Agent of the year 2018; TIN-CAN Island Container Terminal, Terminal Operator of the Year 2018; and Micura Services Ltd, Stevedoring Company of the year 2018.
Charkin Maritime & Offshore Safety Centre was honoured with Maritime Education & Training Institute of the Year 2018; Sea Transport Services Nigeria Limited, Marine Environment Management Company of the Year 2018; Katrina Shipping Company Nig Ltd, Most Cabotage Compliant Oil & Gas Company 2018; and Peak Shipping Agency Limited, Most Cabotage Compliant shipping Company 2018.
Among the awardees also were Avantguard Security Solutions, Best Recognized Security Organization 2018; Ports & Terminal Multiservices Ltd. (PTML), Best ISPS CODE Compliant Facility 2018; and Egina FPSO with Gross Tonnage of 219,830.0 owned by Total Upstream Nigeria Limited, Floating Production, Storage and Offloading (FPSO) with highest Gross Tonnage in the Nigerian Ship Registry.
MT Ultimate with a registered gross tonnage of 40,834 owned by Nexttee Oil & Gas Trading Company Nigeria Limited was Biggest Crude Oil Tanker in the Nigerian Ship Registry, and Maritime Worker Union of Nigeria was honoured with Recognition for Industrial Peace and Harmony in the Maritime Industry.
Highlights of the awards included the Special Recognition Award for the mid-sea rescue of 13 passengers after a PDSC incident given to the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas Limited got, and Special Posthumous Recognition Award for Sea Rescue Bravery given to a young man, Joseph Blankson, forsacrificing his life to rescue 12 other passengers involved in a boat mishap in Rivers State.
The moment turned briefly solemn as Blankson’s mother and family members mounted the stage to receive the award on behalf of their late son, their faces breaking into sobs and tears, amid sombre expressions from the audience. Despite the bitter tone, Blankson got a standing ovation for his bravery and act of kindness.
Especially noteworthy is the Special Recognition Award given to Amaechi by maritime stakeholders.
On the staff recognitions, Mr. Abraham Iseghohi from the Western Zonal Office, NIMASA’s July 2018 Employee of the Month, emerged tops among 11 Employee of the Month winners in 2018 to win Employee of the Year 2018 with a N1 million cash prize.
A notable sideshow was the dancing competition won by a lady from the Special Duties Directorate. She won a trip to the UK, courtesy of a travels agency. The first runner-up, a male invitee, won a trip to Dubai, courtesy of another travel agency, while the second runner-up, a female invitee, got two nights rest at the Nicon Hilton Hotel, Abuja.
It was a remarkable evening, from the red carpet and sideshows, getting into the awards proper, and winding down into a long night of dance, drinks, and food.
It was not a night for speech making, but a moment to celebrate merit. Excellence occasioned by the NIMASA’s director-general’s transformational leadership since March 2016.
“One area we have done extremely well is in maritime regulation and shipping promotion,” says Dakuku. “More Nigerians are getting involved in the industry, and many more are given opportunities in the industry.”
NIMASA has achieved a lot in the last three years in the discharge of its duties ofadministering maritime safety and security, seafarers’ standards, maritime labour, shipping regulation, promotion of commercial, coastal, and inland shipping activities, and pollution prevention and control measures in the marine environment.
Ship registration has been on the rise. About 125 vessels were registered last year, as against 94 vessels registered in 2017, representing an increase of 33 per cent. The number of Nigerians manning vessels has also increased. About 2,840 Nigerian officers and ratings were recommended to be placed onboard cabotage vessels in 2018, as against 1,789 Nigerian seafarers in the same period in 2017, which is an increase of 58 per cent.
The agency has done a downward review of the freight rates benchmark, in response to operators’ yearnings, thus helping to boost shipping and fostering a harmonious regulator-operator relationship. The review resulted in over 30 per cent rise in cargo activities last year, compared to the previous year’s figures.
It has championed a Change of Terms of Trade for the affreightment of Nigerian crude oil from Free on Board (FOB), where the country virtually loses control over the distribution of its crude oil, to Cost Insurance and Freight (CIF), whichfavours indigenous operators and the domestic economy.
It has intensified training for seafarers under the Nigerian Seafarers Development Programme. Only recently, Dakuku announced that no fewer than 500 seafarer cadets will be placed on various vessels by this month, to undergo their mandatory sea-time training. This would bring to over 1, 000 the number of cadets that have undergone such training.
In line with efforts to enhance shipping, the Dakuku leadership of NIMASA is negotiating a special interest rate with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for acquisition of assets by indigenous ship owners.
Under the Survey, Inspection and Certification Transformation Programme, Certificate of Competency (CoC) examinations have been conducted at the Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron, leading to the issuance of different categories of CoCs to successful candidates. In 2017 alone, NIMASA issued 3,752 certificates to successful seafarers, which represented a 149 per cent increase from the CoCs issued in 2016.
The agency leased six fast intervention security vessels under the maritime security strategy project, and the impact is already being felt. Port State inspections rose by 10.53 per cent in 2017, up from 475 in 2016 to 525 in 2017. Flag State inspections are also experiencing an upswing, from 77 in 2016 up to 98 in 2017, representing a 27 per cent increase. The increase has continued in 2018.
The Dakuku administration has taken steps to ensure effective maritime domain awareness and better compliance enforcement through the establishment of a satellite surveillance control and command centre with coverage capacity of up to 312 nautical miles from the coastline (approximately 100 nautical miles off our EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone)). The system is capable of detecting vessels even with their Automatic Identification System (AIS) transponders switched off, as synthetic aperture raider (SAR) images, which can be interrogated immediately by near point of sight patrol/enforcement boats.
The system has facilitated effective enforcement of maritime regulations. It has helped to preserve cabotage trade for indigenous operators by identifying and differentiating Ship-To-Ship (STS) operations that take place at the secured anchorage and offshore locations from cabotage trade to avoid foreign domination of the trade under the guise of STS.
Consequently, there has been an increase in indigenous participation in cabotage vessels manning, ownership, building, and registration.
To facilitate effective regulation of the maritime industry and provide direction for local and international stakeholders intending to do business in the Nigeria maritime domain, NIMASA has initiated a yearly publication of its outlook for the maritime industry. The initiative debuted with the unveiling of the 2018 Nigerian Maritime Industry Forecast in February. NIMASA intends to publish the next edition of its Outlook and Forecasts for the Nigerian Maritime Sector, covering 2019, no later than the first quarter of 2019.
Other achievements of NIMASA in the last three years include the arrival of the modular floating dockyard, which would create capacity and help retain multimillion of dollars in-country through vessel maintenance; and midwifing of the collective bargaining agreement for industrial harmony with improved wages and entitlements for maritime workers.
NIMASA is working hard to position the maritime sector as a strong revenue alternative to oil for Nigeria. Former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, aptly captures this in comments ahead of the NIMASA Maritime Awards. “It is time to develop other alternative sources of revenue for the nation and the maritime sector is well positioned to do so. What NIMASA is doing in the industry and the Awards are quite in line to motivate stakeholders and staff to take advantage of the policies in place to invest and grow the economy,” he says.
The Minister of Budget and Planning, representing the SGF at the awards night, said he agreed to drop other engagements to be at the event “because of the wonderful work that the DG and his team and the Board have been doing in NIMASA. They have transformed the organisation. I would also like to congratulate the Minister of Transportation, because it is under his guidance and supervision that all this transformation has taken place.”
There was a prevailing air of amity throughout the night. As one staff, Sylvanus Obasi, put it, “For the impression and experience of the event, I came back feeling motivated, proud of my profession and above all, encouraged to continue to do my little best for the Nigeria maritime industry where I found myself, and I believe majority of those who attended the occasion will feel likewise.”