By Samson Echenim
FOLLOWING HER MANY YEARS OF SHIP registry technical integrity collapse, Nigeria has reached out to the Lloyd’s Register to help build up the country’s ship register, which currently has no single international carrier.
Emmanuel Ilori, who leads a 9-man review committee on Nigeria ship registry, indicated that Nigeria’s ship registry currently lacks technical integrity and was working with Lloyd’s Register to address its shortcomings.
Ilori, who is also the vice president of the Association of Marine Engineers and Surveyors (AMES), told journalists shortly after presenting the committee’s report to the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) that Lloyd’s had indicated willingness to support the technical development of Nigerian surveyors.
“The issue of surveyor development is very high on the agenda because one of the issues we discussed with the Lloyd’s Register relates to building the technical integrity of the Nigerian Ship Registry,” he said.
According to him, a new automation process to boost the Nigerian Ship Registry would make ship registration time very favourable to all operations, just as the further technical training of surveyors would raise their technical integrity.
Ilori said, “Now we are going to say okay, let us rebuild the ship registry that is based on quality, not sub-standard vessels. Going forward, you find that people who want to engage in sharp practices will not find the Nigerian Ship Registry a repository for them, because they know that the standards will change. “Gone are the days when you go to the Nigerian Ship Registry where your ship will not be classed. Gone are the days when you want to operate sub-standard ships within the Nigerian Ship Registry.
“And they are going to start the process of automation of the Nigerian Ship Registry process, whereby the bad days when you have to wait up to six to nine months for your ship to be registered will be gone, because they will be improving the processes now, so that when you register, if there are issues, you get to know early.”
Part of the committee’s recommendations is that the Ship Registration Office should engage a manager, who understands the full process, who can interact with the shipowners in the ship registration process.
“The financial community has started to see the seriousness in Nigeria to begin to change some of the negative practices that had been dwindling their investments in Nigerian ships. They are now opening up and the banks are beginning to advance facilities to purchase Nigerian vessels, which is showing that the confidence is coming back,” Ilori hinted.
He noted that although some vessels were still with Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria(AMCON), AMCON had also started getting to accept that maybe it is time now to reset the Nigerian maritime Ship Registry.
At the moment, only local vessels are registered in Nigeria. A ship cannot operate commercially in or from the waters of Nigeria unless the ship is a Registered Nigerian Ship, registered by law of another country and is by the law of that country exempted from registering in Nigeria; or unless the ship is a licensed Nigerian ship operating solely within the waters of Nigeria and where the ship is exempted from registration.
The Merchant Shipping Act provides that to be eligible to register a Nigerian Ship in Nigeria the applicant must be a Nigerian citizen; joint owners must not exceed five persons; joint owners must be bodies corporate established under and subject to Nigerian laws, having their place of business in Nigeria; and such other persons as the Minister of Transport may prescribe.
The law, which now cries for review, recommends a minimum share capital of the company to be N25 million.
The official cost for the registration of ship on the initial registry in Nigeria is on items based on gross tonnage of vessels. For a ship that has 200 tons, the charge is N120, 000. To register for a ship that weighs over 200 tons to 1000 tons, the charge is N160,000 and it takes N160,000 to also register a ship with a gross tonnage over 1000 tons and additional N160,000.00/1000 Tons.