By Samson Echenim
…says 68% of 200 cabotage ships owned by Nigerians
The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) says it has adopted a strategy of encouraging Nigerians to go into joint ventures and joint ownership of vessels with foreign operators on a 60-40 basis, and this has started yielding fruit with about 20 new vessels currently flying the Nigerian flag under this arrangement, as against one in 2018.
According Dakuku Peterside, director general of NIMASA who said this at a press conference on Friday, bareboat charter of vessels has also witnessed an increase, while foreign-owned vessels on Nigeria’s cabotage register has witnessed a decline.
He said, “It will interest you to know that, there has been an increase in the number of wholly-owned Nigerian vessels on the Nigerian Cabotage register. The 2018 half year result showed that 125 vessels were registered, representing a 33 per cent increase when compared with the 94 registered in the corresponding period in 2017. Currently, there are more than 200 vessels captured in the Cabotage register.
“Also, about 68 per cent of vessels trading within the country’s maritime space are Nigerian-flagged. So the Agency is doing a lot in ensuring adequate attention is paid to the essence of the Cabotage, aimed at encouraging indigenous participation and job creation.”
Dakuku said NIMASA is collaborating with the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) in the area of maritime capacity-building and cabotage waiver cessation strategy.
“NCDMB has the mandate to build local capacity in the oil and gas sector in line with the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development (NOGICD) Act. The NIMASA/NCDMB cooperation is already yielding fruit, as both agencies have achieved the categorisation of vessels for uniformity and harmonised enforcement. That collaboration has also helped in the conduct of capacity audit of existing shipyards and maritime training institutions in the country,” he noted.
Dakuku said in an attempt to arrest the seeming drift, NIMASA came up with a five-year strategic plan, beginning 2021, to end in stages the grant of Cabotage waiver, adding that the winding down process is phased to avoid major disruptions to the Cabotage trade.
“The plan is to achieve the key objectives of the Cabotage Act in terms of in-country construction, ownership, manning, and flagging of ships engaged in coastal trade by 2024. The process of bringing the grant of Cabotage waiver to a gradual end has already begun, with the Agency launching a renewed effort to implement the provisions of the Cabotage Act. This was following a series of engagements with stakeholders,” the NIMASA boss said.
Dakuku said the agency was working with the federal government and the Federal Ministry of Transportation to ensure the disbursement of the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF) soon.
He said the introduction of the Final Billing system had put to rest the issues of double billing and over/under billing with the creation of a platform for dispute resolution. The system, according to him, ensures appropriate closure on all vessel transactions within a period of two weeks after departure.
He said, “Equally, we have made major strides in the drive for improved maritime domain awareness. With the use of satellite surveillance technologies, in combination with intelligence systems, we are able to identify, with a consistent 365 days and a five-year profile, all vessels that visit our Exclusive Economic Zone. We are further able to identify vessels that are believed to be engaging in suspicious activities and take appropriate actions.
“Also last year, we facilitated the participation of indigenous operators at international maritime expos and Trade Fairs creating the much needed link between the local operators and their foreign counterparts. The aim was to move from opportunities to realities. A remarkable success story in this regard is the facilitation of the match-making of indigenous operators with foreign partners for various international engagements.
“Currently, a portal is being created on the Agency’s website where the list of all categories of maritime operators and services provided would be hosted for match-making and direct contact by business interests around the world. This brings visibility and credibility to indigenous operators being projected by the Maritime Administration in Nigeria.
“Equally, we have secured the buy-in of some state Governments into the public sector cargo support initiative of the Agency. Extending engagements on maritime with other state governors.”