NIMASA begins clampdown on vessels over Cabotage waiver abuse
BY FRANCIS EZEM
The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency NIMASA has commenced clampdown on vessels that do not comply with the provisions of the Cabotage Compliance Strategy introduced last year to ease the implementation of the Cabotage Act 2003 in Nigeria sequel to several warnings.
Following this new development, the agency has approved a detention order for a Motor Tanker, MT Navigator Capricorn, a Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) carrier, for allegedly contravening some sections of the Cabotage Act 2003.
Director-General of the agency, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, who spoke at the weekend, said the NIMASA will no longer entertain application for any form of waivers under the Cabotage Act, particularly from the oil firms operations, insisting that such does not help the growth of the Nigerian maritime industry and economy at large.
“Our laws forbid foreign vessels operating in our territorial waters save for compliance with the Cabotage Act. There shall be no sacred cows when we commence clampdown on erring vessels. We want to increase the number of Nigerians who participate in the marine aspect of your business and we are working closely with the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board NCDMB to have a joint categorisation of vessels operating under the Cabotage Act in order to ensure the full implementation of the Act”, he said
It was however gathered that the detained vessel was first boarded by operatives of the agency in October 2018 during which all infractions under some sections of Cabotage were noted and communicated accordingly to the charterer/owners representatives with a 90- day grace period to comply.
Investigations further showed that at the expiration of the 90- day grace on January 31, 2019, the charters/owners representative could not address the infractions, having been earlier made to write an undertaking to remedy the notable infractions when the vessel was issued a detention warning in October last year, which led to its current detention.
The also disclosed that while NIMASA is currently engaging the owners and charterers of the vessel on the need to comply with the laws of the land, the embattled vessel has been moved to Lagos Anchorage to allow space for other LPG vessels to discharge at the New Oil Jetty NOJ.
Recall that the DG had led members of the management team of the agency to meet with the Oil Producers Trade Sector OPTS in Lagos where he encourage industry players to draw up a five-year strategic plan for the cessation of application and issuance of Cabotage waiver and also pursue the utilisation of Nigerian-owned vessels for marine contracts.
This was sequel to the introduction of a new Compliance Strategy for Cabotage Implementation in Nigeria in August last year designed to ensure full implementation of the Cabotage Act, 2003 to secure jobs for qualified Nigerians in the maritime industry.
The agency in line with this new strategy issued a Marine Notice suspending considerations for applications of grant of waiver on manning for prescribed categories of officers in vessels engaged in Cabotage trade.
To that effect, the agency no longer considers application for grant of waiver on manning requirements for vessels engaged in coastal trade with regards to Second Officer, Secong Engineer, and Second Mate down to able seamen, ratings and stewards.
Under the new strategy, foreign vessels are to make special applications for Captains, Chief Engineers, Chief Officers, First Mate in the absence of qualified Nigerians, which are considered on meritt on the condition that such organisation has made plans to train a Nigerian and put in place a transition plan to ensure that the Nigerian takes over the job within one year.
The NIMASA-boss argued that the whole essence of these measures was to ensure that Nigerians are not deprived of the jobs they are qualified for after showing evidence of requisite qualifications for the job, which the Cabotage Act 2003 was enacted to check.