NIMASA begins strict enforcement of Cabotage regulations …Forecloses issuance of waivers
Peterside DG NIMASA
BY FRANCIS EZEM
Reprieve may have come the way of indigenous shipping companies more than 15 years after the enactment of the Coastal and Inland Shipping Cabotage Act 2003, as the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency NIMASA, has said that it has commenced strict enforcement of the policy.
Under the new dispensation, the agency has foreclosed the application of any form of waiver under the Cabotage Act, particularly from the operations of International Oil Companies IOCs, insisting that continued issuance of waivers does not help the growth of the indigenous segment of Nigeria’s maritime industry and the economy at large.
The Cabotage Act, which provides that vessels to be deployed into coastal and inland trade must be built in Nigeria, registered in Nigeria, owned and manned by Nigerians, however provides for a waiver clause, which is believed to have been grossly abused, thus defeating the real essence of the legislation, which is to help indigenous operators build capacity and actively participate in the trade, which had been exclusive preserve for foreigners.
Director-General of the agency, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, who spoke during a meeting with the Oil Producers Trade Sector OPTS in Lagos, disclosed that the agency is on the verge of ending such waivers. He urged industry players to draw up a five-year strategic plan for the cessation of application for Cabotage waiver and also pursue the utilisation of Nigeria-owned vessels for marine contracts.
“Our laws forbid foreign vessels operating in our territorial waters save for compliance with the Cabotage Act. We also 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”, the DG said.
He therefore urged the IOCs to support NIMASA’s bid to ensure full implementation of the Act, adding that it would equally be of more benefit to the investors in the sector as it will be cost -effective for them to engage Nigerians.
Commenting on previous resolutions with the OPTS, which comprises major oil companies, Peterside stated that there was need for the trade section of the oil producers to fulfill their own part of the agreement. He said NIMASA will not compromise the growth of the maritime sector, especially when it comes to the issue of enforcing statutory regulations enshrined in the agency’s empowering instruments.
He said: “In NIMASA’s bid to grow the industry, it would not hesitate to wield its powers where necessary, adding that the agency’s mandate is strictly regulatory. But he also noted that NIMASA preferred the method of engaging key players in the industry for symbiotic benefits.
“We do not want to change our rules of engagement to a confrontational one because the mandate we have is that of the Nigerian people, to grow shipping for our economic benefits. In this wise, we urge you to cooperate and collaborate with us where necessary so that we can have an all-inclusive maritime industry.
“NIMASA is therefore taking necessary steps to ensure that there were no gaps in the sector, especially as it concerns needed human capacity. The Nigerian Seafarers Development Programme NSDP, which is an interventionist programme of the agency, is making serious headway in creating sea time for the over 2,000 graduates of the programme”.
Meanwhile, the Executive Director of OPTS, Bunmi Toyobo, while speaking at the meeting, said the trade section was ready to comply with all directives of NIMASA. He said the information required by the agency to build and harmonise its data for better regulation of the sector will be provided by OPTS.
The meeting, which was well attended by OPTS, had managing directors and representatives of major oil firms, including Total, Exxon Mobil, Shell, and Agip amongst others in attendance.