DG NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Peterside flanked on his right by Executive Director, Finance and Administration, Dr. Bashir Jamoh and on the left by the Executive Director, Operations, Engr. Rotimi Fasakhin at the World Press Conference held at  the agency’s Apapa, Lagos  headquarters, Friday.

The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency NIMASA, has said that it has recorded a major breakthrough in its efforts to grow indigenous fleet, especially under the Coastal and Inland Shipping Cabotage Policy, as over 200 vessels on the register wholly belong to Nigerians.

Director General of the agency, Dr Dakuku Peterside, who addressed a world press conference Friday in Lagos, also disclosed that more thant 68 per cent of vessels trading within the country’s maritime space are currently Nigerian-flagged, adding that 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. 

According to him, there has been an increase in the number of wholly-owned Nigerian vessels on the nation’s Cabotage register. Available statistics for the 2018 half year report showed that 125 vessels were registered, representing a 33 per cent increase when compared with the 94 registered in the corresponding period in 2017 while currently, there are more than 200 vessels captured in the Cabotage register.

He further disclosed that in an attempt to arrest the seeming drift in the implementation of the Cabotage policy, the current management of the agency came up with a five-year strategic plan, beginning 2021, to end in phases the granting of Cabotage waivers, which most stakeholders believed was responsible for the poor implementation of the protectionist Cabotage Act 2003 over the years.

“The winding down process is phased to avoid major disruptions to the Cabotage trade in Nigeria. 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.

“NIMASA 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. Bareboat charter of vessels has also witnessed an increase, while foreign-owned vessels on Nigeria’s Cabotage register has witnessed a decline.

“As you may all know, the Cabotage Act 2003, which came into force in 2004, is essentially a local capacity-building law. Its central plank is to empower Nigerians for greater participation in maritime trade. The law seeks to achieve that goal through four key pillars, namely, ensuring that vessels that operate in our coastal waters within the country’s territory are built in Nigeria, owned by Nigerians, manned by Nigerians, and registered in Nigeria”, the DG said.

It also gathered that one of the critical agencies collaborating with NIMASA in the capacity-building and Cabotage waiver cessation strategy is the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board NCDMB, which also 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.

Investigations show that the NIMASA/NCDMB cooperation is already yielding fruit, as both agencies have achieved the categorisation of all vessels operating in the oil and gas sector to enhance uniformity and harmonised enforcement. This collaboration has also helped in the conduct of capacity audit of existing shipyards and maritime training institutions in the country.

On the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund CVFF, the agency is currently working with the Federal Government and the Federal Ministry of Transport to ensure the disbursement of the fund soon.

This is sequel to recent disclosure by the Minister of Transport; Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi that he would meet with relevant government agencies under the Ministry as well as indigenous ship owners to work out the modalities and process of disbursement. 

In addition to boosting Cabotage vessel ownership in the country, NIMASA had also taken steps to rejig the country’s Ship Registry Office to make it globally competitive. Under this new policy, the agency set up a nine-man committee, chaired by Engr. Emmanuel Ilori, which has since submitted its report on how to make it more viable and competitive with its counterparts in order maritime climes.

In doing this, the agency is trying to ensure that the country has a registry that can meet international certification standards and compete favourably with the best in the global maritime community. NIMASA has also commenced the process of automating the nation’s Ship Registry in an effort to ensure that global best practices are imbibed in all its activities.