Maritime: Nigerians laud repositioning, return to global stage

Recent landmark achievements made by the new management of Nigeria’s apex maritime regulatory body, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) at repositioning the sector known to be Nigeria’s second highest revenue earner after the Oil & Gas sector has been applauded by industry players and port operators alike.

Most of the Nigerians who are key players in the Nigerian maritime industry, told Sunday Telegraph in separate interviews this week, said that the would soon realize its potentials if the momentum is sustained.

This came as Nigeria’s Alternate Permanent Representative to the International Maritime Organisation (IIMO), Mr. Diko Bala, has praised the country for its efforts at securing hosting right for the fortcoming 3rd conference of the Association of African Maritime Administrations (AAMA), which NIMASA is hosting in April in Abuja, Nigeria’s federal capital.

This he said is in line with the IMO policy in assisting and enhancing the capacity of Maritime Administration in Africa in the adherence and implementation of IMO instruments. Speaking on the development, Director General of NIMASA, Dr Dakuku Peterside said early this week in Lagos that the agency views the hosting of AAMA as part of “our drive to reposition the Nigerian maritime sector, thereby making Nigeria a force to be reckoned with again, globally.”

He said aside the immediate benefits of having Maritime Administration in Africa converge in Nigeria, the multiplier effect will go a long way to enhance the chances of Nigeria’s return to the IMO Council at the Category C level. “NIMASA’s management has received the presidential approval to seek election in to the category C of the IMO council.”

Peterside had also announced that the regulator has intensified drive to ensure strict compliance with the provisions of the International Ship and Port Facility (ISPS) Code, saying the result is that Nigeria now has a compliance rate of almost 80 per cent as 114 Port facilities out of the total 145 ports in Nigeria are now fully ISPS compliant, even as NIMASA according to him, was only appointed the Designate Authority (DA) for the implementation of ISPS Code in Nigeria barely five years ago when compliance level was barely 13 per cent.

He said though 8 per cent of the remaining 31 Ports facilities are currently pursuing compliance, our goal is to target a 100 per cent compliance level within the next twelve months.

Our efforts have attracted commendation from the United States Coast Guard team that visited Nigeria earlier this year.

Peterside disclosed that the agency is rebranding the agency in order to align it with other foremost maritime administrations in the world, adding that the new NIMASA brand would be unveiled by President Muhammadu Buhari on April 20th, in Abuja, which coincides with the hosting of AAMA. According to him, the quest to enhance our revenue by identifying untapped resources was exploited by the current management in the area of statutory provisions of the Sea Protection Levy Gazette. Within the last one year, NIMASA has commenced the billing of pipelines, Oil Rigs and FPSO’s, Peterside said.

Meanwhile, President of National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents, Mr. Lucky Amiwero, had applauded the efforts of the agency to decentralize the regulator’s operation from the headquarters to the zones, saying that would go a long way in enhancing response to distress calls and stamp out piracy permanently in the Nigerian waters.

He said the expected ultra-modern floating dockyard which NIMASA plans to bring in soon would save a lot of foreign exchange for the country as most of the vessels trading in the Nigerian waters hitherto dry-docking abroad will have to do that in the country.

Peterside had hinted that the dockyard will save Nigeria about $100 million yearly. “I understand that the Nigerian Flag has also enjoyed significant growth within the past twelve months. While 262 vessels with a total Tonnage of slightly over 232,000 GRT were registered in 2015, the figures almost doubled in 2016 as 370 vessels with a total Tonnage of almost 420,000 GRT were registered within the past 12 months. I think it is a welcome development,” Amiwero said, further calling on the agency to also give necessary support to the indigenous operators in building their commercial shipping capacities.

Similarly, the President of Ship Owners Association of Nigeria (SOAN) and Managing Director/Chief Executive of Starz Group Ltd, Greg Ogbeifun said NIMASA’s effort to promote the development of indigenous commercial shipping both in the international and coastal shipping trade’, is giving indigenous players hope. This is even as the Peterside has said that the agency is poised, more than ever before, to achieve the obligation.

“We understand it requires a great deal of capacity building, especially human, infrastructural and tonnage capacities of our indigenous shipping operators. We have reviewed the participation of Nigerians in the industry and are not satisfied with the outcome. The summary of our findings reveals a very low indigenous participation in international commercial shipping trade in Nigeria. As far-fetched as it sounds, there is no Nigeria Flagged Ocean–going vessels known to us.”

Maritime Consultant, Dr Chris Asoluka noted that one major factor that edges Nigerians out in the affreightment of Nigerian cargo especially crude oil lifting is the prevalent Free On Board (FoB) trade term. As you know very well, Nigeria as a nation has no control in the distribution of its crude oil with respect to carriage, insurance and other ancillary services. Under a Cost Insurance and Freight (CIF) arrangement, the tide would change in favour of our indigenous operators.

To this end, Peterside said, “We are joining forces with well meaning Nigerians to move for the change of trade term from FOB to CIF to reasonably involve our indigenous operators in Nigeria cargo affrieghtment.

This will not only give distribution control of our hydrocarbon resources to Nigeria but will also enable us empower our people through cargo lifting and meaningful participation in the entire value chain of our export goods.

As you are aware, CIF will enable Nigerians participate in cargo lifting, cargo insurance create job for our teeming cadets and other ancillary economic and security derivatives.

The plans are on top gear to reach out to relevant agencies of government and very soon we shall do an executive memorandum to the Federal Executive Council for consideration and approval.”

Peterside also said, “On our part, plans are in top gear to use our existing laws to make public cargo available for indigenous shipping operators in order to improve their commercial fortunes and competitive advantage over their well capitalized and established foreign counterparts. We are out to enforce Section 36 and 37 of the NIMASA Act 2007, towards building indigenous capacities in shipping.

This is already at Executive Management level; and we are determined to take it to the highest level of bureaucratic, legislative and executive engagements necessary.

We shall also involve our esteemed stakeholders during the fight time because we understand they have roles to play in the entire process.”

He further disclosed that the Nigerian Seafarers Development Programme is one project his administration holds in high esteem, saying so far, 1045 beneficiaries have graduated from the project, representing 4.2 per cent graduates of the over 2500 NIMASA sponsored beneficiaries.

He said, “We took a closer look at the NSDP project and discovered that the non-inclusion of Seatime training in some of the packages was a challenge.

Let me inform you that this issue is being tackled head –on as we have progressed discussion with the schools in Egypt and Newcastle to directly facilitate sea time training for our graduates. It is noteworthy that only five Nigerians are onboard seagoing vessels, while a country like Philippines have over half a million seafarers. Our goal is to ultimately domesticate the training of seafarers in Nigeria.”

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