The Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dakuku Peterside, has admitted the failure of the implementation of the Cabotage law, noting that there is need for improvement to meet the yearnings of indigenous operators.
The Cabotage law, otherwise known as the Coastal and Inland Shipping Act 2003 was passed by the National Assembly and signed by former President Olusegun Obasanjo on 30th April 2003.
The 16-year old law, which is being implemented and enforced by NIMASA, makes trading on Nigeria’s coastal waters the exclusive preserves of vessels owned by Nigerians, built in Nigeria, crewed and maintained in Nigeria.
However, several stakeholders have criticized NIMASA for its poor implementation and enforcement of the provisions of the law.
Speaking in Lagos on Thursday at a maritime stakeholders forum organised by the Alumni of Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron (AMANO) with the theme ‘Cabotage Act: 16 years After, What Have We Achieve’, Dakuku further admitted that the agency cannot achieve effective implementation of the law without the collaboration of relevant stakeholders in the industry.
According to him, “NIMASA alone cannot achieve the aspirations, intents and objectives of the Cabotage Act. I believe that we have not done very well but there is need for improvement. The greatest thing that can happen to us to achieve the Cabotage law is collaboration and cooperation. If we leave NIMASA to drive the Cabotage law, till tomorrow, we will not achieve anything. But if the regulator, stakeholder and industry all come together, that is the only way we can achieve the aspiration of the Cabotage law.”
He said the enforcement of the Cabotage compliance strategy put in place by NIMASA to stop applications for granting of waivers on manning for prescribed categories of officers in vessels engaged in the cabotage trade has increased the number of Nigerians on board vessels by 7000, which is the highest since the inception of the Cabotage regime.
Noting that NIMASA was determined to end the Cabotage waiver regime which has given advantage to foreign vessel ownership, Dakuku assured that incentives would be created for shipyards that are desirous of building vessels in-country, while ensuring that government agencies importing ships patronize made in Nigeria vessels.
“We have started a process of cessation of granting of waivers which all of us agreed has been abused over time. In the area of manning, we have put in place what we call the new Cabotage compliance strategy. In the past few months, we have had 7,000 Nigerians placed on board vessel. That is the highest record we have had from the inception of the Cabotage regime till date because there is a determined programme not to grant waivers.
“We are going to create incentive for those who are going to build vessels in-country. Our sister agencies will not bring vessels from outside, they must patronize vessels built in Nigeria and we as NIMASA will lead by example.
“On importation of certain categories of vessels, we have gotten the buy-in of Customs, Central Bank, NNPC and other stakeholders because certain categories of vessels cannot be built outside this country by the end of next year,” he said.
While commending the MAN, ORON Alumni, for organising the forum, Dakuku charged them to support the academy in realising the goals for which it was established.
Earlier in his address, THE President of AMANO, Austin Umezurike, said while there is progress in certain aspects of the Cabotage regime, it has not met the expectations of stakeholders as funding and manpower capacity remain major challenges hindering the realisation of its objectives.