Heads to roll as Buhari approves massive reforms in maritime sector

The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi yesterday disclosed that he had received a “written approval” from President Muhammadu Buhari to commence performance audit and carry out massive reforms in the maritime sector of Nigeria’s economy.

Amaechi disclosed this at the opening ceremony of a regional training course on port state control organised by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and the Abuja Memorandum of Understanding on Port State Control for West and Central African region.

Amaechi said the industry parades a lot of influential Nigerians who were “benefiting from the maritime sector to the detriment of the Nigerian nation”.

He said, “For that reason I don’t want to step on too many toes, I want to make sure that for every step I take I have facts for which informs my actions and I have just gotten a written presidential approval that I should commence an investigation or the performance audit of the Nigerian maritime sector.

“So the Nigerian Maritime Admiration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) and Nigerian Shippers Council will be audited from next week,” Amaechi said.

He hinted of a likely purge of the leaderships of the various federal government agencies operating in the sector.

“There will be changes, there will be improvement, and there will be the need for all Nigerians to benefit from the maritime sector, instead of the current situation where very few people are benefitting.

“A lot of things will happen and they will happen before the end of the year.

“You heard recently I said they should shut down the university they are building. If you see the amount of money that has been spent on the university, it is enough to complete the entire university and nothing has happened,” he said.

In his keynote address to delegates at the workshop, he said, “As we all know, merchant ships often trade outside the areas that are under the jurisdiction of the Flag State. The International Maritime Organization has established that most National Maritime Administrations cannot guarantee that all ships under their flag are in full compliance with all the requirements contained in the instruments to which the Flag State is a party. Hence the need for Port State Control.

“This laudable capacity building initiative is aimed at eliminating substandard ships in the West and Central African Region by equipping Port State Control inspectors working in the maritime administrations of the 19 beneficiary countries with the expertise needed to perform their duties more effectively.

“This workshop provides another opportunity for all Port State Control Inspectors to update their knowledge and enhance the general drive towards building a robust and effective maritime safety regime in the West and Central African Region.

“As we are all aware, countries under the Abuja Memorandum of Understanding on Port State Control accounts for a significant volume of seaborne cargo to and from the African Continent. As most of us are also aware, the Gulf of Guinea remains an important maritime route for commercial shipping from Europe and America to West, Central and Southern Africa. The Region is critical in the global supply of energy due to the economic advantages derived from the transportation of low-sulphur crude oil from the region to Europe and North America.”

He said it is common knowledge that international shipping is a highly competitive and profit driven business; therefore, safety measures of any nature whether they deal with construction standard of the ship, the personnel to be employed or the ship’s operational procedures involve costs that affect the company’s competitiveness.

In his welcome address at the event, the Acting Director-General of NIMASA, Haruna Jauro, said that the workshop would enhance knowledge on ship inspection.

“It also provides another opportunity for us to update our knowledge and enhance our drive toward building a robust and effective maritime safety regime in our respective countries and the West and Central African Region at large.

“The need for Port State Control (PSC) can no longer be over-emphasised.

“That the shipping industry is adequately regulated but inadequately monitored is an accepted fact and this has been the main reason for the continued existence of sub-standard vessels in our waters.

“The dangers of these un-seaworthy vessels have become so huge that lives and the marine ecosystem are massively threatened,” he said.

According to him, it is clear to all that huge investment in human and capital resources are required to perform PSC inspection effectively and creditably.

“The dearth of adequately qualified marine professionals is a worldwide phenomenon that militates against most countries of the sub-region,” he added.

Head, Africa Section, Technical Cooperation Division of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and Project Manager, FlagPort, West and Central Africa, William Azuh, in explaining the essence of the workshop said, “The activity which we will be engaging in for the next eight working days is part of the 10th European Development Fund (10th EDF) specifically devoted to the development of maritime and indeed shipping activities in West and Central Africa.

“It is a 1.2 million Euros Project on Flag State Implementation, Port State Control and Maritime Legislation review for beneficiary countries in West and Central Africa.

“IMO is the implementing agent for the project which started in March 2014 and will be rounded off in December this year.”

He said that the overall objective of the Project was to prepare the beneficiary countries for the IMO Mandatory Member States Audit Scheme which became mandatory from January this year.

The IMO chief said the audit hitherto used to be voluntary but not anymore, adding that all member-states of IMO would be audited.

According to him, IMO Audit scheme can be described as a health-check of maritime administration aimed at correcting any identified gaps and challenges in the respective administration.

The Secretary General of Abuja MoU on Port State Control, Mrs. Mfon Usoro, said Port State Control Officers (PSCOs) had benefitted from several foreign, regional and national trainings on several aspects of Port State Control procedures.

According to Usoro, the positive outcome of these trainings are evident in the quality of inspections, increase in number of inspections and the significant reductions in the number of alleged wrongful detention and unprofessional conduct on the part of the port state control officers.

“The training will foster further coordination and harmonisation of port state control regulations and procedures within the region.

“It is our hope that many more administrations will implement the new inspection regime approved by the port state control committee of Abuja MoU in 2012,” she said.

Usoro said that the Abuja MoU Register of port state control officers had 145 PSCOs for 16 countries. According to her, that number is grossly inadequate for attainment of the 15 per cent inspection target.

Delegates of 19 countries consisting of Nigeria, Angola, Benin Republic, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Togo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Ghana, The Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mauritania, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal and Sierra Leone were in attendance at the event.

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