NIMASA ex-DG, Omatseye drags NNPC to court over Cabotage Law

Former Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Mr. Temisan Omatseye, has instituted a court action against the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the Pipelines and Product Marketing Company (PPMC) for undermining provisions of the nation’s Coastal and Inland Shipping Act otherwise known as the Cabotage Law.

The Cabotage Law, enacted by an Act of the National Assembly in 2003, makes trading on the nation’s territorial waters the exclusive preserve of Nigerian-flagged ships. The Law states in part: “A vessel other than a vessel wholly owned and manned by Nigerian citizens, built and registered in Nigeria shall not engage in the domestic coastal carriage of cargo and passengers within the coastal territorial inland waters, or any point within the waters of the exclusive economic zone of Nigeria.”

But Omatseye told SHIPS & PORTS DAILY via telephone of Friday that his company, Polmaz Nigeria Limited, decided to institute the court action against NNPC, PPMC and other foreign shipping companies operating on Nigeria’s coastal waters because they did not obtain license or waivers from the Minister of Transport as required by the Cabotage Law.

The case, he said, will come up for hearing this Wednesday at the Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos.

“The action instituted by Polmaz Limited against NNPC, PPMC and all the foreign flagged tankers presently under their charter will be presided over by Justice Buba of the Federal High Court. This case will be a landmark for the determination of the success or otherwise of the Cabotage Act.

“The action is to determine whether it was legal for foreign flagged vessels that have not been duly registered by the Minister of transport to legally operate in Nigeria. This action is being taken by Polmaz and the support of the maritime industry most especially the Nigerian Indigenous Shipowners Association, maritime correspondents, maritime administrators/practitioners and maritime lawyers,” he stated.

“Victory in this matter is victory to the maritime industry and success for our many years of battle. This is the case we have all been waiting for,” Omatseye, who served as NIMASA DG from July 2009 to December 2010, stated.