The acting Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Mohammed Bello Koko on Wednesday hosted members of the Nigerian Shipowners Association (NISA) at the NPA corporate headquarters in Lagos, promising to support their aspirations for effective implementation of the Coastal and Inland Shipping Act, 2003 otherwise known as the Cabotage Act.
The NPA chief also said he would support the resuscitation of the moribund annual Nigerian Maritime Exhibition and Conference (NIMAREX).
He charged the ship owners to make necessary investments to acquire vessels to take advantage of the Cabotage law.
“You need to take advantage of the Cabotage law. That is really important. That law gives a lot of opportunities and it also limits the participation of foreign companies and nationals in doing business. Now, you have the law that gives the powers of what you should do in terms of funding. That is why I keep saying you need to put forces together; you need to have a strong front.
“Whatever concessions that are being given to ships flying Nigeria flag would remain. But those concessions should be noted that they are given to encourage. And the concession we are giving does not trickle down to the user of your service. That means you are charging as much as others are charging. And if that is the case, what’s the essence of giving you those concessions. You understand, but whatever concession has been given to NPA, we don’t intend to remove it. We review them and see if they are still existing. And if they are not, we’ll fix it.
“For the NIMAREX, we will be interested. We will support you in any way we can. You are stakeholders in the maritime industry just as we are. Your success in that is also our priority, which shows that we are also achieving our mandate,” Koko said.
He also regretted the backlog of cadets trained at the Maritime Academy of Nigeria
(MAN) Oron but who have been unable to obtain their certificates of competency (CoC) due to lack of sea time experience.
“And the Minister of Transportation has been saying that Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) should not be allowed to bring foreign vessels. The law says if it is Nigerians that have the vessels, they have some benefits to gain. The matter has got to National Assembly and the association needs to also follow up. Meanwhile, it is not about saying you must give us the opportunities, the question is, do you have the vessels? Do you have the capacity? Do you have the strength? Do you have the technical know-how? Do you have a relationship with people outside the country? If you are able to do that, it shows all of a sudden, there would be tens of thousands of opportunities to employ Nigerians.
“And that is why training in accredited institutions should be prioritized but unfortunately, most people are actually scared of going for the training. This is because they are contemplating whether there would be jobs after the rigorous training. We have so many seafarers out there who are done with the training but no sea time experience.”
Speaking earlier, the Chairman, Steering Committee of NISA, Prince Sunday Omatseye, said, “We are the Nigerian Shipowners Association (NISA) and we have been in existence for quite some time. In short, NISA comprises Nigerians who own vessels, tugboats, and tankers operating in Nigerian waters. We always sit down with the government to see how we can develop the industry. But due to one or two reasons, we have been out of the system for quite some time now. But we want to assure you that we are back and we are back with full force. A steering committee has been set up which I happen to be its chairman. It is expected to last for six months after which an election would be conducted in the association.
“So, the reason why we are here today is actually to introduce ourselves and to tell you that we are back and we are ready to work with Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA). Actually, before now Nigerian ship owners normally have some concessions. For instance, the port charges were given like 30%, and also Nigerian ships were allowed to come in immediately they come, unlike foreign vessels that might be kept waiting for a while. There were some priorities given to Nigerian ship owners. These are what we are still going to come back and discuss to see how we can move ahead. NPA usually plays a very important role in our industry with the ship owners too.”