Shipowner backs proposed embargo on cabotage vessels importation

Engr. Greg Ogbeifun

The immediate past President, Shi-owners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Engr. Greg Ogbeifun, has lauded a plan by the Federal Government to ban the importation of some categories of vessels used for cabotage trade.

The Federal Government had, through the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), notified the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB), among others of its plan to effect the ban beginning from December 2020.

Speaking in an interview with SHIPS & PORTS, Ogbeifun said the proposed ban on importation of cabotage vessels is an indication of the Federal Government’s renewed interest to develop indigenous capacity in the shipping sector.

He, however advised the government on the need to begin to look at reviving the local steel industry and ship building yards as a crucial step towards the implementation of the policy.

He said, “For me, this is probably the oldest policy statement that has been made in the industry with respect to genuinely wanting to grow in-country capacity in the area of ship building.

“The biggest single element that is critical to the actualization of this policy is the maritime infrastructure; the ship building yards. We have a few shipbuilding yards that can do shipbuilding and ship repairs including the Continental Shipyard, which belongs to government, but some of them are moribund. They need to be reactivated.

“We may initially start by importing steel. If we don’t also look at that sector to become functional, then you are weakening the implementation of the policy. With this type of policy statement we have heard, the government has no choice but to make the likes of Starzs Shipyard, Nigerdock, Continental and other shipyards to come into full operation, if they must back up their statement.”

Ogbeifun noted that the level of compliance, especially by government owned agencies who import vessels for their operation, will also determine how effective the ban would be.

“We have to understand that it behoves on everyone of us to make that happen. It behoves on people who acquire ships from abroad to see this as a positive step towards investing in this country. 

“The Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) and NIMASA are ship owners; therefore we have to come together to understand that the policy that the government has come out with, laudable as it is, will affect even the government because the government through NPA is one of the biggest buyers of ships in the country.

“Government cannot come out with the policy and tomorrow you hear that NIMASA is now ordering for security patrol vessels from Damien Shipyard.”

Ogbeifun called on government to review tax policies and create incentives especially on tariff to enable indigenous ship owners compete favourably with their foreign counterparts and for the actualisation of the long awaited national fleet.

Speaking on the timeline set to having the policy actualized, Ogbeifun said, “If at the timeline set, all they were able to achieve is to put infrastructure in place, and produce one ship in each category, that is an achievement.”

The Nigeria Customs Service, among the other agencies, is expected to begin enforcement of the policy upon the expiration of the deadline by 2020, considering the two schedules of vessels restricted.

Under schedule one, fishing trawlers of all sizes will no longer be allowed into Nigeria from the end of December 2020, while the importation of barges and tug boats is banned from the end of December 2021.

Offshore supply vessels, houses boats, tankers below 10,000 GRT and security patrol boats are also affected and would not be allowed into the country from the end of December 2022.

Schedule two affects offshore support vessels namely AHT larger than 5,000bnp with dynamic positioning PSV and offshore construction vessels, derrick crane vessels, pipe/cable laying vessels, surf laying vessels, and dive support vessels. 

The vessels are banned from the end of December 2023 while the Drag Head Suction Hopper, Dredger Suction Hopper and Trailing Suction Hopper Dredger are restricted entry from the end of December 2024.

Also banned from December 2024 are Heavy Floating Cranes, Heavy Crane Badge, Survey Salvage Vessels, Seismic Survey Vessels, Geophysical Survey Vessels, Jack up Rigs, Semi submersible rig, Deepwater Drillships, Tender assist Rigs and Swamp Barge rigs.