Succinct comments on the Lame Duck: The Nigerian Cabotage Regime
By: Engr. I. Olu. Akinsoji
‘Vessel wholly manned by Nigerians’ – ‘Means where all the shipboard officers and crew employed aboard the vessel are exclusively of Nigerian citizens’
This policy turned to law is a more forward looking policy for the emancipation of Nigerians to seafaring career than the simple policy of the 1960s when Nigerian National Shipping Line was aiming at ensuring that Nigerians man all international ships flying the flag of the nation.
The Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN) is established under the Cabotage law executing Ministry and I strongly believe that it is established as an instrument to satisfy the needs of the executive arm of the government on policies of this nature.
The Minister should take its rightful position in the scheme of things, call the training institution (MAN) under him, the certification agency (NIMASA) also under him and the organized private sector (Ship owners) to give them policy driven instructions that will remove all impediments, develop training programmes with time line to ensure the removal of waiver or equivalent authority that puts the law at abeyance on this pillar of the cabotage.The policy drive may be extended beyond this specific provision of the law to include key function areas that the quality of human elements will add value to the success of the regime, such as registration of ships and shore-based management.
This action may in the process entail technical assistance from IMO (and/or bilateral/multinational cooperation), training of trainers and examiners, curriculum update/development, equipment procurement, Database establishment and updating, Quality assurance processes and funding from CVFF for this specific activities.
The training programme should be flexible to allow interested young and even older Nigerians to aspire and attain optimal level of career in seafaring profession.
In view of the spread of this pillar, it is my view that a standing committee or in fact a national board for maritime human capacity data and development should be established with appropriate terms of reference and constituted of major interest sectors of the maritime industry.
‘Wholly owned Nigerian vessel’ – Means a vessel which is owned and registered in Nigeria and the provision went further to ensure that the ownership is Nigerian or Nigerian Corporate body.
It is the Flag State ship and shipping financial control and management provision.
The provision on the Nigerian ownership of the vessel aims at fully domesticating all money transactions of the vessel and that only foreign indebtness are considered based on merit and as may be specifically approved.
The mandatory registration of ship in Nigeria not only provide opportunity for Nigerians to develop capacity in this area of shipping but also to provide defined interventions for the safety of the ship, its integrity and prevention of pollution of the marine environment.
NIMASA is solely responsible for this aspect of the provisions. Most vessels presently operating under the cabotage regime are registered outside Nigeria because we have not demonstrated enough capability to give confidence to the owners of such vessels. Our limitation is apparent from the fact that most of the ships that are registered in Nigeria gradually deteriorate in fitness, taken out of class and eventually abandoned to become wrecks. The situation that is partly attributable to the weak survey and certification administration system.
Attractive ship registration and shipping administrationrequire comparative incentives, national policies on fiscal measures that are flexible and are attractive, cooperation with owners, understanding and sincerity of purpose and firmness. The administration must be transparent, efficient, predictable and consistent. Information must be available, accessible, clearly understood and the process friendly enough to attract prospective owners.
The environment is not friendly to indigenous ship owners. For an indigenous ship owner to be successful he needs to procure a relatively new ship, put in place maintenance structure, employ world class technical superintendent, import and pay duty on spare parts, re-train the crew, carry out regular inspection to keep the ship above Flag State requirement, be prepared to dry-dock his vessel outside Nigeria, keep the ship in class and pay all ship dues including cabotage levies. Whereas his counterpart foreign ship owner has waivers that keep him in linkage with his home country, pool and operate many ships-spreading overhead cost and all technical requirements are carried out in collaboration with his home state which is likely more resourceful. It will be extremely difficult for a Nigerian who does not have readily accessible facilities and abundant resources to operate particularly when his overhead is only on one or two ships.