The appointment of Dr. Dakuku Peterside as Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) by President Muhammadu Buhari is coming at a time when the nation’s maritime sector requires new thinking and fresh direction.
Fortunately for the new NIMASA helmsman, unlike some of his predecessors, his appointment has been largely applauded by maritime industry stakeholders, especially indigenous shipping operators whose business fortunes nosedived over the past five years.
Peterside must therefore justify the confidence reposed in him by President Buhari and maritime industry stakeholders by repositioning the industry for increased productivity and better contribution to the national economy.
It will serve well to remind the new NIMASA Director-General that the agency was set up to function both as a regulatory and promotional body.
Created by virtue of the merger of the National Maritime Authority (NMA) and Joint Maritime Labour Industrial Council (JOMALIC) 1st August 2006, NIMASA was established primarily for the administration of maritime safety, security, upholding seafarers standards, regulating maritime labour and the entire shipping sector.
Prevention and control of marine pollution, marine environment management and the implementation of all domesticated conventions of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and shipping-related conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Conventions, all fall within the purview of the agency.
In addition to its regulatory functions, the NIMASA Act of 2007 saddled the agency with the responsibilities of promoting indigenous participation in commercial shipping activities and enforcement of the Cabotage Act, which requires that vessels involved in coastal operations within the nation’s territorial waters must be owned and crewed by Nigerians. The Cabotage Act also requires that such vessels must be built and maintained in the country.
Peterside must therefore ensure that both the regulatory and shipping development functions of NIMASA are effectively carried out during his tenure.
It is important for NIMASA to ensure that indigenous operators are empowered to play actively in the maritime trade. It is disheartening to note that more than a decade after the enactment of the Cabotage Act, foreign-flagged ships still dominate the nation’s coastal trade.
The new NIMASA Director-General must therefore ensure that all barriers to effective implementation of the Act are removed without further delays. Nigerian ship owners must be assisted by NIMASA to bring their vessels into class, while the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, oil majors and other owners of cargoes moved across the territorial waters must be compelled to patronise Nigerian vessels.
Effective implementation of the Cabotage Act will serve as a launch pad for the participation of Nigerian shipping concerns in the carriage and affreightment of the nation’s crude oil and other cargoes across international waters.
Nigeria is largely an import-dependent nation, exporting about two million barrels of crude oil per day and importing more than 100 million tonnes of cargo made up of raw materials for industries and consumer goods. Nigerian shipping companies must be empowered to play actively in the movement of these large volumes of import and export.
NIMASA, under Dr. Dakuku Peterside, must understand that the maritime sector is of crucial importance to modern societies. The sector has long been recognised as a critical part of the Nigerian economy and it remains the statutory responsibility of NIMASA to ensure that the sector plays an active role in repositioning the economy by providing gainful employment and career opportunities for Nigerians, in addition to earning foreign exchange for the country.
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