Transport Minister admits inadequacies in Cabotage implementation

Less than one month after they served him notice to take court action against his Ministry over poor implementation of the Coastal and Inland Shipping Act 2003 otherwise known as the Cabotage Law, the Minister of Transport, Senator Idris Umar, on Friday met with ship owners under the aegis of the Nigerian Shipowners Association (NISA) where he assured them of his commitment to effective implementation of the law.
While admitting flaws in the implementation of the ten-year old protectionist law, Umar expressed optimism that the Act’s contentious waiver clause will soon be dispensed with.

Indigenous operators under the aegis of the Nigerian Shipsowners Association (NISA) have severally called for removal of the waiver clause which they claimed has rendered the law’s potency.

The Cabotage Law reserves coastal shipping for vessels built, owned, crewed and maintained by Nigerians.

Umar spoke on Friday in Lagos at a meeting with stakeholders on policy guidelines for the granting of ministerial waivers under the law.
The Minister told stakeholders at the meeting made mostly of Nigerian ship owners that government would aggregate their comments, observations and suggestions with a view to creating a strong policy that will best serve their interests.

“We are at this meeting to get inputs from various stakeholders because we realised that in implementing the Cabotage, a lot of inadequacies were observed and recorded so there is need to work on the guidelines,” he said.
Umar also acknowledged the plight of ship owners even as he agreed with them that if the waiver clause is not reviewed, it may pull down the businesses of many Nigerian ship owners.

NISA Chairman, Chief Isaac Jolapamo had earlier called for what he called maritime reform because, according to him, “maritime development is not on the agenda of the present administration.”
Jolapamo also accused the federal government of not supporting the maritime industry the same way it has the aviation sector.

“The Cabotage Law has been around for ten years and it has not worked for the gains of indigenous ship owners rather it added to their suffering. The priority of the government should be how to reform the industry to make it work for us,” he said.
He wondered why the federal government would want to grant waivers to foreign vessels instead of totally removing the waiver clause ten years after enacting the Cabotage Law without the law recording any significant success.
Jolapamo who is also the Chairman of Morlap Shipping, asked the Minister for the outcome of the presidential committee on enhancing the maritime sector. He called for full implementation of the recommendations of the committee “if the federal government is truly passionate about the industry.”

Jolapamo said: “The guideline is not our priority; our priority today is a maritime reform that will show that the government is interested in the maritime sector.”
“The aviation sector is not as much important as the maritime sector which generates a large chunk of revenue accruing to the federal government but it has received the attention of the government more than the maritime sector in the life of this present administration,” he said.
Jolapamo called for the total removal of the waiver clause in the Cabotage Law because “if we continue with the waiver, we will continue to have problems.”
Responding to Jolapamo’s concerns, the Transport Minister assured the gathering that the recommendations of the presidential committee would be implemented in due course.

“About the Presidential retreat held in 2012, the President has received the recommendations, set a technical committee to review the recommendations and the final outcome has been submitted to the Economic Management Team. The salient issues raised in the recommendations are to be taken one by one.
“You know that members of the Economic Management Team are very technical and they come from different background, some of them raised some concerns in the recommendations which are germane but with the discussions here, we now have an informed position to further open discussions at the Economic Management Team with a view to making them see the imperative of those recommendations for a more efficient and robust maritime sector,” Umar stated.

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