Continued from yesterday
So, if you put the man from maritime authority in front and you tell them to do business with the ship owners at the background, how can they see them?
At International Maritime Organization (IMO) meetings, just as in all other countries, except Nigeria, the front seat is for ship owners from that country; with a chair put behind for an official of their maritime authority. But in Nigeria, all our Maritime Authority executives are ever there, while our stakeholders are always out. We the shipsowners are here struggling, so they come back every time to tell us international best practice, or globalization without thinking about local condition.
The proper attitude, all over the world except Nigeria, is that shipping is global in outlook with local colouration. It Is the local colouration, that led to the birth of the third conventional law of the sea. It took fifteen years to make it and this is best law in all their efforts. It took fifteen years for the world to produce this. The first attempt was in the 50s, after the Second World War; after the United Nations was born. So they said for there not to be war in the world again, let us make the world equitable.
One of the ways to make the world equitable was to look at the sea and call it the heritage of man. But if it had worked they wouldn’t go to the second one. The second also failed.
The third one is so good because no body was underestimated. So it came into signature on the 10th of December, 1982. It took several years to be conceptualized. They started in 1973, but only started receiving signatures in 1982. Nigeria signed in 1986 or there about.
The conference realized that the negotiation could not be effectively carried out in formal proceeding and that because of the large number of participants and sensitive issues involved, working group would be more efficient than plenary meeting. Indeed much of the elaboration process took place in small, not plenary meeting, but always on an Ad-referendum basis, while the large and more formal bodies always functioned, on the basis of consensus.
So, why will NIMASA be telling us today about globalization. Nobody is saying we must not be global in outlook, but we must have local colouration. This is what Indonesia did, even Malasia has had Cabotage Act since 1976 and they are doing 98 percent.
It is time to remove global clauses. I hope I have correctly addressed your questions as to the reason why Nigerian Shipowners are dying.
Our Cabotage law is very clear. It is very good except for the waiver clauses that say it will be reviewed after five years. We’ve done two-five years, so review it to remove the waiver clause. If you ask the NIMASA, the Minister and all others, how many waivers have you given these years? They say none, whereas it’s a lie. The foreign ships cannot work in Nigeria unless they have obtained waivers. It is very clear. The law says you must get a license first. You write first to the Minister that you want to participate (for foreigners). It is after you have obtained the license that you go on. It is there in the book.
Our problem is that we have a carpenter running a heart surgery.
In Nigeria they don’t wait for the waiver, they just pay the requisite money and start works. In American, a ship cannot go to London after paying the requisite money; it has to wait for the waiver. If it takes one day or one year for your license to be processed you will have to wait. But this is not so in Nigeria.
Cabotage is ten years old now, let them give us the list of the waivers they have ever granted. It is not that we’ve not asked. We’ve asked verbally and in writing. Why can’t they publish the waivers granted even last year?
But can’t we take them to court and demand for the list of waivers already granted, because under that condition they would be under oath.
Nigeria government has impunity for the court. So, you only add to your misery. That is my answer.
My ship was arrested within the country sometimes ago for doing nothing, but for mere staying in a channel, right in the middle of the channel. They alleged that I was doing illegal bunkering. I said no, the ship broke down and we were repairing something. Check the whole ship, it is a thug not a tanker. I said go into the ship and you will find no oil and they did without finding a single drop of oil. They took my crew at 2.30am in the morning. They took them to shell camp. They asked my crew to carry pipe and took their photograph. I was not disturbed; I said no problem let us go to the court, since they will show it at the court. I was not afraid. After one month of keeping my boys in detention, I said for whatever offence I‘ve committed take me to court, don’t just keep my boys in detention. Eventually they charged us to court and I was happy.
When I got to court, I applied for the release of my ship and they granted me a bail condition, I satisfied the bail condition. They released my boys after one and half month in prison custody. I went to take over the ship they said no the court did not specify that we release the ship .I showed them the bail order; but they still said no. so I went back to the court, asking for the release of my ship. The court on the 14th of December granted me a bail release of my ship. I met all the bail conditions and went to show it to them. As I am talking to you the ship is still there. I went to all of them, even the Attorney General, asking why they were doing this, give me my ship.
The ship earns $18,000 a day and you have kept the ship, they said no. I left Lagos to Abuja, I went to the Civil Defense Controller General. I wanted to know what was happening. He called everybody. They said they have appealed against the bail condition. I was surprised. I said what is your interest in appealing against a bail?
The government does not lose anything by the bail condition. It is unusual for plaintiff to appeal against bail condition. It is usually the accused that normally appeal against bail condition, which may be, it is too much. And when it is not reduced, you go to court. After all, the essence of granting bail is to make sure you come back to attend your charges while the ship works.
When I went back to court, I realized that they only filled a notice of appeal, nothing else!
When we look at the history of indigenous shipping in Nigeria, initially they were doing well. Why the sudden twist of fortune?
When I left the navy and I joined the maritime sector, we had one very small ship, with one small ship I was buying new cars, buying houses, traveling all over the world. I was doing three jobs a month. In some other times, it may be four. That is why we had rapid growth.
What was the situation that time and what is it situation now?
I will tell you. During that time there was no cabotage Act, so the attention of the world was not directed at us. During that time there was no regulation 13B which today is a by-product of the pollution at sea, the maritime world.
Before it was okay to have a ship, nobody bothered. But because the first pollution happened, IMO said this thing could have been prevented if this ship has double skin. So that even if the first skin breaks the second skin will retain it so they introduced the double skin measures. When they introduced the measures all these leading maritime countries, told their people that this measure has been agreed at Imo, particularly America (America will introduce but not implement).
America has the greatest number of Imo conventions that they did not sign. They are the only ones who don’t sign convention. If America sees that a convention doesn’t favour their people, they would not sign it. It is not mandatory that because you have participated in a convention that you must sign it. You can participate and says ‘my people have said I must not sign it because it is going to hamper their trade’. But in Nigeria, we say we are glad to attend this conference and we have domesticated it, whether it hinders business in Nigeria or not, we are not bothered. But it is not that we act as if we are not bothered because we want. It is because we have asked a carpenter to carry out heart surgery.
I will give you an example. There is a convention called ballast water treatment convention. You saw how much NIMASA spent to advertise it. I hate to talk about NIMASA because they have taken me as a personal enemy. They think I said all this because I am against them. Do I hate NIAMSA? The answer is no. But I hate what they are doing which is affecting my business. They spend so much money doing familiarization, sensitization before the launching of ballast water treatment.
But do you know what ballast water treatment is? Now, I will tell you. When a ship is constructed it has what is called ballast and this ballast has flotation. It contains water so that the sailors can be more comfortable in case there is no load on the ship. Because if there are no load the ship would be as light as a paper and the sailors would be uncomfortable, they won’t be able to work. So the way to make it comfortable, apart from floatation, is putting water in the containers. The water goes down and stabilizes the ship and there can be some comfortable sleeping on them. When the ship gets to where it will load, it will pour out the water and load, in order to attain the same balance.
There are five great lakes in America. When they noticed that some habitats of those great lakes were missing, they open up inquiry. They were wondering where they were. They found out that the foreign bacteria were eating up the bacteria in the lakes that made balance to be in the lake and killing the aquatic habitats. All things God created has one thing preying on the other, so that there can be balance. Humans prey on animals in forest.
So, they started to research and got to know that some ships come from Russian that passes through the great lakes. And the micro-organisms would have attached themselves to little quantity of the ballast water. So when the Russian get there to load, by the time they pump out their water, they would have introduced illegal immigrants into the lakes. It is a particular bacteria and it is only in Russia. That made the aquatic equilibrium imbalance and that was why the US went to IMO and that was why they championed the ballast water treatment convention.
Since they were the one who did the investigation, they thought of what could be the solution. A very clever America built an instrument as a solution for ballast water treatment and they started telling the whole world to buy it.
Now, how many Nigerian ships carry water from here to Russia or America? So why must they force ship owners in Nigeria, knowing that once they leave Lagos, the highest place they go is Calabar? And it is the same water in Lagos that you have in Calabar, why must you now force them to buy the instrument? Why do you have to ratify ballast water convention and force ship owners to buy the water treatment equipment at this time?
And even if you ratify it, it should be for ships coming into the country. We raised it, I said it, Chief Jolapamo raised it, Olaniyan said it. We are not dumb or stupid.
They cannot be more knowledgeable than us. And I will tell you why. As a ship owner, this is my course. This wasn’t how it was before. If I am working and getting 1 million dollars, sending you on a course would be a simple thing. There is no reason to hide behind a finger.
I speak on things I know to be true. And for this reason, they’ve done a lot of reprisal for me; but I just didn’t allow that to affect me!—International Trade Monitor