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Harmonize Maritime Laws, Streamline Functions, Judges, Stakeholders Tell Govt

Written by Maritime First
  • As Militants attack more Chevron assets, despite warships deployment

Nigerian Maritime industry Stakeholders and the cream of the nation’s judiciary have agreed that there is an urgent need to harmonize existing domestic maritime laws if the country would avoid the current duplicity of functions among government agencies.

A forum comprising of Judges, Maritime Law Practitioners, Marine Underwriters, Law Lecturers, Transport and Logistics Experts, as well as other Industry  Stakeholders across the country and beyond made the decision after brainstorming on topical issues and measures needed to entrench international best standards and practices in Nigeria.

Ignatus Nweke

Mr. Ignatus Nweke, Deputy Director Public Relation, NSC.

Organized as the 14th biennial Maritime Seminar for Judges by the Nigerian Shippers’ Council under the auspices of the Federal Ministry of Transport, in collaboration with the National Judicial Institute and Nigerian Maritime Law Association between Tuesday 31st May and Wednesday 1st June 2016 at the Abuja Sheraton Hotel and Towers, the forum also urged the Supreme Court to reconsider as soon as possible, its decision in the case of M/V ARABELLA Vs. NIGERIA AGRICULTURAL INSURANCE CORPORATION (2006) 10 NSC,608,SC in the light of recent developments in the law.

“There is need for a holistic review of the ADMIRALTY JURISDICTION PROCEDURE RULES 2011.

“There is need to establish an Admiralty Division in the Federal High Court”, a communique issued on Wednesday stated, stressing that it is also “pertinent to review our Evidence Act on electronic evidence and further consider the enactment of an Information Technology Act, similar to the Indian Information Technology Act 2010.”

Court-HammerThe participants called for the establishment of an Electronic registry (E-Registry) where electronic documents can be registered and recorded,  noting a need for an immediate review of the Cyber Crime Prohibition Act 2015 to address existing lacunae, particularly the inadequate punitive measures.

“In view of the very obvious threat to maritime security there is an urgent need for a National Policy on cyber security. There is need to develop specific cyber security guidelines for the Maritime industry; just as there should also be  communication channel, where information can be provided by experts to update Nigeria on concerns that are looming on the horizon with regards to maritime cyber crime”.

The forum specifically tasked the Federal Government to, as a matter of urgency, consider the enactment of the Ports and Harbour Authority Act, highlighting the importance of factoring independent power providers into renewals of the concession/lease at the Nigerian Ports, so as to solve the power problems.

“Adequate measures should be put in place to sanitise the freight forwarding and the Customs brokerage business in Nigeria ports”,  observed the participants, counseling the Nigerian Shippers’ Council to take steps to initiate legislations to cover liability of terminal operators for loss, damage or delay to cargo using the frame work under the United Nations Convention on Liability of Terminal Operators 1991.

“In consideration of the NTC Bill before the National Assembly, regards must be made to the history on legal functions and legal contents of NSC.

“In view of the strategic importance of Admiralty law in Nigeria, the National University Commission should review its law curriculum to include teaching of the Admiralty law in Nigerian universities at the undergraduate level”, the Biennial conference participants concluded.

The aim of the seminar was centered on the need to identify, highlight and remedy challenges in some of the areas of the nation’s strategic economic interests in Admiralty Law and Practice; Electronic evidence, Maritime cyber challenges and Legal responsibilities of operators in the ports.

Subsequently, incisive presentations and thought provoking commentaries were made on the topics which included:

Introduction to Maritime Law and Admiralty Jurisdiction; (a) Electronic Evidence in Admiralty Practice

(b)Electronic Evidence in Admiralty Practice – Banking Perspective

Addressing African Maritime Cyber Challenges; as well as the Legal Responsibilities of Operators in the Ports,  with special emphasis on NPA, Terminal Operators, Shipping Agencies and Freight Forwarders.

Most of the attendees affirmed that the seminar has retained its primary objective of updating the knowledge base of the Justices/Judges of superior courts in Nigeria and the West African Sub-Region constitutionally vested with original and appellate admiralty jurisdiction, and would be of immense benefits in adequately preparing them to face the challenges of interpretation and application of both domestic and international law on maritime issues.

In the meantime, Niger Delta militants on Wednesday blew up two additional facilities belonging to Chevron Nigeria Limited, making it the fourth time the oil major’s assets would be attacked in less than a month.

Amid the recent upsurge in attacks on oil and gas installations in the area, some international oil companies and the Nigerian National Petroleum Companies have seen their facilities damaged, with the latest being Chevron.

A militant group that calls itself the Niger Delta Avengers, which has claimed responsibility for most of the attacks since the beginning of the year, destroyed two vital Chevron’s Bibi oil wells, RMP 23 and RMP 24, in Warri North Local Government Area of Delta State on Wednesday.

One of our correspondents learnt that the incident occurred around 3:44am near Egbema, an Ijaw enclave in Warri North, and the wells have been shut down.

A military source and an employee of Chevron, who did not want their names mentioned, confirmed the incident, adding that the attack led to heavy spillage in the creeks.

The source also said that a team of engineers had been sent to assess the damage and stop further spread of the spillage.

When contacted, the Manager, Communications, Chevron Nigeria, Mr. Sola Adebawo, said, “We will not comment on security issues.”

On May 4, Chevron’s Okan offshore platform came under attack, a development that resulted in the shutdown of the facility.

Okan is the nation’s first offshore production platform located in the Escravos area of Delta State.

Chevron said the damage to the Okan platform had affected about 35,000 barrels per day of its own net crude production, or about 15 per cent of its output in the country.

On May 13, a new blast occurred at a Chevron oil well at the Marakaba pipeline in Warri.

Last week, the NDA carried out another attack on the oil major’s main power line at the Escravos terminal, shutting down its onshore operations in the region.

Onshore oil assets in Nigeria have been attacked for years, forcing the IOCs to reduce their land-bound operations in the area in favour of more secure offshore projects.

The Head of Energy Research, Ecobank Capital, Mr. Dolapo Oni, said, “I think the IOCs have genuine reasons to be worried. As companies that have high safety standards, most major oil companies are likely to take stringent safety protocols, including reducing personnel at fields bordering locations that have been hit or could be hit.”

Additional report from Punch

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