Politics or Business: NIMASA cancels Cabotage wavers, clampdown on one vessel

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Dr. Dakuku Peterside, NIMASA DG

…As FG explains why Nigeria’s exports are facing challenges overseas***

With politics in the air and the President election only few days away, the Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) on Sunday indicated the commencement of clampdown on vessels that do not comply with the provisions of the Cabotage Compliance Strategy introduced last year to ease the implementation of the Cabotage Act 2003 in Nigeria.

Dakuku indicated this, just as Dr Adeyemi Dipeolu, Special Adviser to the President on Economic Matters, Office of the Vice President also on Sunday attributed trade politics amongst nations as one of the reasons why some of the country’s exports were facing challenges in their destination countries.

Subsequently, the NIMASA Boss, Dr. Peterside also warned in Lagos that the Agency would no longer approve applications for any form of waivers under the Cabotage Act, particularly from the oil firms operations, because such approval did not help the growth of the Nigerian maritime sector and economy at large.

“Our laws forbid foreign vessels operating in our territorial waters save for compliance with the Cabotage Act. There shall be no sacred cow when we commence clampdown on erring vessels”, Dakuku Peterside said, reiterating a warning he gave in 2018, but which stakeholders could not ascertain if it was ever implemented.

“We want to increase the number of Nigerians who participate in the marine aspect of your business and we are working closely with the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) to have a joint categorization of vessels operating under the Cabotage Act in order to ensure the full implementation of the Act”, he said

A detention order for a Motor Tanker, MT NAVIGATOR CAPRICORN, which is a Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) Carrier, has been approved for contravening sections of the Cabotage Act.

The vessel was first boarded in October 2018 and all infractions of Cabotage non-compliance were noted and communicated accordingly to the charterer/Owners representatives with a 90 days grace period to comply. The 90 days expired on the 31st January 2019. It is noteworthy that Owners made undertaking to remedy the notable infractions when the vessel was issued a detention warning in October 2018.

While NIMASA is currently engaging the owners and charterers of the vessel on the need to comply with the laws of the land, MT NAVIGATOR CAPRICORN has been moved to Lagos Anchorage to allow space for other LPG vessels to discharge at the NOJ Jetty.

It is noteworthy that the NIMASA DG had led members of his team to meet with the Oil Producers Trade Sector (OPTS) in Lagos where he urged industry players to draw up a five-year strategic plan for the cessation of application for Cabotage waiver and also pursue the utilization of Nigerian-owned vessels for marine contracts.

The Agency had in August 2018, introduced a new Compliance Strategy for Cabotage Implementation in Nigeria to ensure full implementation of the Cabotage Act, 2003 to secure jobs for qualified Nigerians in the maritime sector.

The Agency via a Marine Notice suspended considerations for applications of grant of waiver on manning for prescribed categories of officers in vessels engaged in Cabotage trade. 

Dakuku presently maintains that the Agency no longer considers application for grant of waiver on manning requirements for vessels engaged in coastal trade with regards to 2nd officer, 2nd engineer, 2nd mate down to able seamen, ratings and stewards.

“Special applications for Captains, Chief Engineers, Chief Officers, First Mate in the absence of qualified Nigerians are considered on merit, but on the condition that such organization make plan to train a Nigerian and put in place a transition plan to ensure that the Nigerian takes over the job within one year”, Dakuku explains further, saying the whole essence was to ensure that Nigerians are not deprived of the jobs due them on showing requisite qualifications for the job.

Meanwhile, the Federal Government on Sunday attributed trade politics amongst nations as one of the reasons why some of the country’s exports had begun to face challenges in their destination countries.

Dr Adeyemi Dipeolu, Special Adviser to the President on Economic Matters, Office of the Vice President, made this known during an interactive session with journalists in Lagos.

Dipeolu said that due to international politics, most destination countries opposed the country’s exports because Nigeria had taken a stand on imports from such countries.

He said that in today’s politics, it would be difficult for the present administration to harm its local industries for the benefit of a foreign nation.

The presidential aide said that the present administration would not allow the importation of certain goods in which Nigeria had a comparative advantage.

“For instance, yams said to be grown in a neighbouring country are accepted by most advanced and developing countries, whereas the yams are grown in Nigeria.

“It is all trade politics that will eventually balance out. So, it is better to be self-sufficient in food production than to rely on the importation of such food items,” he said.

He added that it was not advisable for Nigeria to deplete its foreign reserves for food importation as this could make the people to spill over the borders in search of food.

He explained that the federal government had not signed the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement in order to save Nigeria from being a dumping ground for foreign goods.

Dipeolu said that the country needed to carry out due diligence on such agreement to ensure that the agreement would not negatively affect the local industries.

On the issue of power, he said that the country’s power generation had reached 8,100 Mega Watts (MW), adding that the government was working on the transmission lines to end epileptic power supply in some parts of the country.

“The way to go is that the government is working on gas and other environmental friendly means to provide adequate power to the people,” he said.

He told the journalists that the country’s economy was more than N100 trillion, adding that the government alone could not finance the economy, whose growth rate was on the rise.

He urged the private sector to come to the aid of the government to provide an enabling environment for the economy to thrive.