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Court affirms NIWA’s sole jurisdiction over commercial activities on inland waterways



…As authority embarks on nationwide safety campaign

With a navigable inland waterways of over 3,800 km, made up of no fewer than 12 major rivers, creeks, lagoons, lakes and intra-coastal waters spanning more than 20 states in the country, the average citizens have a right to expect the endowment to provide not only a reliable means of transport, but also credible platform of employments.

History showed that even before the purported dis-covery of the River Niger by either Mango Park or the Lander Brothers, that the local people have used the body of water mass for commercial and social activities like fishing and swimming. Government has however made efforts to optimize the waters for bulk goods movement, through dredging and the development of Agriculture through irrigation.

Subsequently, the Federal Government, working tirelessly through its specialized agency, the Nigerian Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), had taken various measures to protect lives and property on the waters, in addition to a capital dredging of more than 532 km, stretching from Baro in Niger State and Warri in Delta State, all in bid to make the River navigable, all year round.

With the dredging, also came the need to develop river ports at Baro, Oguta, Owerrinta and Degema; just as contracts were awarded for the development of standard river ports at Jamata and Lokoja. The Onitsha River Port was even rehabilitated, commissioned and given a new lease of life.

The statutory vision and aspirations made NIWA wonderful, especially with all the right things put in the right places. Everyone had expected NIWA to soar in to the air like an eagle. Unfortunately, the most important moment for NIWA had also become its most critical moment. Its most important ally, the Lagos State Government soon became its most distracting partner, opponent, competitor and legal foe. The result was an avoidable legal warfare, which not only kept the NIWA tied to the ground, but also ensured a dis-traction which kept it away from optimal performance.

For instance, industry watchers observed that the NIWA had hardly completed the dredging of the lower river Niger, fine tuned the construction of the jetties at Buruku, Ida, Agnebode, Pategi, Igbokoda, Okrika, Degema and Yenogoa, alongside the slipways in Kaduna and Pategi; and was mobilizing efforts towards a long-drawn battle against water hyacinth and aquatic weeds in line with vision of an Inland Water Transport (IWT) Master Plan, when it was confronted by the cacophony of voices, protesting what has since become known as collection of multiple charges in Lagos.

The protesters, consisting mostly of ferry/ boat operators were aghast that they were being compelled to make payments to both the NIWA and the Lagos State Government, practically for the same tittles or services; especially with issuance or renewal of operational licenses, certificates etc. For a good while, the management had a hectic time embarking on dialogue, during which the operators continued to pay. The dialogue would probably have continued indefinitely, but for the patience of the operators which when exhausted, finally dragged both the Lagos State Government and the NIWA before a competent court of law, seeking clarification as to which should discontinue with the illegal collection of the charges.

Suit No. FHC/L/CS/543/12 showed the Incorporated Trustees of the Association of Tourist boat operators and water transporters of Nigeria; and the Incorporated Trustees of Dredgers Association of Nigeria dragging nine entities to the Federal High Court In Lagos, and asking the court, to make a declaration as to which body has the legal right to collect charges.

The nine were: Lagos State Water ways Authority, Hon. Commissioner, Ministry of Water Front Infrastructural Development; Hon. Attorney General of La-gos State; Governor of Lagos State; National Inland Waterways Authority; Nigerian Maritime Standard and Safety Agency; Hon. Minister of Mines and Steel Development; Hon. Minister of Transport and the attorney General of the Federation.

Consequently, the court in its March 28th, 2014 judgment made seven declarations, through which the NIWA mandate and statutory right over all the country’s inland water ways was upheld, the operators were also told of the unconstitutionality of the Lagos State Government to administer the waters of its State, in so far as the relevant portions of the laws of the country was concerned.

In the judgment, authenticated by Mrs. A.M Adegbite, a Principal Executive Officer, the court declared as followed:

That the 5th (NIWA) and 6th Defendants were declared the proper and lawful authority in matters relating to the Plaintiffs’ commercial activities.

· *That the 1st and 2nd Defenders (Lagos State water ways authority and the states attorney general) are thus restrained from seeking to control such commercial activities of the Plaintiffs.

*That the Plaintiffs shall make payments, obtain and renew permit or license from the proper and lawful agency of Government, under the law, being the 5th and 6th Defendants.

*That the demand for payments for the operations of Plaintiffs on the inland waterways by both the 1st and 2nd Defendants as well as the 5th and 6th Defendants on same and similar issue, to wit: Operational license, Operational certificates etc amounts to multiple charges and therefore unconstitutional and unlawful.

*That the Plaintiffs shall make payment for their operational activities on the inland waterways and jetties to the 5th and 6th Defendants, being the proper defendants empowered under the constitution to collect such charges and issue license / permit, under the law in Nigeria.

*That the 1st and 2nd Defendants herein, not em-powered under the Constitution are restrained from further collecting and imposing charges on the plaintiffs in respect of their operation of boats, ferry and water transportation on Inland waterways and jetties in Nigeria, as it relates to the Plaintiffs; and

*That Prayer 5 and 6 of the originating summons which sought interim relief have been overtaken and are declined.

Obviously, the clear winners, from the court’s declarations were the ferry/ boat operators and dredgers. The real losers were the Lagos State Government which absolutely forfeited the chances of making further collection from the ferry operators and dredgers. With this judgment, NIWA is now re-invigorated to continue to call the shot and collect payments, although it lost good time, which it could have judiciously invested, and profitably too on other productive issues, first on a fruitless dialogue, and letter, on a wasteful legal pursuits.

Perhaps, now that the court’s war is over, the authority may be encouraged to sit tight, and invest its time more productively.

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WAIVER CESSATION: Igbokwe urges NIMASA to evolve stronger collaboration with Ships owners



…Stresses the need for timely disbursement of N44.6billion CVFF***

Highly revered Nigerian Maritime Lawyer, and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mike Igbokwe has urged the Nigeria Maritime Administration and safety Agency (NIMASA) to partner with ship owners and relevant association in the industry to evolving a more vibrant merchant shipping and cabotage trade regime.

Igbokwe gave the counsel during his paper presentation at the just concluded two-day stakeholders’ meeting on Cabotage waiver restrictions, organized by NIMASA.

“NIMASA and shipowners should develop merchant shipping including cabotage trade. A good start is to partner with the relevant associations in this field, such as the Nigeria Indigenous Shipowners Association (NISA), Shipowners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Oil Trade Group & Maritime Trade Group of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA).

“A cursory look at their vision, mission and objectives, show that they are willing to improve the maritime sector, not just for their members but for stakeholders in the maritime economy and the country”.

Adding that it is of utmost importance for NIMASA to have a through briefing and regular consultation with ships owners, in other to have insight on the challenges facing the ship owners.

“It is of utmost importance for NIMASA to have a thorough briefing and regular consultations with shipowners, to receive insight on the challenges they face, and how the Agency can assist in solving them and encouraging them to invest and participate in the maritime sector, for its development. 

“NIMASA should see them as partners in progress because, if they do not invest in buying ships and registering them in Nigeria, there would be no Nigerian-owned ships in its Register and NIMASA would be unable to discharge its main objective.

The Maritime lawyer also urged NIMASA  to disburse the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF)that currently stands at about N44.6 billion.

“Lest it be forgotten, what is on the lips of almost every shipowner, is the need to disburse the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (the CVFF’), which was established by the Coastal and Inland Shipping Act, 2003. It was established to promote the development of indigenous ship acquisition capacity, by providing financial assistance to Nigerian citizens and shipping companies wholly owned by Nigerian operating in the domestic coastal shipping, to purchase and maintain vessels and build shipping capacity. 

“Research shows that this fund has grown to about N44.6billion; and that due to its non-disbursement, financial institutions have repossessed some vessels, resulting in a 43% reduction of the number of operational indigenous shipping companies in Nigeria, in the past few years. 

“Without beating around the bush, to promote indigenous maritime development, prompt action must be taken by NIMASA to commence the disbursement of this Fund to qualified shipowners pursuant to the extant Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (“CVFF”) Regulations.

Mike Igbokwe (SAN)

“Indeed, as part of its statutory functions, NIMASA is to enforce and administer the provisions of the Cabotage Act 2003 and develop and implement policies and programmes which will facilitate the growth of local capacity in ownership, manning and construction of ships and other maritime infrastructure. Disbursing the CVFF is one of the ways NIMASA can fulfill this mandate.

“To assist in this task, there must be collaboration between NIMASA, financial institutions, the Minister of Transportation, as contained in the CVFF Regulations that are yet to be implemented”, the legal guru highlighted further. 

He urged the agency to create the right environment for its stakeholders to build on and engender the needed capacities to fill the gaps; and ensure that steps are being taken to solve the challenges being faced by stakeholders.

“Lastly, which is the main reason why we are all here, cessation of ministerial waivers on some cabotage requirements, which I believe is worth applause in favour of NIMASA. 

“This is because it appears that the readiness to obtain/grant waivers had made some of the vessels and their owners engaged in cabotage trade, to become complacent and indifferent in quickly ensuring that they updated their capacities, so as not to require the waivers. 

“The cessation of waivers is a way of forcing the relevant stakeholders of the maritime sector, to find workable solutions within, for maritime development and fill the gaps in the local capacities in 100% Nigerian crewing, ship ownership, and ship building, that had necessitated the existence of the waivers since about 15 years ago, when the Cabotage Act came into being. 

“However, NIMASA must ensure that the right environment is provided for its stakeholders to build and possess the needed capacities to fill the gaps; and ensure that steps are being taken to solve the challenges being faced by stakeholders. Or better still, that they are solved within the next 5 years of its intention to stop granting waivers”, he further explained. 

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Breaking News: The Funeral Rites of Matriarch C. Ogbeifun is Live



The Burial Ceremony of Engr. Greg Ogbeifun’s mother is live. Watch on the website: and on Youtube: Maritimefirst Newspaper.

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Wind Farm Vessel Collision Leaves 15 Injured



…As Valles Steamship Orders 112,000 dwt Tanker from South Korea***

A wind farm supply vessel and a cargo ship collided in the Baltic Sea on Tuesday leaving 15 injured.

The Cyprus-flagged 80-meter general cargo ship Raba collided with Denmark-flagged 31-meter wind farm supply vessel World Bora near Rügen Island, about three nautical miles off the coast of Hamburg. 

Many of those injured were service engineers on the wind farm vessel, and 10 were seriously hurt. 

They were headed to Iberdrola’s 350MW Wikinger wind farm. Nine of the people on board the World Bora were employees of Siemens Gamesa, two were employees of Iberdrola and four were crew.

The cause of the incident is not yet known, and no pollution has been reported.

After the collision, the two ships were able to proceed to Rügen under their own power, and the injured were then taken to hospital. 

Lifeboat crews from the German Maritime Search and Rescue Service tended to them prior to their transport to hospital via ambulance and helicopter.

“Iberdrola wishes to thank the rescue services for their diligence and professionalism,” the company said in a statement.

In the meantime, the Hong Kong-based shipowner Valles Steamship has ordered a new 112,000 dwt crude oil tanker from South Korea’s Sumitomo Heavy Industries Marine & Engineering.

Sumitomo is to deliver the Aframax to Valles Steamship by the end of 2020, according to data provided by Asiasis.

The newbuild Aframax will join seven other Aframaxes in Valles Steamship’s fleet. Other ships operated by the company include Panamax bulkers and medium and long range product tankers.

The company’s most-recently delivered unit is the 114,426 dwt Aframax tanker Seagalaxy. The naming and delivery of the tanker took place in February 2019, at Namura Shipbuilding’s yard in Japan.

Maritime Executive with additional report from World Maritime News

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