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Economic regulator: Shippers Council set to aquire new powers

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When the former Managing Director of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Chief Adebayo Babatunde Sarumi dragged highly rated stakeholders in shipping and terminal operations to court, over bogus and frivolous charges about a decade ago, little did Nigerians know that the Ibadan High Chief was probably setting a true agenda, for the future roles of the Shippers Council.

But last month, as stakeholders settled in Kaduna’s 17 Hotel, along the Tafa Balewa Road, for a three-day brainstorming session, preparatory to evolving new powers for the Council to perform same function as now endorsed by President Goodluck Jonathan, those with hindsight could not but realized how much the country must have missed, for not compelling the Council to function as the nation’s ports regulator, earlier.

President Jonathan no doubt has now realized this, prompting him to assign the new task to the NSC. The group of intellectuals and stakeholders, comprising of seasoned legal drafters and core maritime players and stakeholders in the maritime industry have also realized; hence their recent gathering in Kaduna, for a three-day brainstorming session, all in a bid to ensure that not only would the recent Presidential declaration appointing the NSC an Economic Regulator be validated, but also, to ensure that the reinvigorated Shippers’ Council would be so dynamic, that it could wither the storm and challenges likely to unfold, in the near future.

And the assembly which indeed, consisted of representatives of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Nigeria Customs Service (NSC), the Office of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, the Council for Regulations of Freight Forwarding of Nigeria (CRFFN) and the NSC among others; all of them, in one accord did a wonderful job; exploring ways of creating the legal framework, needed to make the Council meet the aspirations of industry operators.

“We have not gathered here to make powers to enable Shippers’ Council to act as Shippers Council. We are here, working to make laws, to enable the Shippers Council to act an Economic Regulator” declared Ibrahim Kashim, a Director, in charge of Post-Privatization Monitoring Department, of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE).

Specifically, the Shippers Council should now be sufficiently empowered to metamorphose from a toothless advisory Government platform, to a strong, confident, all-embracing regulatory body, able to both bark and bite, in the course of the performance of its statutory roles.

Unlike in the past where it begged for the release of information needed to make it functional, henceforth, request for such vital information must now be furnished within a reasonable number of days, even as those industry operators who deliberately supply falsehood, would be declared guilty of misrepresentation; and may be penalized like those who totally withheld required information. And such penalty may range between N500, 000 to N2, 000,000; while a defaulting company may even be sealed up, should there be any reasons to conclude that it has no intention of compliance, with the prescribed penalty.

But arguing further, he posited that unto whom much has been given would much be expected of the Council must henceforth, be guided by law. Subsequently, his paper, titled “A Compendium on Regulatory Regime in Port Concession Agreements and National Transport Commission (NTC) Bill”, stressed the need also to avoid leaving open flanks, in the course of achieving public goals, identifying five principles by which the Council must be guided.

“The five principles are as follows: transparency, proportionality, accountability consistency and targeting”, Alhaji Ibrahim Kashim posited, tasking the Council to focus at all times, the obligation of upholding the integrity of the Nigerian judicial system, as any vibrant regulatory regimes must satisfy the demands of the law, for it to command the fidelity of its citizens.

Speaking in the same manner, Legal Drafting Director, Office of the Attorney General, Alhaji Hamzat Tahir, who described an economic regular as “an intervention mechanism” while agreeing with Kashim, however stressed the need to ensure that every decision being made by the ‘Kaduna’ assembly, would totally comply with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Subsequently, the Council was thereafter charged to stretch its mandate as an economic regulator, to accommodate the task of preventing market failure, in consonance with the vision of President Goodluck Jonathan’s pronouncement. In other words, the Council must no longer be bogged down by the limitations of its earlier, porously crafted advisory powers; but be imbue with the capacity to authorize its staff or representatives to visit companies when necessary, even at short notices, if such gestures would assist in obtaining or confirming the accuracy of data and which, without, may hinder the effective execution of its new mandate.

The brainstorming group had one ma-or desire: the Shippers Council, in the light of its latest mandate, must transform into an organization capable of assisting Federal Government to mid-wife her dream of creating a harnessed and business friendly port; a port where extortion could be drastically reduced, and where payment for unrendered services, which has reportedly sent several operators into other countries’ ports, become a thing of the past.

Pressed for comment, the NSC Chief Executive Officer and Executive Secretary, Hassan Bello said he was glad that Government had taken the bull by the horn, in its bid to move the ports ndustry to new heights.

“The potential benefits of the ports have not been realized; and that underscores why there is need, for an economic regulator”, he stated, adding that government was aware of certain lapses in the nation’s participation in the international trade, particularly in respect of issues like comparatively longer dwelling time of vessels and cargo in ports; time-wasting complex clearing procedures; corruption and the absence of desired technological inputs; stating that these contributed immensely to denying Nigerian ports the benefits of efficiency or cost effectiveness.

He assured that his management would embark on new internal restructuring of its staff, to leverage on state of art technology, so as to achieve results, and lamenting that the ongoing gridlock at the Apapa Port, was to say the least, unsightly.

It would be recalled that the appointment of the NSC as Ports Economic Regulator was made in March 2014, pending when the National Transport Commission (NTC) Bill is passed into law by the National Assembly. But then, Government knows that the NTC Bill may never be passed as soon as it desired.

If everything goes as planned, the NSC would not only be reinvigorated, the Council would also soon begin to function on mandates which is inclusive of such responsibility as: controlling monopolies, moral hazards; externalities as well as coordination and planning.

It would be recalled that the appointment of the NSC was made in March 2014 as the Ports Economic Regulator pending when the National Transport Commission (NTC) Bill is passed into law by the National Assembly.–International Trade Monitor

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

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…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

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

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Wind Farm Vessel Collision Leaves 15 Injured

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…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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