Strong indications emerged that the Federal Government may have made up its mind to grant a national carrier licence to the newly formed Ocean Marine Tankers Limited, about two years after the Indigenous Ship Owners Association of Nigeria (ISAN) made unsuccessful attempts at being licensed one. Ocean Marine Tankers Limited had recently acquired two tanker vessels; MT Abiola and MT Igbinosa, which are said to be 45,000 metric tonnes each and might soon commence the lifting of crude oil and other products.
The company had recently applied to be issued with a national carrier status, which had been vacant after the demise of the Nigerian National Shipping Line (NNSL). Meanwhile, section 35 of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) Act, 2007 provides that the Minister of Transport on the advice of NIMASA may grant national carrier status to a shipping company if Nigerian individuals or enterprises fully own at least 60 percent of its equity shares of any vessel owned by the company and the shipping company is registered in Nigeria.
This section also provides that the company owns at least one ocean going vessel of not less than 5,000 net registered tonnage. In addition, the Act provides that the vessel owned by the Nigerian company must operate on international route, the deep sea and not on Nigerian coastal or inland waterways. Senior Special Adviser to the President on maritime service, Mr. Leke Oyewole, who spoke in an interview, disclosed that he was aware the company has applied to be licensed as a national carrier for the country, which bestows on it several rights especially in terms of carriage of Nigerian cargo.
He however said that he was not aware how far it has gone in processing the applications, especially in terms of meeting the set conditions but hinted that the government is favourably disposed to granting it the license if it meets the conditions. “We are all disposed to giving it to them if they meet the conditions because it will be a thing joy any day any of those ships will travel abroad to lift products because no Nigerian tanker vessel has ever done that before now”, the Presidential aide had said.
He however assured that the government will take a painstaking effort to ensure that the company meets all the requirements for the granting of national carrier status, which he believes will mark a new beginning for Nigerian shipping industry, as it will launch Nigeria into the club of tanker operating country, especially as a member of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
Executive director of NIMASA in charge of labour and Cabotage services, Mr. Obi Callistus, in an obvious reference to ISAN’s application for a national carrier status, said the agency was not considering granting any such license to anybody at least for now
According to the executive director, no Nigerian shipping company has fulfilled these conditions, especially the ownership of a vessel of 5, 000 net registered tonnage. In obvious response to insinuations by the association that it has met the conditions, the executive director said: “It appears ISAN is trying to muscle NIMASA to do its bidding at all times, that is not possible”.
It was however gathered that one of the potent factor that would continue to forestall the licensing of the company as a national carrier is that fact that its registration is still inconclusive as well as the fact that it does not have one single ship on its fleet.
Information from National Mirror was used in this report.