The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) yesterday set out plans to end Cabotage waivers for foreign shipowners within the next two to five years. According to NIMASA, the stoppage of the waivers, which would be stopped in phases, is expected to allow indigenous shipowners take charge of Nigerian Cabotage trade. There have been difficulties or near inability of indigenous shipping companies to carry Nigeriangenerated cargo through the nation’s coastal waters.
LEADERSHIP recalls that the Coastal and Inland Shipping (Cabotage) Act 2003, which came into force in 2004, aims primarily to reserve the commercial transportation of goods and services within Nigerian coastal and inland waters to vessels flying the Nigerian flag, owned and crewed by Nigerian citizens, and built in Nigeria. Speaking at a stakeholders’ consultative meeting for cessation of Cabotage waivers in Lagos yesterday, the director-general of NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Peterside said the agency is determined to bring to an end the waivers regime, so as to allow cabotage flourish in Nigeria.
He said: “For a very long time, indigenous operators have been very concerned about cabotage waivers, their concerns coming from the fact that it appears that waivers is now a norm instead of exception. They have been wondering when are we going to come to the end of this cabotage waivers regime. “NIMASA has end your cry, NI MASA is on the same page with you, we are determined to bring to an end the waivers regime so that cabotage will flourish in Nigeria and Nigerians will benefit from coastal trade.’’
Peterside further disclosed that the agency has taken preliminary steps to give Nigerian operators a strong footing in the Cabotage regime. “We have taken a number of preliminary steps to give the Nigerian operators a strong footing in the cabotage regime. Sometimes in 2017, we published marine notice of the new cabotage compliance strategy and in that marine notice, we informed operators that we shall no longer entertain any form of application for manning waivers save for captains and chief engineers. “At the time, it was for six months.
It was a trial run and we noticed that on six months we literally double the numbers of Nigerians onboard vessels by simply publishing and enforcing the new cabotage compliance strategy. Also in 2018, we decided to extend it. After then, we have series of engagement with stakeholders to stop the waivers regime in the cabotage trade, today is an important step in that direction. “As you know, it is the desire of every operators that will end the regime of waivers in the cabotage trade. A lot of our people are concerned that we have not been able to build vessels in this country. A number of Nigerians are onboard vessels, in the area of manning, there is an improvement and in terms of flagging, there are also improvements.