By Godfrey Bivbere
The Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has ordered the detention of a tanker vessel, MT Makhambet, for trading on the nationâ€™s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), contrary to the provisions of the Coastal and Inland Shipping (Cabotage) Act, which restricts it to ships owned, built and crewed by Nigerians.
Following a suit filed by Mike Igbokwe & Co, on behalf of the Indigenous Shipowners Association of Nigeria (ISAN) and the management of Pokat Nigeria Limited, the court ordered the detention of the ship for bringing 10,000 litres of petroleum to Ibafon jetty which is in contravention of the Cabotage law.
In granting the prayers of the plaintiffs, the court ordered that not only should the ship be detained, its documents should be deposited with it also while the authorities of the Nigerian Navy should deploy its personnel to enforce the order.
The vessel which is the first defendant along side MBX Shipping Ltd. (owners of the vessel) and the master of the ship who are the 2nd and 3rd defendants, according to the order, â€œwhether by themselves or their servants or agents or privies or otherwise howsoever are restrained from applying for or obtaining port clearance for the 1st defendant of from sailing or causing the said 1st defendant to leave her present location at the Ibafon 1 jetty, Apapa, Lagos or using or trading with her in and within Nigerian waters or EEZ pending the hearing and determination of the Motion on notice.â€
The suit was adjourned to tomorrow.
It would be recalled that members of ISAN have been lamenting their fate since the signing into law of the Cabotage law which they claimed has even worsen their conditions, as their vessels are now left rusting away because foreigners have completely taken over trade in Nigerian waters despite the Cabotage law.
This action by members of ISAN may not be unconnected with the fact that several complaints to the agency empowered by government to implement to the Act ( Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA) had failed to yield no result.
There have been accusations that officials of NIMASA have been working with foreign shipowners to contravene the law for their own benefits.