By Godfrey Bivbere & Ifeyinwa Obi
In a bid to update the nationâ€™s ship register the management of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has de_registered about 355 vessels owned by local operators, even as the indigenous operators have kicked against the action of the apex maritime regulatory agency.Vanguard gathered that the vessels were de-registered from the countryâ€™s Ship Register due to expired and invalid documents.
A source close to the management of NIMASA said that the affected vessels are made up of fishing vessels, barges, tankers and passenger vessels. The source gave the names of the affected vessels as MT Sir Michael, owned by president of Zenon Oil, Mr. Femi Otedola, and currently managed by Tubbs Marine and Energy Limited, MT Sea Queen owned by Karinax Nigeria Limited, MT Endurance owned by Prisma, MT Balasa owned by Nigerian Ports Authority, MV BL 30 owned by Brawal Shipping and MT Sealord owned by Sea Petroleum and Gas (SPG).
Ships operating under the Nigerian flag are expected to renew their registration every five years, a situation which indigenous ship owners have often kicked against.
President of Al Dawoo Shipping and Secretary of Indigenous Shipowners Association of Nigeria (ISAN), Captain Niyi Labinjo noted that the flag registration of a ship is done only once in the lifetime of a vessel in other countries.
According â€œWhy do they ask people to re_register their ships every five years? It is not done anywhere in the world except Nigeria. It is like being asked to re_register the birth of your child every five years; it is not doneâ€, Captain Labinjo said.
While some of the de_flagged vessels may have been snapped, many ship owners have also cited the cumbersome nature of ship registration under the countryâ€™s flag administration as a major disincentive for the renewal of their expired registration.
Chairman of the Indigenous Shipowners Association of Nigeria (ISAN), Chief Isaac Jolapamo penultimate week tasked the Director General of NIMASA to streamline the process of registration under the Nigerian flag to make the countryâ€™s Ship Register more attractive.
Vanguard investigations reveal that the process of registering a ship at NIMASA may drag for as long as eight to twelve months whereas in other maritime nations, a ship can be registered within 24 hours.
Our findings revealed that before Nigeriaâ€™s Register of Ship can issue Registration Certificate to a ship, she must receive clearance from four different departments of NIMASA. The departments are Maritime Labour, Maritime Safety, Cabotage and Legal.
While the Maritime Labour Department must certify that the ship to be registered complies with relevant labour laws and conventions ratified by Nigeria, the Maritime Safety Departmentâ€™s responsibility is to ensure that the vessel in question certifies all relevant safety standards and ensure that laid down safety procedures are followed.
Director General of NIMASA, Mr. Temi Omatseye, recently expressed his dissatisfaction with the process of ship registration in the country.
â€œI am not very impressed with what is happening there (Ship Registry). I will tell you my mind, I will say how it is and you can shoot me for whatever you like but I will tell you how it is. That is the way I am. Today, Management has decided to move the Ship Registry.
The ROS is coming directly under the Director Generalâ€™s office and I will be personally responsible for registration of vessels. We intend to convert that place between now and December. All vessels registration must be done in 48 hoursâ€, Omatseye said.
Omatseye might have underestimated the problems, however, because as it stands, there is no way a ship can be registered in Nigeria within 48 hours considering the various process involved.
As the flag administration for Nigerian_registered ships, NIMASA ensures that these ships comply with international and national rules and conventions, covering maritime safety and security, Marine environmental pollution and social, living and working conditions on board.
The future of the de_flagged ships remains uncertain as they may face difficulty in trading in any part of the world including Nigeria.
Without a valid registration and documentation, the ships will be constantly harassed and subjected to rigorous Port State Control and possible detention when they call on other ports outside the country.