ByÂ Godwin Oritse
SHIP operators in Nigeria have besieged the office of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to register their vessels following the high spate of ships arrest by the Indigenous Ship Owners Association of Nigeria (ISAN).
The move by the operators is also as a result ofÂ them to register all Cabotage vessels operating in the coastal waters in Nigeria or face severe sanctions.
On the whole, a total of 64 vessels have been registered in the last few months while over 200 ships are currently having their applications processed.
Disclosing thisÂ recently in Lagos, the Director-General of NIMASA, Mr Temisan Omatseye said that with the expectedÂ number of vessels awaiting NIMASAâ€™s registration, Nigeriaâ€™s cargo tonnage will hit 40 million by 2010.
He explained that Nigeriaâ€™s attainment of a comfortable level of tonnage as a result of a robust ship registry will give it a better rating in the International Maritime Organization (IMO).
Omatseye noted that over 90% of vessels belonging to international oil companies (IOCs) and doing Cabotage businesses are not registered in Nigeria.He disclosed that the Nigerian Liquified Natural Gas Company (NLNG) has pledged to fund an updated newÂ Nigerian Ship Registry.
He stated: â€œRight now, our ship registry is a closed registry which does not encourage the registration of foreign vessels.
â€œWe had the Nigerian LNG, they came to visit us because they have their vessels registered in the Bahamas and they are willing to flag the Nigerian flag.
â€œThe Nigerian Ship Registry is not very encouraging, so we are looking at either possibilities of making our Ship Registry a hybrid Ship Registry which is not really the best around but a middle of the road registry.
â€œLike in the U K, we have the British Ship Registry and Ireland, we need to have another kind of registry to that effect
â€œAlso the LNG has offered to fund setting up of an updatedÂ brand new ship registry and train the personnel that will man the registryâ€.
He however commended his predecessors on the ground work they had done concerning the Ship Registry adding that a central porter that can be easily accessible will be created for the same purpose.
â€œSince November 24 up till date, we have registered 64 vessels and that is not among the ones that are still pending in the files.
â€œThe registry is actually picking up, one day alone Union Maritime brought in 12 vessels to register with us, Sea Force came to us and said they are bringing in 200 vessels to come and put in Nigerian flag and right now, we do not have the human capacity to manage the registry.Ship registry is very key to our operations because the tonnage is what gives us respectability on the IMO,â€ he added.