By Godwin Oritse
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) Mr Mike Igbokwe has advocated the formation of a Cabotage Task Force that will monitor the successfulÂ implementation of the Cabotage Act.
Speaking at the just concluded first strategic admiralty law seminar for Judges, Igbokwe stated that if the provisions of the Act are properly implemented, enforced and monitored with the necessary political will, it will put the local shipping industry on a better pedestal.
Igbokweâ€™s paper which was titled â€œLitigation on Cabotage: Issues and Challengesâ€ also said that the liberal protection in theÂ Act creates room for the local shipping industry operatorsÂ to empower and position themselves to build the much needed capacities to acquire more vessels and skills.
He disclosed that most cabotage operating countries have a task force that monitor the implementation of their cabotage law.
His wordsâ€As in the case in the United States of America, stakeholders could form a Cabotage Task Force whose main function will beÂ monitoring the implementation and success of the Act and making recommendations to the implementing authority and Government on how improvement can made.
â€œ In this regard, the Act sees the local shipping industry as a strategic industry which is in its infant stage of development and not being in control of the indigenous shipping operations, navigation and ownership, in the interest of Nigeriaâ€™s economy and national security, requires some guidance, conducive environment and protection from foreign competition so as to be nurtured into maturity and given room to develop through its acquisition and building of the necessary capacities to become sufficiently commercially viable and strongâ€.
He noted that it is only when the local shipping industry is fully developed strong in the Cabotage trade that it can venture into international shipping.
â€œwhen fully developed the local shipping industry will be able to control and become very strong on domestic shipping before venturing ino regional or international shipping where it will be able to withstand competition from highly subsidized foreign ships in international shipping â€œhe added.
It would be recalled that former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Mr Olisa Agbakoba initiated the push for a Cabotage in Nigeria. and after very rigorous legislative process, the bill was finally passed in to law in 2003.
Six years after the passage, operators in the local shipping industry are still frustrated as the tradeÂ Â is still dominated by foreigners.
The law was however later amended to give room for some guidelines that allow foreign operators to apply for waivers and approval to operate in Nigeriaâ€™s Cabotage trade.