By Godfrey Bivbere
The federal government has been Charged to constitute an inter-ministerial committee for the effective implementation of the Cabotage Act.
Former Director-General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Mrs Mfon Usoro, who gave the charge in Lagos, said that cabotage act should be seen as a national policy, adding that there is the need ofÂ an inter-ministerial committee to effectively monitor the implementation of the cabotage policy .
The maritime lawyer described the cabotage scheme as the shipping arm of the local content policy, saying that the inter-ministerial committee should comprise the Federal Ministry of Transport, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), and Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG).
The Cabotage Act was enacted in 2003 to enable indigenous shipping operators to take advantage ofÂ coastal trade but the reverse has been the case as foreign ship owners have continued to dominate the trade.
Usoro said with representatives in the cabotage committee, every ministry in the committee would be duty bound to solve problems militating against increasing the nationâ€™s domestic fleet.
She said that NIMASA had been working with NNPC through the institutionalised NIMASA/NNPC local content committee to drive the policy.Â SheÂ said that for the nationÂ to achievethe cabotage objectives, more guidelines on the policy should be drawn based on the cabotage Act. Continuing she said that the guidelines should also be fine-tuned.Â She called for patience by the stakeholders for cabotage to work, adding that each unit of the maritime sector should ensure that the policy succeeds.
According to her, â€œCabotage is about ship building; ownership; manning and registration and it is good to identify the agencies that would contribute to these fourÂ pillarsâ€, Usoro said. She said it would not be enough to purchase vessels, there must be an assurance that the vessels would getÂ cargoes.
On the Port Act Amendment bill pending in the National Assembly, she said the legislators were working â€˜assiduouslyâ€™ to ensure the bill is passed. The maritime lawyer said the bill would make adequate provisions for privatisation of the ports.Â Usoro condemned the proposed Maritime Security Agency bill, saying that she did not see any overwhelming reason to add another agency to those existingÂ in the maritime industry. â€œAll the functions of the proposed agency are already the statutory functions of an existing agency.
The proponents of the bill have not been able to express the need for another agency. The bill is technically incompetent because nearly every clause is a duplication of the functions of NIMASAâ€, she said. According to Usoro, if the bill is passed it would result into several agencies performing similar functions.