By Godwin ORITSE
THE Nigerian LiquifiedÂ Â Natural Gas Company (NLNG) has coomenced an auditÂ of the Nigerian
Ship Registry with a view to moving all its vessels to theÂ Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA)Â Registry.
Disclosing thisÂ in Lagos recently, NIMASAâ€™s Director-General Mr Temisan Omatseye said that the agency has entered into a working relationship with the gas company which has signed an agreement with NIMASA to do an audit of the agencyâ€™s registry
Omatseye stated that there is going to be a hybrid of ship registry that will be sited in Onne in Rivers State for the convenenience of the oil and gas industry. He explained that by this move, other vessel ownersÂ canÂ register their vessels withÂ the Nigerian registry so as to increaseÂ the the nationâ€™s tonnage .
The maritime lawyer also disclosed that while eighty-per cent of NLNGâ€™s operations are done by Nigerians, eighty-per cent of the money realised from the operations are taken abroad. His words â€œ I must appreciate LNG, it has signed an agreement with NIMASA. They are actually doing an audit of our flag, they are actually doing a direct impact to move all their vessels to Nigerian registry.
â€œWe are putting together a hybrid registry which will be based in Onne where we will have a tax free agency and by virtue of that we can have other vessels come in and register in Nigeria so it increases our tonnage and what that does is that it takes away the issue of ownership.
â€œSo with all due respect, the people that own ships do not have two heads, Nigerians have the capabilityÂ and I believe so much in the Indigenous Shippers Association, in their ability and they are willing to do this businessâ€.
He was of the opinion that there must be a deliberate effort on the part of the government to help members of ISAN.
He stated that there might be some teething problem at the beginning of anyÂ move to ensure that Nigerians are made to participate in the lifting of her crude, but that at the end of the day Nigerians and the economy will be better for it. Omatseye also stated that NIMASA makes a lot of revenue, but that most of the revenue comes from foreign ship owners who carry outÂ their businesses without following due processes.
â€œWe know that people want to partner with Nigerians, but because they have the confidence that they can go behind and get the job directly, Nigerian shipowners arecircumvented in the process.
â€œWe have a problem now we cannot train seafarers in Nigeria because we do not have an international sea going operation so our Nigerian seafarers that we train cannot get a Certificate of Competency because we do not have international vessels to put them on .
â€œCabotage cannot cure that because we cannot get a Certificate of Competency just for tradingÂ within our waters
â€œWe are currently importing a minimum of about a million tonnes of rice into this country,Â not one grainÂ of that is carried on Nigerian vesselâ€ he added.
Speaking in similar vein, the President of the Indigenous Shipowners Association of Nigeria (ISAN) Chief Isaac Jolapamo said that both NIMASA and NLNG are working hard towards making the Nigerian Registry acceptable in the world
â€œISAN has always believed in Nigeria and believing in Nigeria is the reason we own vessels and register them in Nigeria, if we do not believe in Nigeria we could as well go to other flag of convenient state to go and registerâ€ he stated.