A face off between the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, and Chevron Nigeria Limited, CNL, one of the International Oil Companies, IOCs operating in Nigeria, almost ensued over a list of some classification societies published by the NIMASA, a move that was opposed by Chevron. One of the affected societies, International Naval Surveys Bureau, headed by Mr. Akin Olaniyan, told Godwin Oritse that the law is superior to any individual. Excerpts:
There was this face-off between NIMASA and Chevron over the issue of some classification societies, what is current situation?
First and foremost I must tell you that Chevron or any other company is a private firm that is subject to the laws of the land. In as much as I do not want to join issues with anybody, what Chevron is saying does match up. The issue here is that, we are within the Federal Republic of Nigeria’s domain and the Federal Republic of Nigeria is a sovereign state .
The Federal Republic of Nigeria has constituted a body that represent its maritime interest which is the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, and that body has come up to adjudge the classification societies that are working in this domain and has come up with a list of classification that have satisfied its requirement and that should be the end of the matter. If Chevron now feels otherwise, it is either they get out of the country or obey the law or policies or pronouncements as made by NIMASA, it is as simple as that. They are not government onto themselves.
In as much as I appreciate your position on this, do you not think that Chevron only want to play safe?
Safe as in what sense, let me tell you one other thing. Classification society comes in different forms and that is the truth.
The first classification was Lloyds of London, it was formed in a coffee shop and that was how classification itself started. Some classification societies have come together to form an association with a view to protecting their interest be it safety or security. You see, it is a very funny situation, under the guise that you are keeping to safety standards. We saw what happened in the past, under the guise of safety, they excluded some people from trading, not because they say their vessels are not safe.
If you are looking at vessels that are safe, one of the indices you consider is the port state control in places where there is a lot of traffic, a lot of business within that port state control in what port state control have say about certain vessels, what they have to say about certain flags or certain classification societies.
If you look at it from that perspective, they (port state) have a better assessment of the situation, but, the final arbiter in this matter is the flag administration which in this case is the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency. They have gone through our documentation and they have gone through our antecedents. We class Panama vessels; even the United States Coast guard has certified us
You see, when you get to a certain level in this business, they begin to mix a lot of politics and interest and under the guise of safety and security. Like I told you earlier on , I do not want to join issues with Chevron and they may have their reasons for kicking against some of the classification societies listed by NIMASA. We do not have problems with other International Oil Companies except Chevron and I do not know why. I am sure that by the time we expose ourselves more to them, they will reason with us.
For the benefit of the lay man on the street, what is a classification society?
A classification society is a body of experts and technocrats who on behalf of individuals, on behalf of flag administrations, on behalf of institutions, they carry out impartial assessment of the safety, security and seaworthiness of vessels and all seafaring equipment.
What is a port state and flag state control?
The flag state control is the mechanism with which state administers vessels under its care or authority while the Port state on the other hand is also a mechanism used to ensure that sub-standard vessels of other flags are not allowed into jurisdiction.
However, it is not the duty of flag administration to provide security for the industry, but going the IMO framework ISPS CODE THERE IS to provide FRAMEWORK to accommodate all the security agencies, but so that they do not act at cross purposes. This and many other duties is what is expected from the flag administration. Their duty is to enhance the development of the maritime industry because it is a money spinner any day for the nation.