By Godfrey Bivbere
As a means of subverting the Cabotage Act meant to protect the nationâ€™s coastal trade, foreign shipowners bringing in petroleum products into the country have resorted to anchoring outside the countryâ€™s waters to prevent enforcement of the law.
Disclosing this to Vanguard in an exclusive interview, Chairman of Indigenous Shipowners Association of Nigeria (ISAN), Chief Isaac Jolapamo, said that apart from circumventing the Cabotage law, they also put stringent and almost unattainable comdition before local operators to prevent them from lifting the products to private tank farms at Ibafon.
This action Jolapamo said, has totally excluded his members from lifting petroleum products from the mother ships to the jetties, a function which should have been an exclusive right of Nigerians as contained in the Cabotage law.
He noted that members of ISAN have continued to lose millions of naira monthly to keep their vessels operational.
Also speaking in the same vein, Captain Emmanuel Ihenacho, Chairman of Genesis Worldwide Shipping, said that the situation is so bad presently that no indigenous shipowner has any job to do.
Ihenacho told Vanguard that he is not sure if the ISAN Chairmanâ€™s vessels are working. He explained that the same fate would have befallen his company if not that they have a tank farm which allows them to work for themselves.
After waiting for years for NIMASA to come to their aid, ISAN last week went to court to enforce the provisions of the Cabotage law.
In a suit filed by Mike Igbokwe & Co. on behalf of the ISAN and the management of Pokat Nigeria Limited,Â the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has ordered the detention of a tanker vessel, M/T Makhambet, for trading in the nationâ€™s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) contrary to the provisions of the Coastal and Inland Shipping (Cabotage) Act.
The court ordered the detention of the ship for bring 10,000 liters of petroleum to Ibafon jetty which is in contravention of the Cabotage law.
In granting the prayers of the plaintiffs, the court ordered that not only should the ship be detained, its documents should be deposited with it while the authorities of the Nigerian Navy should deploy its personnel to enforce the order.
The court also directed that the plaintiffs pick up the bills of the Nigerian Navy personnel that would go onboard the vessel to enforce the order while they Navy should also patrol the surrounding waters to prevent the vessel from â€œescaping from the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court.â€
The vessel which is the first defendant along side MBX Shipping Ltd. (Owners of the vessel) and the master of the ship who are the 2nd and 3rd defendants, according to the order â€œwhether by themselves or their servants pr agents or privies or otherwise howsoever are restrained from applying for or obtaining port clearance for the 1st defendant of from sailing or causing the said 1st defendant to leave her present location at the Ibafon 1 jetty Apapa Lagos or using or trading with her in and within Nigerian waters or EEZ pending the hearing and determination of the Motion on notice.â€