By Godfrey Bivbere
The Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has engaged the services of consultants to upgrade its flag register to international standard, even as the Shipping Association of Nigeria (SAN) is to move its 30 vessels hitherto under foreign flag to the nationâ€™s register.
Speaking on the efforts of the apex maritime regulatory agency in Lagos, Director-General of NIMASA, Temisan Omatseye, said that they have engaged three experts to work on the registry.
The NIMASA boss who disclosed this while playing host to some members of SAN, explained that it is the desire of the agency under his watch for the nationâ€™s flagship to be accepted by the international shipping industry.
According to him: â€œThough the maritime industry is matured, it is still in the infancy stage. Itâ€™s time for Nigerians to take over the business in the nationâ€™s maritime sector. The issue of the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund is key to our heart.”
As much as we are ready to disburse the Fund, NIMASA is also committed to ensuring the availability of business for our indigenous operators. This is why we want our ship registry to be first class.â€
He also noted that the agency is working out modalities to ensure effective training of Nigerian cadets and that they also get the relevant sea time practical required for qualification to sail on international trading vessels.
SAN President, Emeka Ndu said that their decision to bring their vessels to the nationâ€™s ship registry was based on recent development in the Nigerian maritime industry.
Ndu said for starters, his company; C & I Leasing would kick-start the process by changing the flag of its entire fleet of six vessels to Nigerian flag.
According to him, â€œWe are happy about achievements of NIMASA in the past eight months and this has served as an incentive for us to desire to be 100% compliant with Cabotage requirements. As a result of the positive flow from NIMASA, we have decided to transfer all our vessels onto the Nigerian Ship registry.â€
The SAN boss disclosed that the decision of his company to fly a foreign flag in the past was as a result of heavy discrimination against Nigerian flag vessels, which makes it difficult for such ships to do business.
Omatseye, who received members of the association in his office, described the decision of SAN to transfer all its vessels to the Nigerian Ship Registry, as a major milestone in the relationship between NIMASA and SAN.
While assuring members of the association that they will not regret their decision to fly the Nigerian flag, Omatseye urged them to always liaise with the agency when faced with any challenges.
He restated the agencyâ€™s commitment to making the Nigerian Ship Registry world class. He announced that NIMASA is set to disburse the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund, CVVF adding that the agency will also ensure that indigenous operators compete favourably with their foreign counterparts for business.