CABOTAGE: NIMASA DG Blows Hot, Tells Oil Companies No More Waivers 

• Says agency ready to enforce strict compliance to regulations

About 14 years after the implementation of Cabotage Act and the attendant complaints by indigenous stakeholders, the Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Dakuku Peterside, has  finally said the agency will no longer encourage the application of any form of waivers under the  Act, particularly from the oil firm operations.

The NIMASA DG, who acknowledged that granting of waivers does not help the growth of the Nigerian maritime sector and the economy at large, also told a meeting with the Oil Producers Trade Sector (OPTS) in Lagos that NIMASA was determined to put an end to granting of waivers.

He urged industry players to draw up a five-year strategic plan for the cessation of application for Cabotage waiver and also pursue the utilization of Nigerian-owned vessels for marine contracts, even as he told the foreign firms that Nigerians deserve more participation in the nation’s oil freighting business. 

He said: “Our laws forbid foreign vessels operating in our territorial waters save for compliance with the Cabotage Act. We also want to increase the number of Nigerians who participate in the marine aspect of your business and we are working closely with the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) to have a joint categorization of vessels operating under the Cabotage Act in order to ensure the full implementation of the Act.”

Dakuku urged the international oil companies (IOCs) to support NIMASA’s bid to ensure full implementation of the Act, adding that it would equally be of more benefit to the investors in the sector as it will be cost effective for them to engage Nigerians.

Commenting on the previous resolutions with the OPTS, Dakuku stated that there was need for the trade section of the oil producers to fulfill their own part of the agreement. He said NIMASA will not compromise the growth of the maritime sector, especially when it comes to the issue of enforcing statutory regulations enshrined in the Agency’s empowering instruments.

Dr. Dakuku further stated that in NIMASA’s bid to grow the industry, it would not hesitate to wield its powers where necessary, adding that the agency’s mandate is strictly regulatory. But he also noted that NIMASA preferred the method of engaging key players in the industry for symbiotic benefits.

“We don’t want to change our rules of engagement to a confrontational one because the mandate we have is that of the Nigerian people, to grow shipping for our economic benefits. In this wise, we urge you to cooperate and collaborate with us where necessary so that we can have an all-inclusive maritime sector,” the Director-General stated.

Dakuku said the Agency was taking necessary steps to ensure that there were no gaps in the sector, especially as it concerns needed human capacity. He said the Nigerian Seafarers Development Programme (NSDP), which is an interventionist programme of the Agency, was making serious headway in creating sea time for the over 2,000 graduates of the programme.

In his own remarks, the Executive Director of OPTS, which comprises major oil companies, Bunmi Toyobo, said the trade section was ready to comply with all directives of NIMASA. He said the information required by the agency to build and harmonise its data for better regulation of the sector will be provided by OPTS.

The meeting, which was well attended by OPTS, had managing directors and representatives of major oil firms, including Total, Exxon Mobil, Shell, and Agip amongst others. 

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