• Bill proposes additional levy on shipping companies
• New agency to take over SOLAS function from NIMASA
Exactly three weeks after Shipping Position Weekly hinted on plans by the Presidency to resuscitate the moribund Presidential Committee on Maritime Safety and Security (PICOMSS), President Umar Yar Adua has sent a bill to the National Assembly seeking for the establishment of another maritime safety administration agency.
Shipping Position Weekly confirmed last week that the proposed Maritime Security Agency Establishment Bill which seeks to create a post-amnesty agency that will largely take over the responsibilities of NIMASA as a maritime safety administration agency has finally been received by the National Assembly.
Specifically, the new agency is expected to perform search and rescue functions , monitor and regulate activities of ships and shipping operations and also have exclusive responsibility for Safety of Lives at Sea (SOLAS); a convention of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). It will also maintain a database on maritime activities.
To perform these roles, the proposed agency is expected to draw its finances from a 1 percent levy to be imposed on all in-bound and out-bound ships.
Surprisingly, the board of the proposed agency has no provision for membership from the maritime sector.
Sipping Position Weekly learnt exclusively last week that while majority of its members will be drawn from oil and gas sector as well as the office of National Security Adviser. The ministry of transport is expected to be represented by one person.
Shipping Position Weekly had scooped recently that the proposed agency is expected to have wide ranging powers, including superintending coastguard officials. The agency will have powers to inspect ships, arrest suspects and carry firearms within the Niger Delta region.
The proposed maritime security agency is also expected to provide security information on oil and gas pipelines, rigs, platforms and all other established installations.
If allowed to scale through, the agency will be a resurrection of the moribund Presidential Implementation Committee on Maritime Safety and Security (PICOMSS).
PICOMSS was a child of circumstances which was born in 2004 on account of the desperation by Nigeria to meet the dictates of the International Ships and Ports Facility Security (ISPS) Code.
The Presidency at that time created PICOMSS as an ad- hoc multi – agency body to ensure that Nigeria beat the deadline and met the requirements. Its secretariat was at the ministry of transport. The agency achieved this and it was able to convince former president Olusegun Obasanjo to allow it to continue as a monitoring agency.
By 2006, PICOMSS’ secretariat was moved from the ministry of transport to the presidency where it has remained ever since.
Meanwhile, a non-governmental organisation (NGO), the Maritime Industry Advocacy Initiative (MAIN) has tasked all maritime industry stakeholders to rise up to challenge the move to render NIMASA useless in the performance of its statutory responsibilities as the nation’s maritime safety administration agency by pushing for the creation of another maritime security agency.
The NGO said last week at a breakfast meeting with maritime journalists in Lagos that apart from eroding the relevance of NIMASA, the proposed law will also add to the cost of doing business in Nigeria ports.
“If allowed to see the light of the day, the proposed agency will largely encroach on NIMASA’s statutory responsibilities, while imposing additional financial burden on shipping companies”, the organisation pointed out.
Speaking through its executive director, Mr Sesan Onileimo, MAIN said: We seize this opportunity to appeal to the National Assembly to kick against the move, not only because of NIMASA, but also because of the fact that the Senate is currently debating the general principles of a Coast Guard bill which was sponsored by the chairman, Senate committee on marine transport, Senator Gbemi Saraki”.
Harping on the need for maritime industry stakeholders to come together and collectively oppose the bill, the NGO stressed that the proposed law will adversely affect operators in the maritime industry.
“Before you know it, it may become a repetition of what happened when the now-defunct Joint Maritime Labour Industrial Council (JOMLAIC) Act was passed in 2004 without inputs and opposition from members of the shipping community especially NPA, which the law mandated to part with 10 per cent of its earnings to fund JOMALIC. We therefore call on all well-meaning members of the maritime community to join the Maritime Industry Advocacy Initiative to raise a strong opposition to the proposed Maritime Security Agency”, the group stressed.