For allegedly lifting 10,000 liters of petroleum products within Nigerian coastal waters to the famous Ibafon petroleum products jetty in Apapa, Lagos, the Federal High Court in Lagos has detained a foreign flagged vessel for allegedly breaching Cabotage law.
The vessel, MT Makhambet which is owned by MBX Shipping Limited; based in St Vincent and The Grenades was dragged before the court by Indigenous Shipowners Association of Nigeria (ISAN) as well as an indigenous shipping company, Pokat Nigeria Limited.
In the originating summons which was sighted by our correspondent, the tanker was alleged to have contravened relevant sections of the Coastal and Inland Shipping Act of 2003 by engaging in the carriage of petroleum products within Nigerian waters.
Details of how the ordeal of MT Makhambet started could not be ascertained as at press time, it was however confirmed that the landmark suit has been slated for hearing this week by Justice Okechukwu Okeke of the Federal High Court, Lagos.
While ISAN and the indigenous shipping company; Pokat are the plaintiffs/applicants, the trio of the ship, her owners and the ship master (whose identity could also not be confirmed) are the defendants.
The controversial ship is presently anchored at the Ibafon jetty where the court has confined her to, pending when the case comes up.
Under the Cabotage Act of 2003, carriage of goods and persons within Nigeria coastal waters are to be undertaken by Nigerian flagged ships. Such ships must also be crewed by Nigerians and they must be repaired in Nigerian ship yards.
In the originating summons, MT Makhambet was alleged to have violated sections 2,3,5,9,11,12,15,22,23,29,33 of the Cabotage Act; a development which made the plaintiffs to seek the prayers of the court that she be detained and put under the custody of Admiralty Marshal of the Federal High Court.
Shipping Position Weekly confirmed that on the strength of the originating summons, Justice Okeke has granted an order of interim injunction restraining the defendants from obtaining the all-important port clearance with which the ship could escape from Nigerian waters or be engaged in trading “within Nigerian waters or exclusive economic zone pending the determination of the motion on notice”.