The Nigerian Institute of Shipping (NIS) says operating an open registry for vessels will help the certificate of the nation’s seafarers to be acceptable worldwide.
Capt. Tony Onoharigho, the President of NIS, said in Lagos recently that presently, the country operates the closed registry system for vessels, adding that it was not a good enough.
An open registry is a system whereby a country may allow ships to be registered there and fly the country’s flag without the real owner having any definite connection with the country.
A closed registry refers to registers that set requirements regarding ownership, management and manning of ships.
According to him, operating open registry will expose Nigerians into foreign markets and help the country earn dollars which will be paid to government through annual flag registration.
“There is what we call open and closed registry; now the only way to sell the flag to a higher level is to operate an open registry but we are operating a closed one now.
“The open registry will sell our certificate abroad because for people that will take our vessel as a flag, we can compel them to use our seafarers to ride their vessels with cabotage.
“Even if they don’t use everybody, the captain of the ship can be their own but the remaining ones will be Nigerians.
“The moment we are flying Nigerian flag outside the country it will move our certificate to the territory market but right now what we have is to go to bonny and come back and this is not good enough.
“Before the former Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) Director- General, Dakuku Peterside’s left, the issue was discussed and we were at the level of implementing it.
“We had a conference of stakeholders and discussed the benefits of open registry but eventually it was not implemented,’’ he said.
The NIS president said that the reason why the country was not getting attention from the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) convention was because the vessels that would have given the country impetus were not there.
“We need vessels. We do not even have a flag vessel so the only thing that the government needs to do is to liberalise the flag convention,’’ he said.
According to Onoharigho, the country’s seafarers certificate is not acceptable in most part of the world and NIMASA is to regulate the industry’s certification.
“You cannot compare Nigerian certificate to Liberian certificate; I represent Liberian flag in Africa, Liberia has a lot of ships, they have higher flag and so their certificate is everywhere.
“And again, Liberia does what is called endorsement from other countries too. But, Nigeria does not do endorsement. We believe in what we can achieve from our own.
“The only people that can ensure our certificate has value is the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN), Oron and other academy in the country through world training for our seafarers which will get us out of this problem,’’ he said.