Nigerian shipowners under the aegis of; Shipowners Association of Nigeria (SOAN) have tasked the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to be proactive in responding to pirate attacks, alleging that whenever there is an incident of attacks on the waters, there always no help in sight.
These were part of concerns raised by the shipowners during an interactive session with a NIMASA delegation led by Captain Sunday Umoren, Head of Maritime Safety and Seafarers Standards of NIMASA to witness SOAN elections in Lagos yesterday.
At the end of the election, Engineer Greg Ogbeifun was returned unopposed alongside some of his key members of his executives to serve as SOAN President for a second term of two years.
But speaking at a meeting before the elections, the shipowners lamented that their vessels are constantly being attacked on Nigerian waters without any quick response from NIMASA or the Navy. Particularly, the Vice President of the association, Mkgeorge Onyung had complained about slow response especially as pirate attacked his vessel in 2011 and 2015.
The shipowners equally alleged the influx of foreign vessels on Nigerian waters as a result of NIMASA’s failure to strengthen local operators
However, addressing journalists after he was re-elected as SOAN President, Ogbeifun complained of multiple taxes that shipowners are made to pay in foreign currencies. He said that different agencies board ships and asking for differed fees in dollars. He however called on the relevant agencies to have a single window which captures all levies.
He also complained of dearth of well-trained and certificated seafarers, saying that most of the ones in operation are the old generation of seafarers.
In his responses however, the NIMASA Head of Maritime Safety and Seafarers Standards, Capt Sunday Umoren lamented that the agency currently does not have platform to fight piracy. He said that two years ago, the agency had platforms and that what it normally did whenever there was a report of attack was to mobilize its platforms mounted by the Navy.
He however assured that the management of the agency is doing everything possible to secure the nation’s territorial waters. Umoren said NIMASA had been at the forefront of contacting the Nigerian Navy anytime there is report of pirate attacks.
He said, "We have always spread the report to the Navy whenever there is an alert from Shipowners." He maintained that the Agency does not bear arms but it had a cordial relationship with the Nigerian Navy, Air Force and Nigerian Army in combating piracy.
Meanwhile, Engr Greg Ogbeifun was returned as president of the shipowners association, while Dr. Mkgeorge Onyong was elected as Vice President with nine votes defeating Mr. Alfred Okoigon who was eventually given 2nd Vice President. Eno Williams Emerged Treasurer, Obiagwu Nnamdi is Chairman of Finance. Other positions were: Chairman Technical Committee, Mr Lucky Akhiwu, Chairman Capacity Biulding, Capt Joseph Awodeha, Chairman Ethics and Priviledges, Mr. Sunny Eja.
The election was conducted by former President of Nigerian Trawler Onwers Association (NITOA) Mrs. Margaret Orakwusi.
In his acceptance speech, Eng. Ogbeifun promised to work on a vigorous cadetship scheme in partnership with NIMASA, Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN) Oron and other training institutions in the country. He maintained that SOAN members have released their vessels for training of seafarers.
He also said that SOAN is having collaborating with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) for the actualization of a Nigerian Crude Tanker Fleet for the benefit of the nation. He said that this would create the platform that the country is looking for to train our cadets on international trade.
“The first thing we are going to drive is to engage NIMASA on the issue of Cabotage vessel finance fund, NIMASA on their own their own cannot act on that fund, they need people who need the fund for them to be able to release the fund. A lot of our members are eminently qualified for that fund, almost all our members have contributed to that fund and we deserve the opportunity to grow our fleet in that fund” he said.