“DEREGULATION OF DOWNSTREAM IS GOOD FOR MARITIME SECTOR”
….Omatseye, DG NIMASA
The director general, NIMASA, Mr Temi Omatseye recently chose an unprecedented way to celebrate the first 100 days in office of the current management team of the agency. It was a wholly media event which was moderated by industry veteran, Otunba Kunle Folarin. He allowed the media to ask just about any question, and he answered all to the best of his ability. The DG exhibited the excitement of someone who is genuinely eager to deliver. We hope he does! Shipping Position Weekly team was there. Enjoy this insight into the mindset of Omatseye and his team on some of the wide ranging issues that came up.
National Seafarers Development Programme
We have a shortage of about 50,000 seafarers; the Maritime Academy of Nigeria trains about 200 seafarers in a year, they have 700 students but in actual fact they train 200 cadets from their intake of cadets every year. So, if we are going to meet the 50,000 shortfall, there is no way we can beat that. Let me give you an information which you may not be aware of, I have been meeting with the NLNG, I have been talking to a gentleman called captain (Abiodun) Omoteso who in collaboration with Yaba College of Technology is working out something. am also discussing with the Nigerian Ports Authority, we are discussing how to take over the NPA training school in Apapa here, where we are going to set up another seafarers’ school which will start to train seafarers from September next year, we are going to start an intake of cadets, Yaba tech. is going to be the institution that will be overseeing that programme. So here in Lagos, there is going to a seafarers’ school taking over the NPA training school which has been abandoned.
The NSDP beneficiaries, will they be employable?
Maersk Line and NLNG is also a part of the programme, NLNG also have a seafarers development programme where they take Nigerian seafarers aboard their vessels for training. So if we are going to be pulling through, we are going to rely on the NLNG vessels, the issue is about sea time, but if we don’t have vessels trading internationally we cannot get them certificates of competency which is required. So the reason why this school is being set up is because we need support internationally so that as these boys who are being trained will be going out there, but as it stands now, we don’t have any choice but to use international institutions to train the seafarers. I understand that Kwara state has agreed to bring 25, Kogi state is bringing 25, Niger state, Plateau state and Nasarawa are also bringing 25 each; so it is gradually picking up. I know that Delta state is working on it and Kaduna too.
ISAN and arrest of vessels
I will tell you that ISAN gave me some heavy blows, but I think everything is about dialogue. In our last meeting, we sat across the table with chief Jolapamo and Captain Labinjo; we are in the process of signing an MOU with ISAN, the MOU basically is that ISAN is going to act as a sea watch, so that any vessel which they notice as not being Cabotage compliant, they will send a message to our dedicated lines. How I think that it is going to work is that ISAN will set up a communication centre where the vessel owners will send their information to, there they will receive information of all vessels, this centre will now send back the message to the appropriate authourity in NIMASA and what will happen is that the information is automatically passed to me personally; the officer in charge receives it and I also receive it because, the final outcome which is the arrest falls squarely on me. So what will happen now is that we can now go back to the agreement we have with the Nigerian Navy. Right now, we can see any vessel in the Lagos anchorage, it has six CCTV cameras that can go as far as five nautical miles, so on daily basis, NIMASA staff go in there to collect information on all the vessels at the Lagos anchorage. Right now and as we speak to you, we can see everybody and what they are doing, so what will now happen with this MOU is that they will inform us and we will now go to the centre, because, and we will start monitoring the records of that vessel. If we detain a vessel and we are going to discuss the cost forfeited to that vessel in the NIMASA Act when we go to court, we must be able to show clear documentary evidence that the vessel has been doing literage business within the shores of Nigeria, we must follow the laws because we are not a Banana Republic. Apart from this, we will now track the vessel based on what we have, we will now document it, detain the vessel and then we can now take any legal action on it.
ISAN may be seen to be doing the job of NIMASA
No, no ISAN members are constantly out there and the vessels are also out there, we are not transferring that duty. We have our men too, but that is why I said that there might be some that will slip our hands, and there are some which their (ISAN) captains out there are seeing, so it’s a sea watch. What happened in the last one was that when the vessel wanted to escape, the ISAN boat blocked them for us to come and take action, what we are doing is what is operational in Singapore, right now ISAN is purely acting as sea watch.
Banks not lending money to shipping companies
Banks are willing to lend money to organizations that has cash flow. It is now upon us as NIMASA to create the cash flow. I was at the NNPC a few days ago trying to convince them to give enough contracts to Nigerian indigenous ship owners so that they can amortise payment of their facilities. Deregulation is coming whether we like it or not, protests or no protests, we are going to deregulate, the issue with deregulation is that it will happen, but we as maritime operators can also help by reducing the effect of the imperfections where vessels are sitting out there for almost three months. Let me give you an example: a vessel, MT Tomoros came into Nigerian waters on the 17th of July 2009, it left Nigeria on the 19th of September, the freight rate is US$ 200,000, demurrage rate US$800,000, now if our literage issue is a little more developed and more Nigerians are involved or we have the storage facilities, where only vessels flying Nigerian flags can carry products in and out, this can reduce the cost drastically. That is why I said that there billionaires waiting to be made in the Nigerian maritime industry.
CVFF and Ship Acquisition
I am a regulator now, I am no longer a businessman, I have moved from that side to this side, what I can do is to put the machineries in place for government to protect your business interest, but I cannot as NIMASA guarantee your commercial risk, you as a Nigerian company have to carry that commercial risk. All I can guarantee you is that the environment you operate in will allow you to be able to perform in a very safe environment. So we have now a portfolio for another US$200million, available for vessel financing, this is different from CVFF, this is just money sitting in the bank and if you meet the requirements which is basically to show performance, issuing of contracts and so on and once you do that, the rest is simple; that is why we want to help. Once we can block all these foreign vessels, the contracts will naturally come, the only challenge they now face is that of performance. Its US$200million available but its still going to go through the normal performance requirements, we are not guaranteeing that money, we are asking the banks to make the funds available and Nigerians who meet the requirements will get it. What we are trying to do right now is to stop these foreigners so that more Nigerians will participate.
Attack on Fishing trawlers in Akwa Ibom and surrounding waters
We have the manpower, the maritime guard command is there, but we don’t just have the equipment. In Oron, we have an 80 metre mast which already we are inviting people to put communication equipment on board to scan the whole area, but let us be sincere, even if a man shouts from here till kingdom comes, the police will not come and that’s where we are. We know we have to be in the Akwa Ibom and Port Harcourt axis, but the hope is that we will be able to get the platforms restored and I have been talking to NPA and some of our foreign friends to see how we can join forces and get the platforms. We are trying to set up a system whereby every vessel coming into Nigeria will be seen, as a matter of fact we are working with the navy to place some vessels outside 20 nautical miles on the Nigerian waters and any vessel coming in will be sent to NIMASA, we will access the vessel and so on.
Nigeria’s Ship registry
Our ship registry does not encourage foreign ship owners to come and register here, we have had the NLNG come to visit us because they have 23 vessels which were actually registered in the Bahamas and they are willing to fly the Nigerian flag, but the Nigerian ship registry is not very encouraging, so we are looking at a bigger possibility of making our ship registry a hybrid ship registry which is not basically an open registry, but also middle of the road registry like they have in the UK. We need to have another kind or registry; the legal adviser is actually looking at that. NLNG has also offered to fund and train an updated and brand new ship registry, in addition to that, my predecessors actually built a wonderful server and what we are trying to do is to take away the human interface from ship registry. You know that ship registry includes legal adviser, Cabotage department and registrar of ships and also finance, now it is becoming a norm that (with all due respect to NIMASA) files going to NIMASA defies the law of gravity, they go up and never come down, what we need to do now is to take away the human defects. What we are trying to do now is to create a central portal whereby it will be NIMASA server that all the documents that anybody submits is put into, so if ship registry needs information, they will pull it from there, if Cabotage or finance needs it, they pull it from there, so they don’t need staff looking for files all over the office, everybody can easily do their work because information will be centrally located and what we are trying to do right now is that we are trying to make the whole NIMASA pull from a central server which means we are putting a V- sat system in all our outside locations and we can pull files from all locations. As I speak to you now, every NIMASA staff has an e-mail address, all the directors and deputy directors are all going to have blackberries so we can reach them by e-mail, and they can be responding round-the-clock. Since November 24th to date, we have registered 64 vessels and that is not all; some more are still coming, the registry is actually picking up, one day alone, Union Maritime brought 200 vessels to be registered, Sea Force came to us to say that they are bringing in 200 vessels to get the Nigerian flag and right now, I can tell you that we have the human capacity to do it. So ship registry is the very key because tonnage is what gives us respectability on the IMO. Liberia is going to the category A but I believe we are targeting 40million tonnes by 2010, give me the LPSO’s, the LNG, give me the rigs of the floating vessels and we will be getting closer.
Campaign is going very well; as a matter of fact, on the 10th of November, we will be hosting all the ambassadors of countries who are on the IMO for a grand dinner in Abuja, we will tell them what is going on in the Nigerian maritime industry and we all leave for the election on the 18th of November. We are doing everything humanly possible, but we are still going to be very close to our kneels and keep praying to Almighty God, we are also hoping that the issue of climate change that we are putting on the table (sincerely speaking) excited the IMO, we hope that will also help our case.
Presidential Implementation Committee on Maritime Safety and Security
The ISPS code is based on SOLAS, as a matter of fact if anything happens on our territorial waters; IMO will call NIMASA and nobody else, whatever we are doing is within the NIMASA Act.