The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has denied insinuations that it had granted Cabotage waivers to foreign shipping companies.
NIMASA also refuted allegations of preferential treatments for foreign shipping companies in the shipment of Nigeria’s crude oil.
Director-General of NIMASA, Dr. Bashir Jamoh, made the clarifications during an investigative hearing on the urgent need to ensure strict compliance with statutory regulations and provisions regarding the Nigerian diving sector organised by the Senate Committee on Local Content.
The Ship Owners Association of Nigeria (SOAN) had petitioned the Senate, asking it to intervene in what the association described as “unfavourable treatment and injustice” towards indigenous shipping companies which grants undue advantage to their foreign competitors.
However, the NIMASA DG denied any waivers or preferential treatments for foreign firms.
Jamoh said that the agency lacked the powers to grant waivers, while the Ministry of Transportation, which is empowered by law to grant waivers, had never granted any waivers for the past 15 years.
“The operation of the Cabotage Act provides that NIMASA has the responsibility under Section 5(2) to 5(4) to process waiver and not to grant waiver. NIMASA never grants waiver but only processes waiver.
“As the Minister mentioned, if we process it, we send it to the Ministry of Transportation for the Minister’s consideration and approval, and to the best of my knowledge, for over 15 years, no Minister had granted waivers.
“So if the shipping companies or ship owners take waiver processing fee payment as waiver, we shouldn’t call it waiver. NIMASA doesn’t give waiver and I want anybody to come and present waiver given by NIMASA or Ministry of Transportation.
“In fact, even though the Act under section 9(12) gives the Minister of Transportation powers to approve waivers, they don’t do so because they don’t want to encourage foreign vessels participation over local vessels,” Jamoh said.
He further stressed that it was one thing to own a vessel but another for the vessel to be fit for business.
“In the entire Africa, only Nigeria allows the trading of single hull vessel. The President is aware of this and when I came in, I issued Marine Notice that by 31st of December we will no longer certify single hull vessels. This is because if you want to trade, nobody would accept that particular vessel.”
He, however, assured stakeholders in the sector that the agency was working towards building local capacities in the industry.
The Chairman of the Committee and former Senate Leader, Teslim Folarin, however, cautioned against trading blames.
“The whole essence of this investigative hearing is not to trade blames. We understand that they don’t have enough vessels; they don’t have capacity but the capacity cannot come from heaven,” Sen. Folarin said.