MARITIME STAKEHOLDERS SESSION: NIMASA, DG assures of Sustainable Plans for Nigerian Maritime Sector

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By Innocent Orok

The new Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr Dayo Mobereola has assured that the agency is expediting actions on the automation of the Nigerian ship registry domiciled within the agency.

The NIMASA boss stated this during his first interactive session with maritime stakeholders at in Lagos on Thursday.

The session which was chaired by a frontline Master Mariner and former Minister of Interior, Captain Emmanuel Iheanacho had in attendance who- is -who in the Nigerian Maritime industry, shipping, Nigerian Navy, Nigerian Police other stakeholders, the maritime media and former Director Generals of NIMASA, as well as leadership of Maritime related associations and organisations.

It was an auspicious occasion for the NIMASA DG to engaged with key stakeholders including shipowners, maritime lawyers, maritime workers union, ship repair yards, terminal operators, master mariners among others for a robust interaction on how to move the industry forward under his leadership.

Dr Mobereola after listening to all the discussions assured that the challenges and solutions proffered by the stakeholders would form part of his strategy for a sustainable plan for the sector which would be acceptable by both regulator and practitioners.

“All what we have heard here today, we have taken notes, and it is going to form our plan for the next four years.
We are going back home to develop objectives, goals and strategies, and we are all going to do it together, because we have to move the industry forward in line with expectations of the President and the Minister by creating the Marine and Blue Economy ministry.

“Automation of the ship registry is one thing that has been spoken about, I want to assure you that it would happen very quickly”.

“The gender inclusion is another thing we would seriously look into, and wherever we have shortfalls, we would make the necessary amendments” the NIMASA DG assured.

The event also witnessed a paper presentation by a renowed Maritime Lawyer, Dr Emeka Akabogu with the theme ” Marine and Blue Economy: Navigating to the Promised Land”.

While delivering his paper, Dr Emeka Akabogu said that there is no availability of accurate data of ships registered in Nigeria, owned by Nigerians and the number of Nigerian seafarers.

Acording to him, Nigeria is losing $1 trillion annually to the non-disbursement of the Cabotage Vessels Financing Fund (CVFF). Akabogu, said that the country was losing $4 billion to lack of local marine transportation in the country.

According to him, there are three legs to shipping, fleet expansion, ship repairs, and shipbuilding and the country is losing $9 billion annually to the non-participation in international freight services.
He added that the fishing sub-sector of the maritime industry contributes
$282 billion annually to the economy.

“Nigeria’s coastal resources have an estimated capacity of $504 trillion. Current realised capacity is $106 trillion in export and import on frozen fish is $876 million,” he stated.
Akabugo quoted the former DG of NIMASA, Dr. Bashir Jamoh, to have said that Nigeria loses approximately, $25.5 billion annually to illegal maritime activities and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Limited loses, $1.35 billion on oil bunkering.
He said said that in 2024 alone, the number of registered ships in Nigeria was 4419 with a total tonnage of, 5.8 billion.

“Summary of the valid registered vessel, 2136 with a 4.2 billion gross tonnage, invalid registers ship, 61, cabotage registered vessel, 1033, with a gross tonnage of 1.9 million. The foreign-owned vessel, 18 with a gross tonnage of 125 million,” he added.

A frontline shipowner, Alhaji Aminu Umar who spoke for all the shipowners group, lamented that the lopsided nature of Nigerian ship registry was affecting the shipowners. He also said that NIMASA lacks data of seafarers.

“Foreign vessels don’t want to employ our Nigerian seafarers because there is no verification of their certificates. The lack of automation in the ship registry is also affecting our businesses, the registry has standardization issues, we would like the DG to automate it and give that department a little independence” Aminu stated

Earlier, the Flag Officer Commanding Western Naval Command, Nigerian Navy, Rear Admiral Mustapha Hassan, said a lot is required from the NIMASA management in the implementation of the Cabotage Act, which has not been effective since its enactment.

He said there is a need for inter-agency collaboration in the cabotage regime to address issues of boarding and inspection of vessels, especially with the automatic identification system.

Hassan added that there is a lot of money to make in the implementation of the Cabotage Act, adding that the Nigerian Navy is ready and will extend its support to NIMASA to treat these cases expeditiously in the next month.

The gathering also heard the presence of former Director Generals of the agency who took turns to address Dr Mobereola, even offering their wealth of knowledge to assist him in his new assignment.

Leading the pack, former DG, Alhaji Tijani Ramalan, urged Dr Mobereola to expedite the purchase of a training vessel for cadets of maritime academy, and fast track re-establishment of the national carrier.

A former DG of NIMASA, Temisan Omatseye on his part observed that the agency was established with the core mandate of promoting, protecting, and providing an enabling environment for indigenous ship owners to grow their vessels.

He, however, said unfortunately, the current NIMASA leadership would not be able to disburse the CVFF fund, saying that the financial regulations go against the banking and finance institutions’ regulations.

“By the CVFF, NIMASA is doing the risk assessment, but the disbursing does not allow an outsider to do the risk assessment as it negates the law that binds the funding,” Omatseye said.

According to him, the law says there is to be a CVFF and the fund is to be disbursed in line with the guidelines as issued by the Minister of Transportation and approved by the National Assembly.

The CVFF was established by the Coastal and Inland Shipping (Cabotage) Act 2003. The fund was established to develop indigenous ship acquisition capacity, and to provide financial assistance to indigenous domestic coastal shipping operators.

The highpoint of the occasion was the launching of the National Joint Industrial Council (NJIC) Renewed Minimum Standard for Nigerian seafarers for year 2023 to year 2025.

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