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NIMASA: Of new cabotage compliance regime and five-year waiver cessation

By Anthony Andem
It was John Sununu who said the constant need for special waiver was
symptomatic of a poorly written public policy. It is a signal that the cost of
compliance is unreasonably high, the benefits are hard to measure, and either
legislators or regulators have failed to do their work.

The Nigerian maritime sector is a growing and developing sector, with
promising opportunities. 
administrators who must plot the affairs and future of this important sector
are challenged to find and adopt strategies that are also promising because
change is occurring at an accelerated rate in all sectors, all over the world.
Yesterday is gone, today we are in, and tomorrow we do not know, thus, continuing
today’s strategies and initiatives is risky, so is turning to new ones.
moving along the change trend in the country and the maritime sector of the
world economy, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA),
under the leadership of Dr. Dakuku Peterside, has decided to review the
country’s Cabotage Act in the overall interest of the nation. This is in line
with Nigeria’s local content legislations and the vision that drove the
introduction of the Nigerian Seafarers Development Programme (NSDP).
Within the context of the Cabotage Act is the framework, otherwise known as
the four pillars, which are that: Cabotage vessels must be wholly-owned by
Nigerians; they must be registered in Nigeria; must be crewed by Nigerians; and
must be built in Nigeria. It was to facilitate these lofty ideals that concept
of waivers was introduced, to cater for the maritime capacity deficiencies in
Nigeria, but with Nigerian seafarers enjoying the right of first refusal.
Waivers, thus, became a routine practice by NIMASA to voluntarily and
intentionally relax some legal advantages, claims, requirements or rights over
foreign vessels carrying out Cabotage businesses within Nigeria’s territorial
However, the regime had a caveat that demanded the engagement of Nigerian
seafarers in all associated pillars of Cabotage with the aim of aiding the
growth of the country’s maritime capacity, through placement of qualified
Nigerian seafarers in the mandatory sea-time training with Cabotage vessels.
It was the hope that the Nigerian seafarers, upon engagement in the
sea-time training with Cabotage vessels, would be equipped with the necessary
maritime skills needed to bridge the gap of maritime capacity deficiencies
within one year of their internship. With this, they could take over manning of
such vessels. This was rarely achieved prior to the advent of Dakuku.
Dakuku, on
assumption of office as Director General of NIMASA, inherited a number of
initiatives, programmes and policies geared towards ensuring the growth and
development of the sector through optimal harnessing of the country’s rich
maritime resources. One of such initiatives was the Cabotage waiver regime.
waivers regime had its benefits, the fact remained that Nigeria and Nigerians
were short-changed by foreigners who became the dominant force in the lucrative
maritime space of Nigeria, particularly in the area of manning. This saw a
large number of beneficiaries of the NIMASA NSDP and other sponsored maritime
studies graduates struggling to have the mandatory sea-time training to qualify
them as maritime professionals comparable with their international
However, the
leadership of NIMASA under Dakuku is changing the narrative. It is engaging in
formulation of a number of policies with associated strategies for
implementation, one of which is the recently announced “NIMASA Cabotage
Compliance Strategy (NCCS)”. This is aimed at encouraging indigenous
participation in shipping, particularly with regard to manning, which is the core
of Cabotage waivers. It is instructive to reiterate that NCCS is not targeted
at driving away foreigners, but to encourage full participation of Nigerians in
the manning element of the Cabotage pillars.
According to
the National Bureau of Statistics, “Youth Unemployment Rate in Nigeria
increased to 25.20 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2016 from 25 per cent in
the third quarter of 2016. Youth Unemployment Rate in Nigeria averaged 19.20
per cent from 2014 until 2016, reaching an all-time high of 25.20 per cent in
the fourth quarter of 2016 and a record low of 11.70 per cent in the fourth
quarter of 2014.”
The periods
of these statistics fall within the Cabotage waiver regime, which means that
contributions of the maritime sector also impacted unemployment in the country.
NIMASA’s policy to temporarily suspend Cabotage waivers is purely in the
national interest, as the country hopes for a huge multiplier effect. With this
strategic posture, the scourge of unemployment would be drastically reduced
because the jobs which were hitherto done by foreigners would be taken by
Nigerians, hence complementing the Federal Government’s employment generation
It is
believed that with NCCS, along other government directives and programmes, like
the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC), Nigeria would
see a number of interventions, such as port reforms, development of inland
water transportation, and encouragement of indigenous involvement in maritime
business. These would in turn create jobs and reduce unemployment in Nigeria.
As an agency
of government charged with the responsibility of ensuring effective regulation
of the Nigerian maritime space, it is expedient that this policy be put in
place to better position Nigeria and the Agency, in particular, to achieve its
vision and mission to enhance maritime capacity in line with the best global
practices towards Nigeria’s economic development.
Manning is a
core element or pillar of the Cabotage Act because every other pillar revolves
around human resources. Without human input, building, flagging and ownership
would be impossible. So sound policies on manning are needed for the country’s
maritime breakthrough.
This may seem
to be a herculean move, but from all indications, NIMASA, under the leadership
of Dakuku, is committed and ready to ensure full enforcement of this new
policy, notwithstanding the potential pressure and resistance the International
Oil companies (IOCs), who were the major beneficiaries of the waiver regime,
are likely to put.
The readiness
of the Agency to ensure a holistic implementation of NCCS is evident in the
intervention vessels, which NIMASA is prepared to commission as part of the
measures put in place not only to fight piracy and other maritime crimes, but
also to complement the implementation efforts of the new waiver regime and
resistance management.
It would be
recalled that NIMASA recently issued a marine notice of temporary suspension of
the issuance of waivers on manning requirement under the Cabotage Act and
mandated all Cabotage Officers to ensure strict compliance with the new
directive. The aim of the NIMASA’s new waiver regime is to ensure a full
takeover of the manning aspect of Cabotage vessels operating within the
maritime territorial limit of Nigeria by qualified Nigerians who are currently
not being given opportunities by foreigners.
This is a
step in the right direction and marks a watershed in the history of the Agency.
As Nigerians await the benefits of this new Cabotage regime, it is instructive
to note that the cooperation of all stakeholders is needed to optimise the
expected gains. On its part, NIMASA is poised to transform and position the
nation’s maritime sector to be a major player in the world’s maritime
Andem works in the PR Unit of NIMASA.

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