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Court ruling oil rigs as vessels will boost maritime activities, create more jobs, says Dakuku

Dr. Dakuku Peterside, DG NIMASA

The Director-General of the Nigerian
Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Dakuku Peterside, has
commended the judgement of the Federal High Court in the case involving
Seadrill Mobile Unit Nigeria Limited and the Federal Ministry of Transportation
(FMOT), which confirmed NIMASA’s right to collect fees from drilling

NIMASA was later joined as a necessary
party in the suit originally instituted by Seadrill Mobile Unit Nigeria Limited
against the FMOT.
Dakuku said the judgement was “yet
another landmark attempt by the judiciary to set the record straight and boost
implementation of our Cabotage law, while generating opportunities for jobs.”
The suit instituted by Seadrill Mobile
Unit Nigeria Limited was to determine whether drilling operations fell within
the definitions of “Coastal Trade” and “Cabotage” under the Coastal and Inland
Shipping (Cabotage) Act, and whether on a proper interpretation of the Cabotage
Act, drilling operations fell within the definition of “vessels” under the Act.
On the first issue, the court,
presided by Justice Babs Keuwumi, ruled that drilling operations fell within
the ambit of exploration, exploitation, or transportation of the mineral or
non-living natural resources of Nigeria, whether in or under Nigerian waters,
as provided under the definition of coastal trade in the Cabotage Act.
Similarly, the court held that the
combined reading of the Admiralty Jurisdiction Act, Interpretation Act, and
Cabotage Act meant that drilling rigs fell under the definition of vessel under
the Cabotage Act.
Having determined the two questions in
the affirmative, the court granted NIMASA leave to collect all outstanding
payment of the 2% Cabotage surcharge from owners of drilling rigs and
associated platforms.
The implication of the judgement is
that oil rigs operating on Nigerian waters are subject to the provisions of the
Cabotage Act.
Reacting to the judgement, Dakuku said
it marked the opening of an important opportunity for job, incomes, and
economic growth. 

He appealed to persons engaged in inland trade to pay their
Cabotage fees and reaffirmed the Agency’s commitment to the enthronement of
global best practices in the Nigerian maritime sector.
Dakuku said, “The Cabotage Act is very
clear and it has again been interpreted and confirmed by the court. We expect
that with this judgement, all parties will obey the court order and do the needful.
It is all for the growth of the Nigerian maritime sector and the country’s
economy at large.
“On our part, as a responsible Agency,
we will continue to sensitise stakeholders, because every craft that is engaged
in Coastal and Inland Trade must pay the Cabotage fees.”
The DG reiterated the determination of
the Agency to end the Cabotage Waiver regime in the next five years. He said
measures had been put in place by the Agency, in collaboration with
stakeholders in the sector, to achieve a seamless waiver cessation.
Section 2(d) of the Cabotage Act
provides that Coastal Trade or Cabotage means the engaging by vessel in any
marine transportation activity of a commercial nature in Nigerian waters and
the carriage of any goods or substances whether or not commercial nature within
the waters of Nigeria.
NIMASA is the government Agency
responsible for regulating and promoting shipping activities as enshrined in
the NIMASA Act, 2007.

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