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Interview: A transformed Ship Registry means the game-changer for Nigeria’s shipping sub-sector, says Shipowner, Greg Ogbeifun

Engr. Greg Ogbeifun, Chairman/CEO Starzs Group
Shipping Industrialist and Chairman of Starzs Group, Greg Ogbeifun, sees
an entirely new beginning with new landmarks as Nigeria proposes a revitalisation
of her Ship Registry.

A revitalised Nigerian Ship Registry will mean broader
shipping operations furthering indigenous participation in global commercial
shipping, improved technical training for ship surveyors, more jobs, investments
and importantly too, provide available platforms for sea-time training for
Nigerian cadets and other seafarers, as the Nigerian Registry will determine
the manning on the ships flying its Flag. But, the shipping mogul advocates stronger
industry collaborations, particularly between the Nigerian Maritime Administration
and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG)
Company to begin with inherent opportunities. The NLNG would be encouraged to support
the revitalised Nigerian Ship Register by registering some of its vessels with
this Register, so they can fly the Nigerian flag.  Ogbeifun is also confident that the Nigerian
Ship Registry can take-off in its renewed form establishing globally-desired
integrity by engaging non-exclusive surveyors in different parts of the world
where Nigerian -flagged ships are likely to trade. He calls it “global approach
to doing global business,” and he believes that the NIMASA Management would
have etched a lifelong mark of revolutionising shipping in line with global
trade demands.

Ogbeifun’s insights are take-aways for
industry discourse.        

in your views would the revitalisation of the Nigerian Ship Registry mean for
the shipping sub-sector?

The importance of a national ship register
cannot be over emphasised. The national Ship Register is a register that
determines the tonnage of the maritime industry of that country. The ships that
have to be registered in a national register don’t necessarily have to be ships
owned by that country or citizens of that country. That is why you find that
Greek ship owners can register their ships in Liberia. For instance, most of
our Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) ships are not registered in Nigeria,
they are registered in other registries in different parts of the world.
However, there are factors that would determine
the Register of a ship, and one of the most important factors has to do with
the Flag status of that country. For instance, the flag registry needs to have adequate,
well-trained ship surveyors in that country that would meet all inspections and
survey requirements by a ship that is registered in that country’s registry.
For example, assuming a company decides to
acquire a crude oil tanker that would trade globally, and that company decides
to register that ship in the Nigerian Registry, it means that: one, it is the Nigerian
Register that determines the manning of that ship.
you can see automatically that it opens up job opportunities and training opportunities
for Nigerians on all ships that are trading globally and are registered in Nigerian
Secondly, It means that wherever that ship
is trading globally, when necessary statutory surveys are due, the Nigerian
Register will have to send Nigerian surveyors to where ever that ship is, to carry
out the surveys. That means opportunities for more Nigerian surveyors to be
identified, developed, will now come, and surveyors who will now be trained for
global trading will also emerge. This will increase the level of our maritime
skilled personnel.
For vessels to be registered in a national
registry, there are statutory tonnage taxes and other levies that have to be
paid. So, in terms of revenue generation, there will also be added value,
because for the tonnages that are registered in the Nigerian Registry, tonnage
taxes and the levies would be paid, which would lead to revenue generation.  
initial caution should become very important?

Like everything else, they have to strictly
implement the recommendations of the committee report. There will be need to
understand that there are issues that must be addressed for that flag register
to gain confidence of ships trading globally to be able to come in. It is going
to be an uphill task. I see initially, a situation where the Nigerian Registry
will have to go into some strategic alliances with some international classification
societies whereby they will carry out some of the relevant surveys on behalf of
the Nigerian Registry. I remember in my younger days in the ‘80s and ‘90s, I
was a non-exclusive surveyor for Germanischer Lloyd, a German Register. I was
in charge of surveying on their behalf, of every ship that came into the
country that were registered in the German Register. I was also a non-exclusive
surveyor for Bureau Veritas, which is the French Registry, and an acting
surveyor for Lloyd’s Register of London, whereby I was accredited to carry out
surveys and inspections of ships in those flags calling at Nigerian ports.  What I am trying to say is, it is
international practice, even though you try to class your ship with the
Nigerian Register, Nigerian Flag or Registry can go into appointing non-exclusive
surveyors in different countries to represent their interest as far ship surveys
are concerned.  There would be need to
strategically articulate the implementation scheme in such a way that
confidence can be built. That way, if a ship that is registered in the Nigerian
Registry sails to a place like Japan, and Nigeria has a non-exclusive surveyor
in Japan, who may be a Japanese, whenever that ship goes there that Japanese
can go on board and carry out relevant inspections and surveys on behalf of
Nigeria, and this is internationally acceptable. 
this can encourage foreign investments and financing for the sector

biggest thing is that the ships that are registered in the Nigerian Flag will
probably have preference for Nigerian cargo over and above non-Nigerian flagged
registered ships. For example, should a company a decide to acquire a crude oil
tanker for international trade, and that tanker is registered in the Nigerian
Flag, that means Nigerians should be able to sail on that ship, and train on
that ship. It becomes easy for that shipowner to go to a Nigerian cargo owner,
whether it is private or public to say “look, I have a Nigerian Ship and there
is a Nigerian cargo here, my price is competitive, can you give me the
opportunity to have the business and carry the cargo?” Chances are that they
will get the business. So, for an investor knowing that there is already a
market, that is, cargo, and he acquires a vessel that is registered in the
Nigerian Flag, that will give him an opportunity to have that market, then it
becomes an incentive for them to invest. 
gains for seafarers

This will be the biggest gain for solving
the sea-time problem for Nigerian seafarers generally, not only the cadets. It
will immediately lead to the emergence of the type of ships that are needed for
global trade, which is why NIMASA is always going out to say they are looking
for sea-time opportunities on global trading ships for their cadets. We can
therefore see a permanent solution to problem. Can you imagine a situation
where a global trading ship is registered in Nigerian Flag, which means Nigeria
will determine the manning requirements for that ship, and before anybody can
sail on that ship it has to be approved by the Nigerian Flag Registry? Do you
think it will be easy for such a ship flagged on the Nigerian Register to allow
another national to come and sail on her? Nigerians would be considered first.
So, whenever NIMASA say they want to seek sea-time for the Nigerian cadets on
foreign registered ships, it must be an uphill tasks, and when they do have the
opportunity, they pay a lot for it. It has been said severally that the issue
of shortage of seafarers is a global problem. If that is a global problem, that
means every country will seize every opportunity they have to train their own
seafarers on their ships.
 Why will they
want to train other countries’ citizens? This is why I say we should look
inwards and develop in-country platforms and opportunities to meet our needs
rather than looking outward.
If for instance the NLNG decides to register
some of their ships on the Nigerian Register, automatically, manning of those ships
will have to be by Nigerian seafarers, which automatically creates jobs for Nigerians.
For any non-Nigerians to sail on those ships, approval and accreditation will
be sought from the Nigerian Register. We should begin to do things this way, instead
of playing second-fiddle all the time. Like I always argue, the low-hanging
fruits to test the new Register will be our own NLNG. There is therefore need
for NIMASA and NLNG to come together to deliberate on how this can be made to
the industry anticipates rewarding results from the proposed revitalisation  of the Nigerian Ship Registry, Greg Ogbeifun
would like NIMASA to stay committed to the immediate implementation of the
recommendations from the committee that was set up to review the operations of
the Ship Registry for performance under the purview of NIMASA.

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