An expert in the maritime sector has said that the ineffectiveness of the Cabotage Law was due to the failure of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA to fully implement the provision of the enabling law guiding it.
The agency recently unveiled a new compliance strategy for implementation of the 14-year old largely Cabotage Law. However, a stakeholder has taken it with a pinch of salt saying it won’t make any major difference in achieving the objectives of the law.
According to a maritime lawyer, Emeka Akabogu, who made the observation, the effectiveness the Cabotage Law will depend on the political will of NIMASA to implement the law to the letter.
He said, “The challenge is simple. It is simply enforcement. When a ship comes into Nigeria waterways operating within cabotage defined area; and it is not a Nigerian ship, it is granted a waiver to operate yet, it does not fall under the category of ships which should be granted waivers. It is granted a waiver simply because, from an enforcement point of view, the enforcers have been compromised. So, as far as that is happening, you will find that cabotage will not work.
“NIMASA has the enforcement officers and the executive powers on which to grant waivers. The reason cabotage has not worked is because NIMASA has been unwilling to enforce the latter of the law simply because they either have been compromised or have been lacking the political will to enforce the law.”
Akabogu said it would only be effective if NIMASA deploys all the resources in its capacity, adding, “What they have come up with simply is that they will no longer grant waivers relating to certain categories of officers. Now, for those categories of officers, yes, it makes sense that there is no point having foreigners for second officers, but I really don’t see any significant impact that would have given that ordinarily most of the time, those categories of officers are indigenous.
For the companies which are coming into the country, say temporarily, and working for a very short period of time, how that will apply we need to see.”
He said, “I think that the more significant area of focus should be relating to granting of waivers to ships itself. If NIMASA is serious, the new compliance strategy should not have been limited to a number of officers; it should have covered none granting of waivers to certain types of ships particularly tanker vessels involve in operating along the coast.
If they had insisted and said they would no longer grant any waivers for now to such tanker vessels, that would have had an impact.
“ But as far as they keep granting waivers to tanker vessels, all these other ones, their impact would just be minimal and more of noise as opposed to real impact. The real impact is by limiting the granting of waivers to tanker ships. If they are serious, that is what they should do.