NIMASA To Terminate 16-year Regime Of Cabotage Waivers
The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency has set a five-year period to finally end the nation’s cabotage waivers regime that has given advantage to foreign vessel ownership for over 16 years.
The move is to give full weight to the Coastal and Inland Shipping (Cabotage) Act 2003 which aims primarily to reserve commercial transport of goods and services within Nigerian coastal and inland waters to vessels built, owned and operated by Nigerians.
Full termination of the regime began in 2017 with the stoppage of manning waivers (save for captains and chief engineers), while the last two phases will end in two and five years respectively, the NIMASA Director-General, Dr Dakuku Peterside, said in Lagos on Wednesday.
Peterside, who addressed a stakeholders’ consultative meeting for the cessation of the waivers, noted that for long, indigenous operators had been concerned that cabotage waivers had seemed a norm rather than exception, but that NIMASA said it was determined to end the regime and allow cabotage to flourish for citizens to reap the benefits of coastal trade.
He said, “The agency has taken a number of preliminary steps to give Nigerian operators a strong footing in the cabotage regime. Sometime in 2017, we published marine notice of the new cabotage compliance strategy in which we informed operators that we shall no longer entertain any form of application for manning waivers save for captains and chief engineers.
“At the time, it was for six months. It was a trial run and we noticed that in six months we doubled the number, of Nigerians on board vessels by simply publishing and enforcing the new cabotage compliance strategy. Also, in 2018, we decided to extend it.
“It is the desire of every operator that we end the waivers in cabotage trade, and a lot of people are concerned that we have not been able to build vessels in this country. A number of Nigerians are on board vessels. In the area of manning, there is an improvement also in terms of flagging.”
Peterside added that strategic steps were being taken towards ship building, with much expectation hinged on Ajaokuta steel mill and Aluminium Smelter Company in Ikot-Abasi, Akwa Ibom State, coming on stream.
The NIMASA boss tasked the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Nigeria Customs Service and the Ministry of Finance to aid the local players with incentives, including single-digit interest facility and attractive tax waivers to enable them compete favourably with foreign counterparts.
Following NIMASA’s on-going engagements with the Office of the Vice President, and partnership with the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board, Peterside said in the next five years, certain category of vessels should be built in the country to end importation of all needed vessels and reduce unemployment.