Stakeholders seek removal of waiver clause in Cabotage Act
• NIMASA to name vessel after late maritime icon, Folarin
Shipping stakeholders have called for removal of the waiver clauses in the Cabotage Act that creates opportunities for foreign vessels to dominate the country’s coastal trade, two decades after the establishment of the Act.
They made the call at a one-day colloquium held in honour of the late maritime icon, Kunle Folarin, organised by media friends and the Nigerian Ports Consultative Council (NPCC) in Lagos.
A public policy expert, Mr. Chris Asoluka, described the waiver clauses in the Cabotage Act as one of the greatest limitations of the Act and the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund (CVFF).
Asoluka, who was among the notable stakeholders that worked tirelessly on the Cabotage Act before it was passed in 2003, asserted that the clause has stifled indigenous shipping in the country.
“Foreigners are excused to use vessels not owned by Nigerians, not built or crewed by Nigerians. This was a mistake we made with the Cabotage Act because we thought at that time, Nigeria hadn’t grown to the stage where it could handle Cabotage trade in compliance to the requisite standards.
“We should have inserted a caveat or timeline to give waivers to foreign vessels for five years, while growing indigenous capacity for the service. However, 20 years after the Cabotage Act was passed, the Transport Minister still has the powers to give waivers to foreign operators,” he said.
The Chairman of Integrated Oil and Gas Limited, Capt. Emmanuel Iheanacho, who also chaired the event, stressed that utilising CVFF for Cabotage vessels alone may hamper plans to train seafarers for sea time on such vessels as they will not be categorised as ‘ocean-going vessels’.
He suggested that the name ‘CVFF’ could be changed to ‘Ship Acquisition and Ship Building Fund’ to enable applicants of the fund purchase ocean-going vessels.
Meanwhile, stakeholders poured encomiums on the late maritime icon, just as the Director General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr Bashir Jamoh, revealed plans to immortalise him by naming one of the agency’s newly acquired vessels after him.
Jamoh described Folarin as a selfless service man who is not given to acquiring wealth, as well as a maritime encyclopedia who is willing and ready at any time to help the maritime sector irrespective of the situation.
Also, the President of the Shipowners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Dr. Mkgeorge Onyung, described Folarin as a bookman and resourceful personality in the industry, noting that the industry will miss him greatly.
Speaking earlier, one of the organisers of the event, Mr. Sesan Onileimo, said: “We decided to host this colloquium in honour of someone who interacted beautifully with the maritime media. From the youngest to the older journalists, we were all beneficiaries of Otunba Kunle Folarin’s wisdom.”