By tephen Ubanna
With barely 10 years after the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency , NIMASA, under Patrick Akpobolokemi, the then Director General of the Agency, blocked the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas , NLNG, access to the Company’s major loading terminals for gas exports over its refusal to pay the statutory three percent freight levy on every ship entering or leaving Nigeria which had accumulated to over a $140 million as at June 201013, the frosty relationship appears to have changed under Bashir Jamoh, the Incumbent Director General.
Recall that Akobolokemi , had used the maritime regulatory agency statutory powers to restrain three NLNG vessels , NLNG Enugu, NLNG Oyo and NLNG Imo , from accessing or leaving the company’s loading bay at Bony Island, Rivers state. The NLNG controls seven percent of the global total gas supply while Russian Federation, which is currently at war with the North American country of the United States, US and European Union, EU, backed Ukraine controls 19.8%.
Signs of improved working relationship between the two Organisations had emerged when the Management of NLG agreed to pay the outstanding $140 million debt after series of meetings with NIMASA management in 2013.
Bashir Jamoh, the incumbent Chief Executive Officer, CEO, of NIMASA, May have known the strategic importance of the NLNG, to the agency operations both in terms of revenue and providing platforms for sea time to train Nigerian seafarers that it had given him the courage to say that the agency is committed ‘’ to attaining best global practice , so that Certificates issued by Nigeria will be recognised globally , noting that ‘’ this will make it easy for the NLNG and other international Organisations to accept th’’.
the two Organisations were said to have agreed’’ to set up a working Committee, that will meet regularly ‘’to ensure improved liaison between them to avoid a repeat of what happened in 2013, where their case over unpaid $140 million went to Court in the interest of Nigeria’’. The agreement was said to have been reached during a courtesy visit by the Management Team of the Bonny Island based gas company led by Phiilip Mshelbila, the Managing Director to NIMASA recently.
Jamoh, regarded as the poster boy of the nation’s maritime sector, may have taken advantage of the NLNG officials visit to the agency to speak out that a ‘’better working relationship between NIMASA and NLNG, would greatly enhance operations of the country’s maritime sector’’.
He may have gladdened the heart of Mshelbila, the NLNG, CEO, and his Management Team, on the courtesy visit, when he assured them that the agency would extend ‘’ the already existing friendly working relationship with the NLNG Ship Management Limited, NSML, to the parent body , while also urging the NLNG, ‘’to consider the Nigerian Flag as first option for their vessels.
He was said to have made it clear to the visiting NLNG Management Team that do so will ‘’ start a new beginning of their focus of doing what is best for Nigeria and not for the NLNG and NIMASA’’. NLNG- NSML, were said to have registered their its vessels in Bermudian Ship Registry instead of the Nigerian Ship Registry.
The NIMASA helmsman may have hit the nail on the head when he repeatedly said that ‘’the agency needs the NLNG, to boost the nation’s tonnage’’.
Jamoh, the NIMASA Director General had said that ‘’ if all the vessels owned by NLNG are on the Nigerian registry , it will increase the country’s tonnage exponentially’’, stressing that ‘’the Nigerian Flag will earn much more respect in the comity of nations and would also get better recognition’’.
Abdul –Kadir Ahmed, NSML, boss had confirmed that none of the NLNG-NSML vessels is Nigerian Flagged because’’ the International Financiers had insisted the vessels must be Flagged in internationally accepted ship registry recognised by Lloyds listed Flag state’’.
Informed sources told The Value News online Magazine that Flagging or registration of its ocean going vessels in Nigeria is the desire of the management the NLNG, subsidiary, NSML, but the regulation and other factors to make that work in Nigeria must be put be put in place such that ‘’it must be internationally accepted’’, Ahmed had said.
Besides, NLNG-NSML vessels , not flying Nigeria Flags or the company registering their vessels in the Nigerian ship registry, the company also takes its cargo vessels to dry dock outside Nigeria as the country lacks the capacity to dry dock the NLNG vessels.
Many believe that even if the country have the capacity to do so, NLNG-NSML, may still not patronize Nigeria dry dock facilities because of the international Financial Financiers regulation which is not favourable to the country. This may have informed why all the 11 NLNG vessels are not registered under Nigeria Flags.
Ahmed may have agreed with Jamoh, the NIMASA , Director General, on the need to patronize Nigerian Ship registry when he said that the company would have loved to dry dock its 11 ocean going vessels and one LPG, vessel in Nigeria due to the huge revenue such would generate for the country, but due to lack of any dry docking facility that can handle the NLNG vessels in the country, and the International Financial regulations may have forced it to take their vessels outside Nigeria to dry dock.
This is a big challenge to Jamoh, the NIMASA, Chief Executive Officer, CEO,, to ensure that the N50 billion modular Floating Dock acquired by the Nigerian government for the maritime regulatory agency since 2018 and which is currently in Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, dockyard, Apapa, is quickly put to use instead of the endless promises of doing so by his Management.
While the NIMASA multi million naira Floating procured since 2018, is yet to start operation, the Nigeria government was said to have awarded a $$10 million contract to China Habour and Engineering Company, CHEC, to start a feasibility study on setting up a dry dock facility in Board Brass, Bayelsa state as investors scamper for the $1 billion Finima dry dock facility in Rivers state.
That much was confirmed by Temipre Sylva, a former gover of Bayelsa, home state of former President Goodluck Jonathan and now minister of state, Petroleum Resources and Simbi Wabote, Executive Secretary, Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring