By Stephen Ubanna
For much of last year and now, there have been rumours making the rounds that the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, under the close watch of Bashir Jamoh, described as one of the best Director Generals that has ever been produced over the last two decades may restructure the ship registration office to make it more effective.
The agency may have been encouraged to do so in order to ensure that’’ untrustworthy and sub-standard ships would no longer be allowed to fly Nigerian flags, let alone be issued with the new Certificate of Registration to fly Nigerin, flag that could Compete with the Liberian , Philippian , Singapore, United Kingdom, UK, and other established maritime nations flag.
Under the International Maritime Organisation, IMO, Law, ships are required to be registered in order to have national character to permit their movement in territorial or international waters. Such registration, according to maritime experts are significant as the registration exercise ‘’gives protection of the title to the registered owner, determines the priorities between the persons holding the security interest in the vessel, and determine the jurisdiction of the vessel for the purpose of payment of certain levies, taxes and other liabilities to a Flag state.
The registration, according the Maritime analysts gives the ship ‘’a right to fly a country’s flag, take for instance, Nigeria, and which attributes a national character to the vessel. By flying such a country’s flag, the ship, the analyst said is tread ‘’ as the national of the flag state and accorded a diplomatic protection by the flag state’’. This may have informed ‘’why the process of the national ownership as Registration of ships is also referred to ‘’flag state registration’’.
There is no gain saying that in restructuring the ship registration office by the Jamoh led Management of of the Maritime Regulatory agency, it is expected to demand from the ship owner such certified documents as, a letter of application for ship Registration, usually on Company’s stationery, Copy of Certificate of incorporation with the Nigerian Corporate Affairs Commission, NCC, CTC of Memorandum of Understanding and Articles of Association, for proper scrutiny.
This is in addition to the submission to the agency of a Bank reference letter, Completed declaration of Ownership form with Passport Photograph attached to the ship registration form including an expired Provisional Certificate of Registration as a shipping Company registered with NIMASA and a Copy of the vessel Insurance policy.
The shipping Company that would be applying for registration of its vessel with the Federal ministry of Transportation agency is also expected to demand for such vital information as ‘’a Copy of Class Certificate, Copy of Builders certificate, for new ships only, Copy of deletion of certificate for foreign flagged vessels, certificate of Tonnage measurement and condition of survey report among others. The agency may have taken the decision’’ to commence the issuance the issuance of new Certificates of ship registration in the country in order to phase out the old permits’’.
An insider told The Value News that the decision to issue the New Ship Registration Certificates was basically ‘’to ensure the utilization of secured Statutory Certificates and’’ prevent the entry of untrustworthy an sub-standard ships flying the Nigerian Flag’’.
Given an insider information why the agency had actually taken the bold initiative to restructure its Ship Registration office, Jamoh , the NIMASA, Chief Executive officer, CEO, who could not hide his feelings disclosed that they are restructuring the office ‘’to serve the ship owners more efficiently and effectively in their business’’.
Going by his plan to give top priority to maritime security, maritime safety and ship development on assumption of office on March 10, 2020, following the removal of Dakuku Peterside, the former Director General, by President Muhammadu Buhari, a retired army General, Jamoh had vowed of going’’ to grow the country’s fleet and tonnage to an enviable height’’.
He had repeatedly told those that cares to listen that the agency is committed to ensuring that the country’s Ship Registration remains of international standard and one of the best in the world. It is not surprising why it has enhanced its ‘’Certificates with more security features that would stand the test of time’’.
He had said that ‘’ the all-encompassing process of issuance of the new Ship Certificate will ensure a robust screening of ocean-going vessels that would be visiting Nigerian waters after the ongoingRegistration exercise.
Edward Osagie, an Assistant Director, in the Corporate Communications Department, had said in an official Statement that ‘’ the certificate of Cabotage ship Registry and Bareboat chartered vessels and Foreign owned vessels would be affected in the new Ship Registration exercise.
He noted that others that would be affected are the Certificate of Cabotage Ship Registry for Joint Venture Owned vessel, Deletion Certificate, Bill of Sale and Transcript of Registry. He further stated that that the Certificate of Mortgage to secure current and Certificate of freedom of encumbrance have also be changed by the agency to avoid abuse.
Note that Jamoh, the NIMASA Director General, may have gladdened the heart of the ship owners when he volunteered information that ‘’all existing Certificates that had been issued by the Registrar of ships before the implementation of the new regulation in Ship Registration would still be valid and needed to be carried on board vessels until their expiration. However he said vessel owners or ship masters are free to apply for the re-issuance of their existing Certificates.
Recall that the Merchant Shipping Act of 2007, had made it mandatory for ‘’the originals of Certificates of Registration of vessels to be carried on board vessels at all time’’. It is instructive to note that the issuance of these Ship Certificates was part of a fulfilment of section 30 of the Merchant Shipping Act 2007, which provides that the Registrar of ships shall on completion of the Registration of a particular ship, ‘’issue a certificate of Registration in such term as may be approved by the agency’’.
There are indications that Jamoh, the NIMASA, boss may have sent out a signal to shipowners to commence the issuance of the new Certificates of Ship Registration because of the Presidential approval to start the process for the disbursement of the Cabotage vessels Finance Fund, CVFF. The CVFF, which has both a local and Foreign account denominations, according Victor Ochei, the agency Executive Director, Maritime Law and Cabotage services, had as at Friday June 25, 2021,N132billion in Local currency account and $209 million in Foreign account domiciled in Special account in the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN. The CVFF according to Ochei, who spoke at the instance of Jamoh, had continued to grow on a daily basis, as the ship Companies continue to pay the 2% cost of transaction into the Fund.
He had said that if all the shipping Companies had been faithful in paying the 2% cost of every contract over the last 17 years, the local currency and dollar account of the CVFF, could have been more than the current amount in the Fund. It is not surprising why the current Management of the agency had beamed its searchlight on the shipping Companies operating in the Nigerian waters to ensure that they pay the mandatory 2% cost of transaction without defaulting.