Maritime Review: Expert advocates Cabotage Act reform

Mrs Bisi Akodu

Activities in the maritime industry closed last week Friday with a call for Coastal and Inland Shipping (Cabotage) Act reform for the benefit of indigenous ship owners.

Mrs Bisi Akodu, a Maritime Lawyer and Partner in Olisa Agbakoba Legal, made the call in Lagos.
She said that 12 years after the Cabotage Act was enacted, Nigerian ship owners had yet to benefit from the coastal trade.
She said the Cabotage Act was meant to preserve commercial transportation of goods and services within the coastal and inland waters for vessels registered in Nigeria and owned by indigenous ship owners.
Akodu said indigenous ship owners had, however, been excluded from the lucrative oil sector for lack of sea-worthy vessels, thereby undermining provisions of the act restricting foreign vessels from operating in Nigeria’s inland waters.
The legal practitioner said many countries had made efforts to safeguard their economies by enforcing strict cabotage regimes to build indigenous capacity and derived revenue from inland and coastal shipping.
In the week under review, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) announced that 10 ships laden with various products including general cargo, foods and petroleum products had arrived Lagos ports.
It stated that 39 ships were also expected to sail into the ports with food items, general cargo and petroleum products.
Earlier in the week, officers of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) attached to the Federal Operations Unit (FOU) clashed with rice smugglers at Sango Ota in Ogun State.
Two persons were reportedly killed by stray bullets during the incident, while two others were said to have sustained injuries and taken to hospital for treatment.
An eye-witness account said the customs operatives chased the smugglers to Sango Motor Park and seized the smuggled rice and cars.
The smugglers, however, were said to have blocked the road to prevent the customs operatives from taking away their smuggled goods.
Also during the week, business activities were at a standstill in Apapa due to traffic gridlock.
Reacting to the situation, some members of the Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO) called for the establishment of truck parks as a lasting solution to the perennial gridlock along Ijora-Wharf Road.
A member of AMATO, Mr Oluwasegun Matande, told NAN that the situation was beyond the truck owners since there were no parks to accommodate the trucks.
He blamed the authority in charge of the port concession arrangement, saying that they did not consider an alternative location for the trucks before asking them to leave the port premises.
Alhaji Olayiwola Shittu, National President of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) urged the Federal Government to make importation of equipment duty free for automobile parts manufacturers.
He said by doing this, government would encourage the manufacturers to bring in their equipment, to create more jobs and to support the local assembly plants.

Shittu, however, said that 70 per cent import duty on used vehicles would push the business of vehicle imports to neighbouring countries.