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Master Mariners disagree with SAA operation, review issues defining Nigeria’s maritime industry

  §  Seek thorough
scrutiny of shipping coys  as CVFF
disbursement crystalizes 


R-L: President of NAMM, Captain Tajudeen Alao, Capt. Joe Awodeha, Rear Admiral Godswill Ombo, Capt. Adewale Ishola, Capt. Iheanacho Ebubeogu, and Capt. Ahmed Idrisu at the NAMM Secretariat in Apapa

 At the close of 2019, the Nigerian
Association of Master Mariners (NAMM) as a professional body, sat to review
issues of great concern in the nation’s maritime industry, with a view to
ensuring that policy makers heed professional advice on the best way forward.

The mariners, comprising captains who have
had successful careers at sea on various platforms globally, totally disagreed
with the operation of a Secure Anchorage Area(SAA) at the Lagos Ports.

Recently, there was a heated disagreement
between the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and the private company operating
the SAA, Ocean Marine Solutions Limited (OMSL) that provides security for
foreign vessels at the anchorage. 

Managing Director of the NPA, Hadiza Bala
Usman, had declared the operation of the OMSL cancelled as the company collects
a fee of $2000 on the first day and $1500 on subsequent days of being at the
anchorage.

The NPA MD had argued against making the
shipowners pay additional cost for security, when the duty of the Nigerian Navy
is to ensure security of the maritime domain for the benefit of everyone out at
sea.

However, after its investigation, the
senate committee on the matter concluded that OMSL should continue with its
operations since it was not adding costs to the government.   

So, in its review, the master mariners, led
by Captain Tajudeen Alao, said it was wrong to allow a private firm to be
providing security for a group of people when it should provide more platforms
for the Navy to perform their duty of securing the maritime domain.

He said: “What we do in international
shipping is regulated by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea
(UNCLOS). You know the ocean is an open place and for all players to partake in
it, there are regulations. But the duty of a Flag State, which is a member
state of IMO, is responsibility to international community.”

Alao noted that it was binding on member
states that have domesticated the laws to ensure monitoring and enforcement in
the provision of succour, safety, security, management of the environment.

The country must also respond and ensure search
and rescue for ships going through the coastal waters, including innocent
passage, or a ship that is coming to visit you, and has problem.
“Shipowners should not provide private
security for themselves. It is not acceptable internationally,” Alao said.

Contributing in same vein, Retired Rear
Admiral Godswill Ombo, said: “Nobody should charge a ship that is in the
anchorage a single penny. It is the prerogative of a captain to decide whether
or not to go to a secure anchorage or continue on his way. If he decides to
anchor there until he gets into the port, it is the responsibility of the
government to provide him with security needed.”

He added that the ship does not have to pay
additional money since he pays his port dues and some amount to NIMASA.

He expressed concern that the Senate
Committee for the investigation, should have involved the master mariners, so
that the issue was handled professionally.

According to the mariners, if a safe
anchorage is provided in Lagos, what happens in Calabar, Bonny, Warri? What
also happens to those who move by the water, but cannot pay the money? What
about those using the fishing boats.

Contributing also, Capt. Iheanacho Ebubeogu
said those paying for a secured anchorage were only tolerating Nigeria because
of its big market.

He
said: “People can tolerate us because we are a big market. But when it comes to
where we want to become member of IMO category C member, people will go behind
us and jeer at us.

“UNLOS section 17 says Coastal State must
provide security including at anchorage. And the three infrastructure that the
NPA provides are the anchorage, the Foul ground, where we keep wrecks that are
not economically useful, then the Spoil ground, where we keep things that we
have dredged out.”

On the issue of the Cabotage Vessel
Financing Fund (CVFF), Capt. Alao commended government’s decision to disburse
the fund soon, and warned that the money must be committed to ship acquisition
for coastal trade. 
 
“We want government to give the money to
serious players who can make the industry grow. We don’t want ‘briefcase- carrying’ shipping companies to spring up because they hear that the money is available.
Although there is a law on how the money should go. We commend government for accepting
to disburse the money,” Alao added.

He lamented the state of traffic gridlock
in the port city of Apapa, as a result of poor access roads, a situation he
said had dragged in the last two decades.

He said: “Why the gridlock? Because of poor
access road, road obstruction. Cargo evacuation, waiting time at anchorage,
piracy, payment for ships at anchorage. The crew are frustrated, ship
abandoned. The port is a customs border post, so, instead of discharging cargo,
physical inspection, the scanner can clear this.”
The mariners also want the Federal
Government to consider the viability of deep seaports before their establishment,
so that the nation does not suffer a repeat of having some of them abandoned
eventually or turned into other uses.

“We did Sapele Port, we did Warri Port,
what happened? Sapela Port failed. It is now a Naval Base. Must we embark on
what we know would fail? Good, there are going to be deep seaports, what about
the access roads, the infrastructure?” the NAMM President asked. 

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