FG urged to review maritime operation clauses to boost local capacity

The Federal Government has been told to revise and eliminate specific waiver clauses within the Coastal and Inland Shipping (Cabotage) Act, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) Act, and the Nigeria Oil and Gas Industry Content Development Act that are currently impeding the development of indigenous operations in nation’s maritime sector.

Further, the government has been tasked with ensuring the effective implementation of various policies, including cargo reservation, incentives/subsidies, and restrictions on domestic trade (Cabotage), in addition to focusing on shipyard and shipbuilding, fleet expansion programs, the development of maritime infrastructure, and capacity-building initiatives.

These measures are aimed at activating and fostering the Blue Economy, thereby creating sustainable economic growth, social integration, and livelihood improvements.

These recommendations were highlighted in a letter addressed to President Bola Tinubu, with copies sent to key government officials and legislative leaders.

Authored by the President of the National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMLCA), Lucky Amiwero, the letter particularly calls for the abolition of waiver clauses in the Cabotage operation outlined in Sections 9 through 13, aiming to bolster capacity and create job opportunities.

Amiwero criticised these clauses for allowing the Minister to issue waivers on every aspect of the Cabotage regime, which he argues dilutes the involvement of indigenous operators and perpetuates the dominance of foreign entities in the sector.

He warned that the continuation of these waiver clauses could lead to a predominance of freight activities by foreign operators, significant capital flight, underemployment among Nigerian operators, and a lack of ownership and skill development in maritime infrastructure due to the preference for foreign operators facilitated by waivers.

The letter urged a mandatory review of the waiver system by the National Assembly every five years, as stipulated in Section 14(2) of the Cabotage Act—a review process that should have commenced in 2008 to strengthen the capacity of indigenous operators within the Cabotage regime.

Additionally, Amiwero called on Tinubu to develop the national carriers’ status, as outlined in the NIMASA Act, to support the expansion of fleets and the carriage of shared cargo.

This move is expected to enhance local capacity in ship ownership, manning, and construction, as well as in other maritime infrastructures.

Other key suggestions in the letter include implementing the reserved cargo policy to ensure that Nigerian-flagged vessels carry at least 50 per cent of cargo generated through technical assistance and that NIMASA collaborates with other federal agencies to facilitate this process.

Amiwero’s letter seeks the Federal Government’s prompt action on these recommendations to stimulate the Blue Economy and achieve sustainable economic growth, social integration, and enhanced livelihoods across Nigeria.

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