Nigeria: Ship Registry - NIMASA Set to Flag Vessels in International Trade

7 February 2020

About five months after it rejigged its flag registry for efficiency and viability, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has revealed Nigeria's readiness to flag vessels in international trade.

The Director-General of NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, stated this at the Nigerian Ship Registry Interactive Forum with Ship owners held in Lagos, recently.

Nigeria currently operates a closed ship registry, unlike the Liberian registry that operates an open ship registry. Open registry denotes flags of convenience for ships, closed registry refers to registers that set requirements regarding ownership, management and manning for vessels to fly another country's flag.

Speaking at the forum, Peterside noted the agency's effort at building capacity and making sure Nigerians acquire high vessels that would participate in carrying cargoes to other world destinations.

Peterside, therefore, pointed out the need to grow the country's fleet and input its footprints in international commercial trade, assuring the disbursement of the Cabotage Vessels Finance Fund (CVFF).

He said: "Our desire is to have Nigerian flag vessels involved in international commercial trade and that is why we are making every effort to build capacity and ensure that Nigerians acquire high capacity vessels that will not only be involved in the lifting of our hydrocarbons but carry our cargoes to other parts of the world.

"As you are all well aware, Nigeria operates a closed ship registry, however, most renowned ship registries in the world such as the UK Ship Register, today maintain a second or international register to attract tonnage whilst using the closed register to develop indigenous capacity and for domestic trade similar to our cabotage regime."

The NIMASA boss added: "We are therefore considering establishing a second or international register to help grow our fleet and input our footprints in international commercial trade.

"In 2018/19, we attracted into our register two high index capacity vessels - "Egina FPSO" and "MT Ultimate. We have no doubt that a lot more can be done to assist Nigerians in acquiring vessels and that is why we are making effort to disburse the CVFF."

The DG disclosed that the agency had internally begun to take constructive steps in the ship registry like an audit of register of Nigerian vessels, redesign and production of new ship registry certificates, automation of the ship registry, upgrade of the ship registry filing facility, review of ship registration guidelines and ISO 9001:2015 certification.

Specifically, he said: "A comprehensive audit of Register of Nigerian vessels was carried out in 2018/19 to ensure that the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Ship Identification Number Scheme outlined in IMO Resolution A. Counterfeiting of Ship Registry certificates renders the entire gamut of systems and processes designed to prevent the entry of unseaworthy and sub-standard ships into the flag, a nullity.

"We have acquired a software licence to commence the automation of the Ship Registry processes as we all are aware that automation is the only way that our business processes can be quickened. Our principal aim in the near future is to achieve online electronic registration, accept electronic copies of documents and issue electronic certificates. We are upgrading the Ship Registry Filing Facility to ensure effective documents management and control."

Peterside added: "We are reviewing our ship registration requirements to ensure a harmonized process between Survey and Ship Registry Units and also align ourselves with standard international best practices. Your comments at this meeting will be very useful.

"Our Maritime Safety and Seafarers Standards Department and allied Units in the Agency have undergone ISO 9001: 2015 certification and are awaiting issuance of the certificate. We are working the ship registration office through the same process to ensure a sustainable quality management system."

He expressed optimism about relying on stakeholders' guidance, experience, industry know-how and cooperation to endow the desperately needed credence and international respect for the Nigerian Flag.

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