• Mulls disbursement of $124m cabotage fund
•Registered Nigerian-owned vessels hit 125
The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has expressed concerns about the spate of piracy on the country’s waters.Its Director-General, Dakuku Peterside spoke yesterday during a media engagement in Lagos.He said: “I must confess that we are concerned about cases of piracy within our waterways. But, NIMASA is working through the maritime command and has improved and increased surveillance on the waterways.
“We are working with our partners in the Nigerian Navy who have designed a number of special programmes to patrol the waterways, especially in the Niger Delta.”He pledged to tackle the crime with sophisticated technology and partnership with security agencies, adding that NIMASA had also reactivated the maritime domain awareness, which is a satellite view of the entire maritime space.
Peterside promised to acquire fast intervention vessels, maritime security helicopter, or even special mission aircraft to address the issue. “We are working closely to train a new set of military men, because we are not allowed to bear arms and retrain them on maritime security surveillance in particular,” he said.
On compliance with International Ships and Ports Security Code (ISPS), he said the agency has recorded 80 per cent compliance. He, however assured that $124 million cabotage fund would be disbursed between now and next year.
The agency, he said: “is already working with the presidency on modality for the disbursement, which would be done as soon as we receive the approval. The fund is domiciled in Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and not with any commercial bank.”The director general disclosed that half-year result showed that 125 vessels had registered, representing a 33 per cent increase when compared with the 94 that were registered in the corresponding period in 2017.
He added that a total of 2,840 Nigerian officers and ratings were recommended to be placed onboard cabotage Vessels in 2018, as against 1,789 Nigerian seafarers in the same period in 2017, which reflects an increase of 58 per cent. “243 graduates and 1600 cadets are at various stages of completion of the programme, 887 of which are ready for sea-time training. We are currently tackling the issue of sea time head-on, via full sponsorship,” he stressed.
The NIMASA boss said the agency has reviewed freight rates benchmark for three per cent levy billing to reflect prevailing realities in shipping. He said the agency was working with the CBN on a special forex intervention for vessel parts’ acquisition and loan repayment processes, to make indigenous operators compete favourably with their foreign counterparts.