NIMASA unveils new ship certificates, to begin open vessel registry

  • NIMASA Director-General, Dr. Dakuku Peterside (second left), flanked by the Chairperson, Ship Owners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Margaret Orakwusi (left), NIMASA Executive Director, Admin and Finance, Dr. Bashir Jamoh, and some other Nigerian ship owners displaying the new certificates during the Nigerian Ship Registry Interactive Forum with Ship Owners, organised in Lagos Tuesday by the maritime regulator

Nigeria is set for a second and open ship registry to attract higher tonnage from international patronage, while the existing closed registry will help in developing its cabotage capacity, the Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Dakuku Peterside, has said.

Speaking in Lagos Tuesday during the Nigerian Ship Registry Interactive Forum with Ship Owners, organized by NIMASA, Peterside explained that the anticipated international registry will help grow Nigerian fleet and enhance its role in international commercial trade.

He disclosed that Nigeria, with its closed registry, has 2,725 active vessels of various capacities and was last year rated by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) as second in Africa (next to Liberia which operates an open registry) and 46th worldwide.

“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 while using the closed register to develop indigenous capacity and for domestic trade, similar to our cabotage regime.

“We are therefore considering establishing a second or international register to help grow our fleet and input our footprints in international commercial trade.”

Similarly, Peterside said the agency has acquired a software licence to commence the automation of the ship registry processes to quicken business processes. He added: “Our principal aim is to achieve online electronic registration, accept electronic copies of documents and issue electronic certificates.

“Our goal as a maritime safety administration is to create a world class ship registry that will be attractive to ship owners, with the aim of maintaining Nigeria’s influence in the evolving international commercial and regulatory environment for shipping.”

The process began with an audit of Nigerian vessels in 2018/19 to ensure compliance with the IMO Ship Identification Number Scheme, 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.

Meanwhile, the agency has unveiled new high-tech certificates for the various vessel categories, including ship registry, fishing, cabotage and wholly-owned Nigerian cabotage, among others, to strengthen the image and integrity of the Nigerian certificate against counterfeiting.

Peterside noted that “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.”

Therefore, “we are upgrading the Ship Registry Filing Facility to ensure effective document management and control. We are reviewing our ship registration requirements to ensure a harmonised process between survey and ship registry units, and to also align ourselves with international best practices.”

On his part, the Chairman of Ship Registry Committee, Mr. Emmanuel Ilori, urged NIMASA to set clear timelines for the administrative process of ship registration and put in place clear and precise change in flag instructions.

Introducing the new certificates, NIMASA Ag. Ship Registrar, Nneka Obianyor, said the major things are the security features, adding that they have about 16 particulars of vessels, free from such duplications as gross, net and registered tonnage, which increased the particulars of the existing one to about 24.

Again, the old has no form of address, including e-mail, which are now incorporated in the new one, and while the current flag certificate purports to enable you trade internationally, it requires from you “area of operation,” under which “most vessel owners will request for Nigerian waters, or West and Central coast – just anything – because the other has restrictions.

“For us, if you are a Nigerian flag, you should aspire to go anywhere, but there are trade certificates that you must comply with if you want to go international.

“However, that should not be affected by our certificate, so we have removed ‘your area of operation,’ but you must go to safety to ensure that you have the right trade certificate to go out internationally.”

Obianyor explained that the new certificates would come into force before the end of 2020 Q1, but first, NIMASA will notify the IMO of the new steps; and there will be a transition period, because the extant certificates, except for cabotage, have five-year validity period.

She added that training for surveyors will be concluded in the next one month, and marine notice issued to all ship owners to understand the new things in place before commencement.

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