The Acting Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Mohammed Bello-Koko, has charged indigenous shipowners to invest in vessels to take advantage of the Cabotage law.

Bello-Koko gave the charge when he hosted members of the Nigerian Shipowners Association (NISA) at the NPA corporate headquarters in Lagos.

“You need to take advantage of the Cabotage law. That is important. That law gives a lot of opportunities and it also limits the participation of foreign companies and nationals in doing business. Now, you have the law that gives the powers of what you should do in terms of funding. That is why I keep saying you need to put forces together; you need to have a strong front,” he said.

He promised to support shipowners’ in effective implementation of the Coastal and Inland Shipping Act, 2003, otherwise known as the Cabotage Act.

“Whatever concessions that are being given to ships flying the Nigeria flag would remain. But those concessions should be noted that they are given to encourage. And the concession we are giving does not trickle down to the user of your service. That means you are charging as much as others are charging. And if that is the case, what is the essence of giving you those concessions. You understand, but whatever concession has been given to NPA, we don’t intend to remove it. We review them and see if they still exist. And if they are not, we will fix it,” he said.

The NPA boss also said he would support the resuscitation of the moribund annual Nigerian Maritime Exhibition and Conference (NIMAREX).

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He also regretted the backlog of cadets trained at the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN), Oron, who he said have been unable to obtain their certificates of competency (CoC) due to lack of sea time experience.

He said training in accredited institutions should be prioritised, especially as most people are scared of going for the training due to scarcity of jobs after the rigorous training.

Bello-Koko said there were many seafarers who are done with the training but with no sea time experience.

“The Minister of Transportation has been saying that Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) should not be allowed to bring foreign vessels. The law says if it is Nigerians that have the vessels, they have some benefits to gain. The matter has got to the National Assembly and the association needs to also follow up.

“Meanwhile, it is not about saying you must give us the opportunities, the question is, do you have the vessels? Do you have the capacity? Do you have the strength? Do you have the technical know-how? Do you have a relationship with people outside the country? If you can do that, it shows all of a sudden, there would be tens of thousands of opportunities to employ Nigerians,” he said.

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Also, the Chairman, Steering Committee of NISA, Sunday Omatseye, said before now Nigerian shipowners had some concessions such as port charges waiver. He said some priorities were given to Nigerian shipowners, which he said the association would take up.