Indigenous shipowners have denounced the continued awarding of contracts to foreign shipowners for the cabotage of petroleum products, in clear violation of the Coasting Trade and Local Content Act.
The findings revealed that a year after the attention of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) was drawn to the violation of the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development Act (NOGICD) and on cabotage in the awarding of contracts for the coastal transport of petroleum products, foreign operators continue to practice cabotage on national territorial waters, a trade exclusively reserved for indigenous operators.
Concerned about this development, the Ship Owners Association of Nigeria (SOAN) sent a letter of protest to the Managing Director of NIMASA, Dr. Bashir Jamoh and copied the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) , Mallam Mele Kyari and the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB), Engr. Simbi Wabote.
In a letter of protest dated March 22, 2022, the indigenous shipowners accused NIMASA of still granting waivers to foreign-flagged vessels operated by Messrs. Unibros/Orion Marine to participate in domestic maritime transport of petroleum products reserved only for Nigerians.
According to the letter signed by SOAN Chairman, Mkgeorge Onyung, shipowners called on NIMASA to exercise its mandate to end all illegalities and ensure shipowners pay import duties on vessels, with evidence provided before adopting the Nigerian flag, as do Nigerian-owned, Nigerian-flagged and Nigerian-operated vessels.
While commending NIMASA, NNPC and NCDMB for the multiple levels of dialogue on the issue, SOAN noted that it would amount to an act of economic sabotage if foreign-flagged vessels were allowed to operate in national waters in disregard. applicable laws and regulations.
The letter titled ‘Re: registration of foreign flag vessels in the cabotage regime for the cabotage of petroleum products, a copy of which has been made available to the Guardian reads in part: “The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has broke a more than 40 year record by giving Nigerian shipping companies the business opportunity to supply coastal vessels to NNPC/Marine Logistics for the shipment of petroleum products with Nigerian flagged coastal tankers.
“The efforts of your agency and the proactive steps taken by the Executive Secretary, the NCDMB and the House of Assembly are highly commendable and much appreciated.
“However, it is of great concern to this laudable initiative that foreign-flagged vessels operated by Messrs. Unibros / Orion Marine are granted waivers by you to participate in the inland transportation of petroleum products in violation of our cabotage and local content legislations.
“Orion Marine is only an agency and not the owner of the vessels presented to you. During the legislative public hearings, see a letter from the President of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), UNIBROS is not a registered Nigerian taxpayer but has been operating illegally in Nigeria for over ten years.
“We are informing you of this to exercise your mandate to end any illegality and ensure that they pay import duties on these vessels with evidence provided before adopting the Nigerian flag , as are Nigerian-owned, Nigerian-flagged and Nigerian-operated vessels. Stop these ships immediately or force them to pay federally mandated taxes they are illegally avoiding. Impose the penalties required under section 35 for violations of the cabotage law.