Nigeria’s maritime industry is one of the most recognized in West Africa and the government has over the years established Maritime laws and regulations in Nigeria to regulate port operations in the country. There are government regulations and its effect on port operations in Nigeria. Maritime laws in Nigeria consist of laws, legal policies and principles that are connected with the business of transportation of goods and passengers by water, marine resources, commerce and navigation.
These laws have overtime affected the industry. Let’s take a cursory look at some of these policies:
1) The Merchant Shipping Act (2007) : This stipulates a body of laws for merchant shipping and other related issues in Nigeria. The Act made provisions to make sure all ships trading in Nigeria obtain a certificate of license. This is clearly stated in section 5 of the Act; “no ship shall operate commercially in or from the waters of Nigeria unless the ship is a registered Nigerian ship, provided with a certificate of foreign registration or other documents similar or equivalent to the required by the Act; Registered by the law of the country other than Nigeria as a ship of that country and is by the law of that country exempted from registration; Exempted from registration; A licensed Nigerian ship operating solely within the waters of Nigeria. In addition, the law gives the power to the Minister to exempt generally or specifically by notice, a licensed Nigerian ship or a class of Nigerian ship from registration when it is operating outside the waters of Nigeria.
2) The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency Act, 2007 (the NIMASA Act): While we look at government regulations and its effect on port operations in Nigeria, this Act was formulated in order to provide Maritime laws and regulations in Nigeria for the promotion of maritime safety and security, as well as protection in the maritime environment, shipping registration and commercial shipping, maritime labour, the establishment of Nigerian maritime administration and safety agency.
3) The Coastal and Inland Shipping Act No 5, 2003: This act was established in a bid to restricting the use of foreign vessels in Domestic Coastal Trade in order to promote the development of Indigenous Toonage, as well as to establish a Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund and for other related matters. Importantly, the objective of this Act is to reserve the commercial transportation of goods and services within Nigerian coastal and inland waters to vessels flying the Nigerian flag, owned by Nigerian citizens. The function of this Act is to encourage and boost indigenous shipping lines to participate in Coastal and Inland Trade Administering Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF), the enlightenment and sensitization of prospective investors in the Cabotage Trade through seminars, conferences, workshops. It also maintains a registry of vessels for Cabotage Trade Registering Ships owned by indigenous shipping lines to participate in the Nation’s Cabotage Trade.
4) The Nigerian Ports Authority Act, 2004: This is an Act to establish the NPA with the functions of providing and operating necessary facilities in ports, inclusive of maintaining, improving and regulating the use of the ports and provide for matters connected there with. This Act embodies the following;
-The establishment of the Nigerian Ports Authority
-The establishment and membership of the governing board
-Tenure of office, etc.
-Removal from office, etc.
-Disclosure of interest
-Functions of the Authority
-Powers of the Authority
-Power to act through officer or agent, etc.
-Managing director and executive directors of the Authority
-Other staff of the Authority, etc.
-Service in the Authority to be pensionable
-Fund of the Authority
-Reserve funds, etc.
5) The Carriage of Goods By Sea Act: This law governs the rights and duties of shippers, carriers and consigned of marine cargo. It is an aspect of international commercial law as well as maritime law. Effects of Government Regulations on the Maritime Sector in Nigeria
1) High import and export duties.
2) Cumbersome port clearance process
3) Impact of the Cabotage Law on human capacity development.
4) Illegal charges
5) Promotion of commercial shipping activities.
6) Constant delays.
Solutions to these include the following:
1) Government should develop more accommodating policies that will encourage private organizations to come into the industry, thereby rebranding and revamping it.
2) Use of digital technologies to aid smooth operations in the industry.
3) Policies should not be too stifling as this may drive away prospective investors.
4) The future of the maritime industry incorporates Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI). It is crucial that all are prepared for this future.
5) Take a cue from how the industry is run in developed countries and replicate
some of the initiatives in the country