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The Nigeria Maritime Authority ( NMA) recently hosted an International Maritime Organisation (IMO) conference which focused on maritime pollution at Port-Harcourt, Rivers State.
The Nigeria Maritime Authority ( NMA) recently hosted an International Maritime Organisation (IMO) conference which focused on maritime pollution at Port-Harcourt, Rivers State. The Director-General of the organisation Engr. Festus Ugwu spoke to OKEY NDIRIBE on the confab and other issues in the maritime industry
WHAT role did the Nigeria Maritime Authority play during the Bellview plane crash at Lisa in Ogun State?
A helicopter hired by the Nigeria Maritime Authority (NMA) actually discovered the site of the crash late in the morning of the following day. As a result of NMA’s experience during the air crash, it has been decided that the authority should purchase a helicopter that can undertake search and rescue operations at night. NMA has also adopted the Global Maritime Safety System ( GMDSS). NMA would soon be computerised to enhance its operations. We have already invited the Department for International Development ( DFID) to computerise the ship registry.
Another major achievement made by NMA in recent times was the facilitation of a stakeholders meeting to evolve a way of empowering indigenous shippers. It was a way of carrying everybody along in the formulation and implementation of government’s policies on shipping. NMA is working hand in hand with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation ( NNPC) to ensure Nigerians benefit from the cabotage law. We have reached an agreement with a group in Malaysia that has agreed to provide 85 percent of funds required for the purchase of ships. NMA is not ready to provide potential ship owners with the remaining 15 percent funding but instead would refer them to banks that would provide the required funds as loans. Those who took loans to acquire ships but refused to pay back are being handed over to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission ( EFCC).
However, NMA is principally involved in maritime administration. Maritime administrations worldwide promote and regulate activities of the merchant marine. The duties of maritime administrations normally include that of maritime safety. They also have responsibility for safety over flag vessels; maintenance of ship registry and implementation of national laws and international conventions on control and prevention of maritime pollution. Presently, NMA is responsible for implementing and initiating regulations for the Nigerian Shipping Act; Implementing international conventions ratified by Nigeria; Keeping track of and conforming with international developments for ship safety; Prevention and control of marine pollution and enforcement of all relevant international maritime conventions.
The flag state functions of NMA also include employment of qualified surveyors for conduct of periodic mandatory and voluntary surveys. Mandatory surveys are conducted upon application for registration of a vessel in the Nigerian ship registry. Voluntary surveys are done on request. A surveyor could go on board a vessel and if necessary issue a detention order for non-compliant vessels. Detained vessels are released only on compliance with relevant safety procedures and requirements in addition to payment of necessary charges for non-compliance in the first instance.
NMA’s port state duties is basically that of ensuring compliance with international port state obligations. In order for NMA to strengthen its port state roles, Nigeria joined 16 other countries of the West African sub-region to sign the Abuja Memorandum of Understanding on Port State Control in October 1999. The Abuja MOU group of countries is focused on harmonising port state control procedures in the sub-region. This group of countries are currently working on establishing an information centre to provide a data base for vessel inspections in the region and for proper networking by port state control officers.
The NMA has also signed agreements with various certification societies in line with the IMO guidelines delegating certain flag state to them. These societies include; Lloyds; American Bureau of Shipping, Det Norske Veritas and Bureau Veritas. However, the major reason NMA hosted the last IMO conference was to discuss how to implement the International Convention for Prevention of Pollution from Ships ( MAPOL 73/78) that has already been domesticated into a local law by the National Assembly and is presently awaiting the assent of President Olusegun Obasanjo.
For long Nigeria has been a party to IMO conventions relating to the control and prevention of marine pollution. International pollution conventions have provided a uniform platform for international action against marine pollution. Some other relevant conventions include International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage (CLC) 1969 and International Convention on the Establishment of an International Fund for Compensation for Oil Pollution Damage ( IOPC).
Before now the only applicable international convention in Nigeria was the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution of the sea by Oil (OILPOL) 1954 as amended in 1962, 1969 and 1971. The domesticated MAPOL 73/78 covers pollution by Nigerian registered vessels in the high seas and any vessels in Nigerian territorial waters, or navigable terminals. The law stipulates that potentially liable parties include owner or master of a vessel; occupier of land; a person in charge of an apparatus. Oil discharges from vessels also qualify as offences.
What are the challenges presently faced by NMA ?
The NMA needs to work with the Nigeria Ports Authority ( NPA), as the NPA Act authorizes it to control pollution arising from ships using the port limits or their approaches. Even the oil companies operating in the country are supposed to adhere to Petroleum Drilling and Production Regulations made Pursuant to the Petroleum Act of 1969. This law requires oil companies operating in Nigeria to adopt all practicable precautions to prevent pollution of inland waters, rivers, water courses and all other Nigerian Territorial Waters particularly through clean-up operations in the event of pollution.
One of the challenges that NMA - which has a duty to ensure that international standards are met - is that there is so far a lack of synergy between it and various implementation agencies in the maritime industry like NPA. However, an inter-agency committee headed by a permanent secretary has also been set up to sort out synergy issues and fast-track the implementation and domestication of maritime conventions. Other challenges NMA is currently facing include delayed procurement of necessary equipment; shortage of trained manpower and lack of awareness on the MARPOL 73/78 provisions.
It is important to state that pollution prevention is always better and cheaper than pollution control. Regulations should be updated regularly and enforced more stringently. I enjoin stakeholders in the Nigerian maritime industry to work with NMA and other relevant bodies in the maritime administration for effective implementation of relevant conventions.
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