Lagos – Mr Bolaji Akinola, the Chief Executive Officer, Ships and Ports Communication Ltd., on Monday urged the Federal Government and maritime stakeholders to consider the local environment in the application of foreign maritime laws.
Akinola, a member of Nigerian Ports Consultative Council (NPCC) Planning Committee on Roadmap for the Development of Maritime Industry toward the Attainment of Vision 20:20:20, made the appeal in a statement issued in Lagos.
He said that the Federal Government should not allow wholesome importation and use of foreign commercial maritime laws, without giving due consideration to the local environment.
Akinola said the failure of the Coastal and Inland Shipping Act, otherwise known as the Cabotage Act, could be traced to the wholesome importation of the Jones Act of U.S.
“At a time when U.S. lawmakers were trying to tweak the Jones Act with some lawmakers calling for its total repeal, Nigerians cut and pasted the Act in its whole form without due consideration for the peculiarities of our environment.
“While an Act like the Cabotage Act was desirable– to enhance indigenous participation and retain as much value within our economy as possible– certain portions of the Jones Act should not have been imported into the Cabotage regime.
“The Jones Act is almost 100 years old and the dynamics of the present times should have been duly considered before enacting our Cabotage Act.
“For example, just as the Jones Act, our Cabotage Act stipulated that vessels that would be used for coastal operation must be owned by Nigerians, built in Nigeria, maintained in Nigeria and crewed by Nigerians.
“This is an anomaly, when we all know fully well that we have not started building ships in Nigeria,’’ the publisher said.
According to him, this laid the foundation for the abuse of the law and its failure 10 years after.
He said that government was not under any obligation to hastily domesticate and implement international conventions that were detrimental to the interest of Nigerian ship owners.
“For instance, the phase out of the single hull vessels, as it concerns ships used for coastal operation, should be gradual and long-term, even though there is an international convention in that regard,” he said.
He, however, called on President Muhammadu Buhari to reverse policies “that have been inimical to the maritime industry” and had promoted smuggling of goods across Nigerian borders.
Akinola said the National Automotive Policy, rice and fish quota systems, were some of the policies which were negatively hampering port operations, and through which Nigeria was losing huge revenue.
“In addition to these, President Muhammadu Buhari will do well to address the perennial Apapa gridlock by embarking on a total regeneration and reconstruction of Apapa,’’ he said.