B oritsematosan EDODO – EMORE

one of the most important aims of Nigerias Cabotage legislation [Coastal and Inland Shipping (Cabotage) Act 2003] is to develop human capacity in the maritime sector relevant to the oil and gas industry. To this end, the Act provides that vessels which ply Nigerian Coastal Waters should be manned by Nigerians.

S.3 of the Act specifically makes a prohibition against vessels which are not wholly manned by Nigerian citizens thus:

“A vessel other than a vessel wholly owned and manned by a Nigerian citizen, built and registered in Nigeria shall not engage in the domestic coastal carriage of cargo and passengers within the Coastal, Territorial, Inland Waters, Island or any point within the waters of the Exclusive Economic Zone of Nigeria”.

In ordinary parlance this means that vessels which carry goods and passengers within Nigerias Coastal Waters, its inland waterways and its Exclusive, Economic Zone, must be manned by Nigerian Citizens.

However, the Act also creates a way around what might initially appear to be an absolute prohibition S. 10 of the Act provides that the Minister of Transportation may grant a waiver of the requirement that Nigerians must man the vessel.

In order to do this, the Minister must be satisfied that there are no qualified Nigerian officers or crew for the position specified in the application.

In practice the Ministerial waiver is sought for and obtained at the nation’s maritime regulatory authority namely the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency [NIMASA]. The waiver is monetized. The cost depends on the category of personnel sought. The more senior personnel are cheaper than the junior such that whereas a master costs N50, 000.00 (Fifty Thousand Naira only) a pump man costs N300, 000.00 (Three Hundred Thousand Naira only) while a mess man costs N500, 000.00 (Five Hundred Thousand Naira only).

The provision of Ministerial waiver itself, is a testimony to the fact that Nigeria operates a liberal cabotage regime because, it does not yet have the capacity to wholly man the vessels plying its coastal waters.

The recent dearth of unemployment among Nigerian Seafarers has put much pressure on nigerias Cabotage regime. Foreign ships seeking manning waivers have been slammed with letters from NIMASA instructing them to take on various categories of local crew to understudy them before considering their applications for waiver.

This has posed an interesting challenge, both for the Nigerian regulatory Authority which seeks to actualize the aims of the cabotage legislation, and foreign trade partners who seek to carry out their projects with minimum interference!.

How do we create a win – win position out of what may initially seem to be conflicting interests?

A good starting point would be to understand the difficulties of both sides and work out a harmonious position that would benefit all parties.

Let us begin with the foreign employers of vessels and the nature of the vessels which service Nigeria’s Oil and Gas Industry. Most often, the vessels are not owned by the employers but same are under time charter. This means the vessels come to execute projects in Nigeria with their crew already in place.

The employer has no power to add to or subtract from the men already on board. The crew would be under employment contracts with a crewing Company which itself has a contract with the ship – owners. These contracts span several years. It is not unusual that the same crew has been manning a vessel from 3 to 10 years. A team is built, there is synchronization of work.any addition or subtraction from the team disturbs the equilibrium, which itself could be hazardous.

faced with the issue of taking local sea farers on board, the first challenge is that the employer whom the regulatory authority seeks to call to order, has no power to employ additional crew!. The party who has power to employ is not in Nigeria and most often has no relationship with Nigeria – other than that a Client has hired its vessel to transport cargo to Nigeria.

Another problem facing the employment of local seafarers is the nature of the vessels.the Oil and Gas Industry attracts a variety of highly specialized vessels ranging from all classes of Offshore supply vessels (OSV’s) heavy Lift Vessels (HLV’s), construction vessels and seismic vessels to mention a few. By the very nature of work which these vessels execute, they operate with their own crew who have been trained on the vessels. Some of these trainings cannot be obtained in any institution, but same must be done in house, by the shipowners.

HLVs do not go to offshore sites. They bring in heavy cargo used in the Oil Industry such as cable reels weighing approximately 240 metric tones (240, 000kg) from Europe to Lagos, Nigeria.

The HLV discharges its heavy cargo with its own Heavy Lift cranes, into pipe laying or construction vessels which go to offshore sites to install the reels underneath the sea bed. HLV’s are really like Mini ports possessing equipments that one would normally find in a port. E.g. shackles grommets, slings, breader beams, forming components of its Heavy Lift Gears.

The process of discharging heavy cargo into waiting construction vessels is actually quite dangerous;-heavy lift cranes lifting heavy cargo, simultaneous counter ballasting in order to prevent the HLV from listing, sophisticated sea fastening procedure, carried out up to DNV standards to prevent heavy cargo from shifting while vessel is at sea etc.

These require the highest safety procedures which the crew must be familiar with. Any wrong maneuvering of cranes or incorrect heavy lift rigging may result in capsizing of the vessel. The attendant loss of life, vessel and environmental damage are realities which the employer of the vessel must always bear in mind.

Consequently the crew in HLV’s are usually well trained in house spending anything from 3 to 10 years on the same vessel. There are no institutions offering relevant courses in Heavy Lift and infact there are only two HeavyLift Ocean carriers in the world both based in Holland. Thus when faced with an order to take on local crew at a Nigerian port, this sends questions and shock waves in many directions. The first of such questions is whether the local seafarers have sufficient knowledge or experience of heavy lift operations to come on board?

Another challenge facing the employment of local seafarers on foreign vessels servicing Nigerias Oil and Gas Industry is the safety requirements of specialized vessels. Primarily the personnel which come on board these vessels must possess, mandatory BOSIET (Basic Offshore, Survival, Induction and Escape Training) HUET (Helicopter, Underneath Stcw Escape Training) and STCW 95 Certificates as well as vessel induction and clearance.

This is the minimum safety requirement. In any offshore incident, medical, evacuations could be done by helicopters. The trainings which these mandatory certificates confirm, ensure that in the event of a helicopter incident, chances of survival are increased. Whether the seafarers in NIMASA pool would readily have these certificates is a challenge. Availability of accommodation space in the foreign vessels is another problem facing the employment of local seafarers. At the point of sailing to Nigeria, the personnel on board these vessels have already been determined by the project the vessels are employed to execute. Bed space would have been allotted to such personnel. Some times two people share a room, taking turns by shifts. The result is that more often than not there are no spare rooms!

Additional men on board means accommodation space.

These are the practical problems facing the foreign vessel. What about NIMASA? How does NIMASA realize the objective of getting Nigerian Citizens to man the vessels plying her Coastal waters. This is a long term objective, requiring planned, and effective long term solution.

The first step, is to enhance the training curriculum of the Public and Private Maritime training institutions in the country.

Expanding the scope and facilities at the maritime Academy Oron, immediately comes to mind.

The need for training vessels on which products of Nigerian maritime institutions can realize their sea experience is another solution.

Bilateral agreements between Nigerian Institutions and owners or manufacturers of specialized vessels for Nigerians to undergo training in some of these vessels, is also relevant. Consensual interfacing with crewing companies in other parts of the world is relevant, so that our qualified sea men may employed outside of Nigeria.

Partnering with local companies seeking waivers, to have cadets train on their vessels is yet another solution.

The possibilities are endless but the important thing is to acknowledge that development of local manning capacity is a concerted long term project demanding cooperation and collaboration between Nigeria and her trading partners.


Oritsematosan Edodo, Thorpe Associates


270, Ikorodu Road,

Obanikoro – Lagos .


Tel: 08082789913 , 08033052747.

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