Department of Fisheries sue for exemption of fish trawler owners from 2% Cabotage fee

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…Says dedicated fishery terminal a necessity

The Federal Department of Fisheries has called for the exemption of the fish trawling industry from the payment of the 2% Cabotage fee presently charged by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) on behalf of the Federal Government.

The Director, Federal Department of Fisheries, Mr. Mohammed Muazu made these observation in a goodwill message he presented at a two day Maritime Stakeholders’ Conference held in Lagos between the 16th and 17th of May, 2016 which was put together by the Federal Ministry of Transportation.

Represented by the Deputy Director of Fisheries and Head of Division, Fish Quality Assurance and Fish Disease Management, Mrs. Olabisi Adepegba, Muazu pointed out that  in as much as Cabotage is meant to enable ship ownership by Nigerians, stimulate ship building industry in Nigeria and facilitate manning of vessels by Nigerians, the Department believed that there should be a waiver for the fish trawling industry as they were not freight carriers but owners of their boats fishing within Nigerian territorial waters hence should be exempted from payment of 2% cabotage fee presently charged.

According to him,” Another issue of concern is the enforcement of the cabotage law on the trawling industry. Cabotage is meant to enable ship ownership by Nigerians, stimulate ship building industry in Nigeria and facilitate manning of vessels by Nigerians. Much as it is believed that harnessing the opportunities of effective implementation of Cabotage will provide a springboard for indigenous operators to acquire requisite capacity / expertise to launch themselves into global shipping and with the ultimate target of enabling the Nigerian carriers to have a share of about $3 billion per annum gross value of freight in and out of Nigeria. Be that as it may be, we believe there should be a waiver for the fish trawling industry as they are not freight carriers but owners of their boats fishing within Nigerian territorial waters hence should be exempted from payment of 2% cabotage fee presently charged”.

He harped on the need for a dedicated fishery terminal for the trawling industry recalling that before the concession of port, Kirikiri lighter phase 1 and 2 were dedicated for the development of the Lagos Fishery Harbour Complex which he said that the Department could not build due to paucity of funds.

The Fisheries Department boss disclosed that the industry had been facing incessant quit notices from their landlord, the Nigerian Port Authority after committing huge investment in the development of the dedicated spaces adding that they had constructed landing jetties, cold room, processing facilities, floating docks, engineering workshops and floating barges for bunkering.

“The question now is where do they move to? This issue we believe should be given urgent attention in view of the important contribution of fishery to the national economy”, he said.

Muazu described as worrisome the overlapping functions of different agencies in the Federal Ministry of Transport responsible for coordination and regulation of the maritime industry in Nigeria saying that whereas the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) was responsible for the registration of all fishing vessels before now, the National Inland Water Ways Authority wanted the fishing industry to register the same vessels with their agency for the same purpose and all at a fee.

He said,” The Federal Department of Fisheries held a tripartite meeting with the agency and the Nigerian Trawler Owners Association (NITOA) and it was agreed that both agencies will sort out the issue with their Ministry but meanwhile that statuesquo should be maintained. While the issue is yet to be resolved, NIWA has resulted to arresting fishing vessels on the water ways. Apart from the fact that time wasted is money to the industry, the products they carry are perishable. These are grey areas that we believe should be looked into”.

While maintaining that the private sector had invested over N50 billion in the industrial fishery sub sector on trawlers and on shore based processing facilities, he however said that currently there were 146 Nigerian flag registered fishing/ shrimps vessels operating within the inshore waters of Nigeria saying that the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) had a potential for 1,200,000 MT but yet unexploited.

“It is able to create more jobs and increase domestic fish production which presently is only about 50,000 tons from the marine catch. But unfortunately most of Nigeria’s fishing grounds have become inaccessible because of sea piracy which has caused substantial economic loss to fishing companies and death of fishing crew members. It is therefore necessary to improve and enhance maritime security to defend and ensure security of fishing vessels as well as facilities wherever they may be. Visible maritime environmental surveillance will encourage further investment and guarantee security of investment in port infrastructure” Muazu stated.

He ended by saying that Nigeria, as a maritime nation, had all it takes to be great in global maritime arena calling on the stakeholders to remember that the endowment of the sea and coastline would always be available to tap into immense opportunities, provided necessary facilities were put in place and timely maintenance done noting that these were expected to be the dividend of privatization and concession of the port to private investors.

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