Recently, Dakuku Peterside, the Director-General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), took delivery of a report of nine-man panel on the reform of Nigerian Ship Registry.
The Committee, led by Engr. Emmanuel Ilori, spent 18 months to put its findings and recommendations together from the inputs garnered from industry stakeholders, world class ship registries and classification societies in United Kingdom, Norway and United States.
The submission of the committee’s report signalled the efforts of NIMASA to change the negative perception which the global shipping community has of Nigerian flag.
Over the years, Nigerian flag has become a pariah among the shipping community so much so that no vessel wanted to hoist it, not even Nigerian -owned vessels which prefer the flags of other countries.
The Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) vessels in whose company Federal Government has majority stakes, even shunned the flag, preferring instead that of other African countries.
We therefore commend NIMASA for taking this bold step in reversing this ugly trend.
But we dare say that empaneling the committee and receiving its report is a mere expression of intention of changing the narrative of decadence in Nigerian ship registry.
The rot in the system is so deep and endemic that it needs strong commitment and will power on the part of NIMASA to clear the Augean stable.
Just like Engr. Ilori, the Chairman of the committee noted, the challenges ahead are huge but not insurmountable.
We are however comforted by the assurance of Dakuku that the need to reform the Nigerian ship registry is not optional as his administration is ready to display uncommon courage and determination to implement the recommendations of the committee to effect far-reaching changes in ship registration in the country.
We shall restrain ourselves from dismissing this assurance as part of his political oratory prowess but rather to believe in his ability and commitment to carrying out this necessary reforms.
Our instinct further reinforces the belief that Dakuku would seize this golden opportunity to etch his name and that of his compatriots in the management of NIMASA as well as the reform committee on the golden pages of history as those who reposition the Nigerian ship registry that has over the years been subjected to international disrepute.
This platform is alarmed at the level of negligence of our flag administration which has cost Nigerian flag global respect, acceptability and integrity.
We could not agree less with Dakuku that the down turn in the fortunes of Nigerian flag was as a result of official negligence of statutory responsibilities of flag administration that has led to low quality of technical training and ability of Nigerian Surveyors, lack of standardization and enforcement.
As generally agreed by stakeholders, a reformed Nigerian ship registry will restore global confidence and acceptability to Nigerian flag which will lead to economic prosperity to the nation’s maritime industry and its practitioners.
We shall therefore support the efforts of NIMASA in this onerous task of reforming the country’s ship registry to rescue its flag from many years of shame, ignominy and scorn in the global community.
The management of NIMASA cannot afford to fail and dash the hopes of concerned stakeholders for better deal in the global maritime industry with a reformed registry that will confer dignity and respect to the country’s flag.
We shall hold Dakuku to his words when he declared that stakeholders should assess his commitment to reforming the ship registry in another year’s time as he hopes to implement the recommendations of the reforms committee to the letters.
He also made fundamental pronouncement on which we shall assess his commitment towards this sacred duty.
At the presentation of the report, he said he would set the machinery for the implementation of the report in motion by setting up, within 72 hours, an implementation monitoring committee of reform of Nigerian Ship Registry.
In addition, he promised to pursue and attain international certification of Nigerian ship registry which will confer on it a five-star certification that is first of its kind in Africa.
These are soothing and soul-lifting words.
We shall therefore join other stakeholders to hold Dakuku accountable to these commitments on which we shall gauge his sincerity of purpose to pursue reformation of Nigerian ship registry.
In February, 2018, at the inauguration of Engr. Ilori’s committee, we had then entertained fears and raised doubts over the will power of NIMASA to reform the ship registry.
However, from the zeal, determination and pronouncements made by Dakuku in recent times, we are tempted to give him and his management team the benefit of the doubt to reform the Nigerian ship registry.
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