… As MAAN organizes Maritime Dispute Resolution Seminar
The Nigerian Maritime Administrations and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has reassured of its commitment to set up a regional Maritime Arbitration and Dispute Resolution Centre in Lagos driven by international best practices.
Deputy Director/Registrar of Ships, NIMASA, Mrs. Nneka Obianyor disclosed this while delivering a paper titled, “The Role of Nigerian Maritime Administrations and Safety Agency (NIMASA) on the Establishment of An International Maritime Arbitration and Dispute Resolution Centre”, at the 11th Practical Maritime Dispute Resolution Seminar 2022, organized by the Maritime Arbitrators Association of Nigeria (MAAN) in Lagos on Wednesday.
Obianyor observed that the peculiarity and specialty of the maritime sector and mindful that the existing Arbitration Centres in Nigeria were not established to deal exclusively with maritime disputes because of the wide range of commercial disputes they are best situated to handle, has made it imperative for Nigeria to have a Maritime disputes resolution Centre.
She added that mindful that NIMASA does not have express mandate in this regard, however, in view of its statutory responsibility to pursue the development of shipping and regulate matters relating to Merchant Shipping and seafarers, it is still well within its mandate to hold consultations towards the realization of this initiative.
“The Emirates Maritime Arbitration Centre was established by the government of the United Arab Emirate and not the Maritime Administration, so we welcome synergy. To further drive the consultations we have had over the years, in 2019, NIMASA invited proposals from some Arbitration experts in the country on the way forward and eventually engaged an industry expert. The consultant’s report has been received and is sure the position of management would be made known after studying the report”, she added.
Speaking on the institutional framework for maritime arbitration and dispute resolution centre, she recalled that in the past, the absence of formal arbitral institutions was identified as one of the reasons why Nigeria was not considered as a viable centre for international commercial arbitration.
She, however, acknowledged that this is no longer the case since the setting up of the Lagos Regional Centre for International Commercial Arbitration (LRCICA) in 1999 adding that a number of institutions have also been set up such as the International Centre for Arbitration and Alternative Dispute Resolution (ICAA).
She continued, “We also have a number of reputable bodies such as Maritime Arbitration Association of Nigeria (MAAN) that have well structured practice direction for ADR. The low patronage of the Regional Centre gave rise to a government circular that was issued making it mandatory that any dispute arising from international commercial contracts in which the government of Nigeria is involved, is to be settled in Nigeria by Arbitration and other ADR methods available at LRCICA.”
Tracing NIMASA’s journey into Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), the Deputy Director recalled that in 2001, the then National Maritime Authority (NMA) now NIMASA began series of consultations on how to use Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanisms as first choice in resolving maritime disputes.
“Series of consultations followed, applying classical organization development and dispute system design techniques. These consultations were expanded to include representatives of the stakeholders in the maritime industry and relevant parastatals under the Federal Ministry of Transport. Eventually a resolution was adopted making ADR mechanisms a first choice in dispute resolution.
“An industry workshop was eventually held in March 2002 heralding the discussion for setting up a Maritime Dispute Resolution Centre, in Lagos, the commercial maritime hub in West and Central Africa. We recognized that there was need to build synergy with the judiciary and industry practitioners to encourage settlement of Disputes through ADR and enforce agreement reached through ADR.
“This journey heralded our long-standing relationship with the Maritime Arbitration Association of Nigeria (MAAN). In 2010, NIMASA in collaboration with MAAN held an International Arbitration Conference in Lagos and again the need for an institutionalised ADR centre was reiterated.
“I give my greatest respect to our first President, Mrs. Adedoyin Rhodes Vivour SAN and I know that she will not rest on her oars until Nigeria establishes an International Maritime Arbitration and Dispute Resolution Centre that meets international standards and promotes best practices”, she said.
She added that the structure, when put in place, would actually benefit the Federal Ministry of Transportation with all the contacts especially the Chinese rail contracts, there would always bound to be dispute now or in future, even as she further averred that the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and indeed, all the parastatals under the Federal Ministry of Transportation would obviously apply ADR.
“I am happy that the Shippers’ Council had taken that decision and they have seen that it is indeed, a way forward for them and also a way to make the Cargo Defence Fund to be what it should be, tailored after the P&I so that we can begin to do things the way other climes are doing them. So, the industry stakeholders, the maritime clusters will require to deal with their disputes through the use of ADR” she stressed.
Mrs. Obianyor, while stating that the use of Alternative Dispute Resolution has become the direction of the global maritime industry, observed that NIMASA as an agency welcomes partnership in this direction as it continues to consult with the great minds in the industry.
She further remarked that the maritime sector is a dynamic industry that requires processes and procedures that save it time and money, increase flexibility and control of situations and presents an attractive array of options and remedies that will protect interests, ensure confidence, improve communication and satisfies outcomes but essentially preserving relationships.
She maintained that ADR is gradually getting institutionalized in most legal systems in the world wondering why Nigeria should be left out.
According to her, “It has become a well entrenched means of settling maritime disputes in advanced maritime jurisdictions. We saw everything in Singapore, UAE and London, of course, where we always flew to even when we have our contracting parties in Nigeria, everything entered in Nigeria but of course, we prefer to settle our disputes out there but then, one will say it’s a matter of choice. But if we have ours and we set it up right, definitely, the choice will be internal more than external.
“We already know that shipping is an international business and parties want to settle their businesses and resolve their disputes as quickly as possible and of course, that is why in most shipping contracts, you have arbitration clauses such as charter parties, bill of lading and then again, the arbitration clauses we have are largely foreign arbitration clauses.”
On his part, a former President of MAAN, Dr. Omogbai Omo-Eboh noted that all along, the association have very well been supported by NIMASA adding that the key project they have decided to implement at NIMASA is the establishment of the International Maritime Arbitration Centre in Lagos Nigeria.
“Unfortunately, because of the frequent changes in the leadership of NIMASA and because of the different political interests that these changes bring, we haven’t been able to concentrate on implementing that establishment of the International Maritime Arbitration Centre.
I know they are willing to do so and we have entered into a new initiative with them to do so and we are hoping that with the cooperation of NIMASA, that centre will come to reality in Nigeria”, Omo-Eboh said.
On invitation for proposals from some Arbitration experts in the country by NIMASA on establishment of International Maritime Arbitration and Dispute Resolution Centre, Dr. Omo-Eboh who disclosed that he was invited on his personal capacity to submit proposal but had to decline on ground that the agency was trying to play politics with proposal submitted to it earlier by MAAN on the issue, however, summarized the exercise as the fall out of the different political interests that tend to come to bear in NIMASA leadership and which at times colours their objectivity.
“But I think we have overcome that challenge now, we are working together again, we are collaborating especially under this new dispensation of Mr. Bashir Jamoh who is the DG of NIMASA now. We have met with him, he received us very well and very warmly as an association and he knows that this is the desirable project to have in Nigeria and he had keyed into that vision and we are back on track working towards the implementation of that International Maritime Dispute Resolution Centre in Nigeria”, he observed.
On the benefits of establishing an International Maritime Arbitration and Dispute Resolution Centre, he said, “It’s going to give us enormous benefits. Nigeria by all parameters is a maritime nation, there is no internationally recognized maritime nation today that does not have an internationally recognized and established maritime arbitration centre. I can give you a few examples, they have one in Singapore, London, Hong Kong, New York and even Dubai and South Africa. If these countries can do it and they have used it to develop their maritime industry extremely, then, we ought to be doing it too as a genuine maritime nation in Africa to develop our maritime industry for the benefit of all the operators and participants in that industry.”
Earlier in his welcome address, the President, MAAN, Bodurin Adewole highlighted that the topics chosen the one day event with the theme, “ADR To The Rescue! Effective and Efficient Business Modes In The Maritime Ecospace”, sought to address and highlight the importance of ADR in the promotion and sustainability of effective and efficient business relationships between stakeholders, port users, cargo owners and ship owners in the maritime sector.
He pointed out that this year’s seminar would also focus on recent developments in the operational activities of their collaborating stakeholders hoping that at the end of the seminar, participants would be more enlightened on the regulatory roles of the Nigerian Ports Authority, NIMASA as well as the Nigerian Shippers’ Council.
He went on to say that “The Maritime Arbitrators Association of Nigeria and the collaborating stakeholders are committed to the promotion and sustainability of international best practices in maritime arbitration and ADR through the creation and establishment of an International Maritime Arbitration and Dispute Resolution Centre in Lagos. It is expected that the establishment of the centre will have added advantage of promoting Nigeria as an attractive venue for settlement of maritime disputes through arbitration and ADR in West Africa.”
Photo: Mrs. Nneka Obianyor, Deputy Director/Registrar of Ships, NIMASA during the presentation of her paper at the 11th Practical Maritime Dispute Resolution Seminar 2022 organized by the Maritime Arbitrators Association of Nigeria (MAAN) in Lagos Wednesday.
Photo 2: Mrs. Jean Chiazor Anishere SAN, Vice President, MAAN, moderating the sections at the 11th Practical Maritime Dispute Resolution Seminar 2022 organized by the Maritime Arbitrators Association of Nigeria (MAAN) in Lagos Wednesday.
Photo 3: Participants at the 11th Practical Maritime Dispute Resolution Seminar 2022 organized by the Maritime Arbitrators Association of Nigeria (MAAN) in Lagos Wednesday.
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