Founding president, Nigerian Shipowners Association (NISA), Chief Isaac Jolapamo, has taken a swipe at the Nigerian Maritime Administration Safety Agency (NIMASA) accusing it of not doing anything about developing the nation’s shipping industry.
Speaking in an exclusive chat with Maritime Today Online, Jolapamo said despite the Coastal and Inland Shipping (Cabotage) Act 2003, poor implementation of the provisions of the law because of the way it was being managed by NIMASA has left indigenous shipping operators in the doldrums.
Jolapamo said as a result of the challenges plaguing the sector and failure of NIMASA to prioritise capacity building of local operators, many shipping companies owned by Nigerians including his with 25 ships have been grounded.
“NIMASA is not doing anything in the area of shipping development. Has anybody benefited from the existence of NIMASA that you can say these are the people that they brought into the industry and they are doing well. There is none. All the efforts that we have seen in the past are personal efforts and when we try to get a law to better the situation of the people in the industry, the law will turn out to worsen their situation because of the way the government agencies will manage it.
“I have bought 25 vessels before, I have none now. Should that be the case if we have a government that says it is doing shipping development. Shipping development for who and with who?” he quizzed.
On the disbursement of the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF), Jolapamo said he would not only demand an audit of the fund but also seek a court interpretation of the Cabotage Act on whether the CVFF is a government fund as claimed by NIMASA.
“I am calling for a meeting of NISA members. They have not resolved the issue of CVFF they are talking about. My first assignment will be to find out how much has been collected from day one and for a court to interpret who owns the money because from my layman knowledge of the law, that money still belongs to the shipowners. I want the court to interpret that.
“Some of us that started paying into the fund don’t have an operating vessel now and what they say they want to do is to disburse to those that are currently operating. What happened to those who contributed to the fund before? Once you own a vessel as a shipowner, you are still a shipowner even if your vessels no longer operate, it is just like a senator of a country. Once a senator is always a senator.
“What government does in other climes is that they encourage people to remain in the industry so as to grow it but our own is to take this one to replace another, get the favor of one and drop the other,” he said.
Commenting on the issuance of certificate of compliance for the operation of the NIMASA modular floating dockyard recently by the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC), Jolapamo said the presentation of the certificate was an ‘after thought’ as it is not within NIMASA’s function to acquire floating dock but to develop capacity of indigenous operators.
He said, “They are not supposed to have gone into the business venture in the first place. What they are supposed to do is to develop shipping capacity but of course it is not in their priority. Everybody just wants to score cheap points. At least people supported Akpobolekemi when he wanted to acquire the flocking dock because they felt the dock would be domiciled in their region but that shouldn’t have been the case.
“What is the source of the money they use in buying it? Could it have been from money meant for shipping development? But because there is no check and balances in what is being done in government circle, people just get away with blue murder. There is a fund which is set aside for ship maintenance but none of the vessels that we had ever got repaired.”