On 4 October 2020, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (‘NIMASA’) issued a Marine Notice (‘the Notice’) calling on all ship owners, ship operators and all maritime stakeholders, to register or renew the registration of all ships engaged in coastal trade or cabotage within Nigeria’s territorial waters, at the Nigerian Ship Registration Office.
The Notice gives all ship owners and operators, three (3) months to obtain valid Certificates of Cabotage Registration (‘certificates’) from the Nigerian Ship Registration Office, after which period, NIMASA shall notify all International Oil Companies (IOCs) and relevant government authorities to ensure that ships to be engaged within Nigeria’s territorial waters have valid certificates before engagement.
Nigeria operates a cabotage regime, which restricts the use of foreign-owned vessels in domestic coastal trade. This regime is regulated by the Coastal and Inland Shipping (Cabotage) Act of 2003 (‘the Cabotage Act’). Under the Cabotage Act, only vessels built and registered in Nigeria, wholly owned and manned by Nigerian citizens may participate in coastal trade within Nigerian waters. Nigerian waters include coastal, territorial, inland waters, island, or waters within the Exclusive Economic Zone of Nigeria. The Cabotage Act is administered by NIMASA, which is Nigeria's maritime industry regulatory agency.
Section 22(1) of the Cabotage Act requires all ships engaged in coastal trade to be registered in the Special Register for Vessels and Companies engaged in Cabotage (Special Register for Cabotage) maintained by the Nigerian Ship Registration Office. There are five categories of registers under the Special Register for Cabotage as follows:
1. Special Register for Cabotage (Nigerian Wholly Owned Vessels)
2. Special Register for Cabotage (Bareboat Chartered Vessels)
3. Special Register for Cabotage (Joint Venture Owned Vessels)
4. Special Register for Cabotage (Fully Foreign-Owned Vessels) and
5. Special Register for Cabotage (Exempted Vessels).
Upon being registered under one of the categories listed above, the ship is issued with a certificate, copies of which, must be carried onboard the ship. The certificate is valid for one year but renewable upon expiry.
Shipowners and operators, whose vessels fail to register under the Special Register for Cabotage risk being detained and/or fined for non-compliance with the requirements of the Cabotage Act.
We view this Notice as a routine reminder since many vessels engaged in coastal trade within Nigerian waters actively seek compliance with the Cabotage Act in order to avoid the disruptions in operations, which typically result from a vessel detention by Cabotage Enforcement Officers.
The contents herein are meant for the general information of our clients and friends and do not amount to legal advice. Adepetun Caxton-Martins Agbor & Segun accepts no responsibility for any loss or damage that may arise from reliance on information contained in this publication. All enquiries may be made to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Adepetun Caxton-Martins Agbor & Segun by telephone (+234 1 462 2094), fax (+234 01 461 3140)