A near coastal voyage code is being sponsored by Nigeria for regulatory agencies and maritime trade facilitation within the West African region, BAYO AKOMOLAFE reports
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Port State Control for West and Central African Region (Abuja MoU), in collaboration with the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), is being considered for the establishment of the Near Coastal Voyage (NCV) code for the region. The proposal, which was described as one of the major actions for trade facilitation within West Africa, has been unanimously endorsed by the West African states. It was gathered that NIMASA is sponsoring the draft and eventual delivery of the code, while Abuja MoU will liaise with member states to review and endorse for implementation. The Abuja MoU covers 22 West and Central African countries, which include Nigeria, Angola, The Gambia, Benin, Ghana, Sao Tome and Principe, Cameroon, Guinea, Senegal, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Sierra Leone, Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Togo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Cote d’Ivoire, Mauritania, Gabon and Mozambique.
Before the new move, the Nigerian Merchant Navy Officers and Water Transport Senior Staff Association (NMNOWTSSA) had called on NIMASA to replace the Near Coastal Voyage (NCV) Certificate of Competency ( CoC) with unlimited certificate for masters and chief engineers. The group added that the unlimited certificate should be issued to deserving seafarers who have the requisite educational qualification and working experience to ply international waters. The National President of the association, Comrade Bob Yousou, called on the Agency to sign bilateral agreement with more countries to create enabling environment for Nigeria COC to be accepted in other maritime nations.
It was gathered that when the code is finally endorsed by the countries, it would cover the requirement for bilateral agreement and mutual acceptance of certificates issued by member states and shall cover registered domestic passenger ferries, convention/ non-convention cargo and fishing vessels trading within the Abuja MoU region. At the just-concluded Women in Shipping International (WISTA), forum, the Acting Director General of the Abuja Memorandum of Understanding, Captain Sunday Umoren, further explained that when the draft is concluded and legislated, it would change the face of shipping activities in the Nigeria, Togo, Benin, Ghana and other member states in the region. In the light of this development, Umoren called on women involved in shipping activities to take advantage of the law when it eventually comes into being to grow their businesses so that they take gain of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).
He explained that the proposed bill, known as ‘Near Coastal Voyage (NCV) Code, was initiated five years ago by a member of the Nigerian delegates to the Association of African Maritime Administrations (AAMA) conference in 2017.
Umoren explained: “Some of the key issues discussed at the conference and resolutions reached include adoption of resolutions on the institutionalisation of July 25 of every year as Africa’s Day of the Seas and Oceans, resolution on member state to ratify, domesticate and implement relevant international maritime treaties, commitment on best practices on Port State and Flag State responsibilities resolution on collabora-tive efforts in the training of cadets and determine the role of regulatory agencies and facilitation of maritime trade.” Also, he noted that some objectives of the proposed bill would harmonise constructional standards, standard of training and improved acceptability of NCV licenses issued by member states. Further, Umoren stressed that it would improve economic cooperation within the states and unify the quality of training, certification and general acceptance with a view to ensure safety of lives and avoidance of unduly exposing our waters
According to him, the movement of vessels from one country to another is usually considered an international voyage and trade and consequently exposed to more stringent requirements. However, he explained that neighbouring countries could have an agreement in which a certain area could be considered as an acceptable near-coastal region in the certification and general shipping activities-process. He said: “This is noted in the Merchant Shipping Acts (MSA) of many countries to which the Near Coastal Voyage could be defined from one point to another and this could cover as many countries in a region as agreed by all. “Example for Nigerian Merchant Shipping Act’s ‘Near Coastal’ MSA 2007 (SSB634), a near coastal voyage can be defined as a voyage in the coast of Africa between Cape Verde in the North and the mouth of River Congo in the South. During such voyage, the vessel does not go beyond 30 nautical miles from the shore.”
More stringent requirements in the international voyage and trade should be reviewed and harmonised by member states before the code is finally considered for implementation.