Ship Registry as a veritable tool for economic growth

NIMASA sets December 2020 for phase-off of Single Hall Tankers



In this report, PAUL OGBUOKIRI examines the concrete steps the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency is taking to create a world class Ship Registry which will be attractive to shipowners with the aim of maintaining the influence of Nigeria in the evolving international commercial and regulatory environment for shipping





Reinventing the Nigeria Ship Registry

Determined to create the Nigerian Ship Registry to meet international standards, attract tonnage and boost the Nation’s economy, the Director General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Dakuku Peterside said during the week in Lagos that the agency is considering establishing a second or international registry “to help grow our fleet and input our footprints in international commercial trade.”


According to Dakuku, the desire of the agency is to have Nigerian flag vessels involved in international commercial trade.

He said to active this goal: “We have no doubt that a lot more can be done to assist Nigerians in acquiring vessels and that is why we are making effort to disburse the Cabotage Vessels Finance Fund (CVFF). We are also partnering with the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) to drive capacity in the industry.”

Meanwhile, Sunday Telegraph learnt that this came as Nigeria operates a Closed Registry with about 2725 active vessels of various capacities. It was disclosed that the growth in the number of vessels flying Nigeria flags earned the country the IMO’s ranking as the number 2 registry in Africa in 2019, after Liberia and 46th in the world.

According to Dakuku, the ongoing reforms in Nigeria’s Ship Registry in 2018/19 attracted into the country’s register two high index capacity vessels – “Egina FPSO” and “MT Ultimate”.

Second or International Registry


Ship registration is the process by which a ship is documented and given the nationality of the country to which the ship has been documented. The nationality allows a ship to travel internationally as it is proof of ownership of the vessel.


International law requires that every merchant ship be registered in a country, called its flag state. A ship is subject to the law of its flag state. It is usual to say that the ship sails under the flag of the country of registration.


A ship’s flag state exercises regulatory control over the vessel and is required to inspect it regularly, certify the ship’s equipment and crew, and issue safety and pollution prevention documents. The organisation which actually registers the ship is known as its registry. Registries may be governmental or private agencies. In some cases, such as the United States’ Alternative Compliance Programme, the registry can assign a third party to administer inspections. A register that is open only to ships of its own nation is known as a traditional or national register. Registers that are open to foreign-owned ships are known as open registries and are sometimes called flags of convenience.


A country maintain either one of the two registries but the modern trends aimed at attracting tonnage with its attendant economic power and prestige in the comity of maritime nations has compelled many nations like UK, US etc to create a second or international registry in addition to their flags of convenience.

Reforming Nigerian Ship Registry


The ongoing reforms in the Nigerian Ship Registry were initiated in February 27, 2018 by the present management by inaugurating a committee to review the activities and operations of the Nigerian Ship Registration Office. Parts of the terms of reference given to the committee were to examine the status of the Ship Registry in line with international best standards and recommend requisite improvements.

The committee submitted its report in 2019 with far reaching recommendations grouped into short, medium and long term measures. Immediately after, the Implementation Monitoring Committee was inaugurated on August 20, 2019 to chart a course for the implementation of the recommendations.


Dakuku disclosed that while the outcome of the Ship Registry implementation committee is being awaited, the maritime administrator has started doing the following:

1. Audit of Register of Nigerian Vessels: A comprehensive audit of Register of Nigerian vessels was carried out in 2018/19 to ensure that the IMO Ship Identification Number Scheme outlined in IMO Resolution A. 1117 adopted in December 2017 is complied with. Today we have higher number of vessels in our Register with IMO Numbers, Call Signs, and MMSI Numbers. A Marine Notice was issued in August 2019 calling on Shipowners and masters to ensure compliance. This exercise has also helped us to bring to the consciousness of operators the importance of registering their vessels and ensuring that they comply with registration requirements.

2. Redesign and Production of New Ship Registry Certificates: Counterfeiting of Ship Registry certificates renders the entire gamut of systems and processes designed to prevent the entry of unseaworthy and sub-standard ships into the flag, a nullity. It raises the specter of marine accidents, loss of lives, destruction of vital marine assets and the lowering of our national esteem in the comity of maritime nations.


As a hedge against these risks, we have settled on the deployment of state of the art technology for the printing of security certificates with unique anti-counterfeiting features.  These features shall be replicated in every certificate issued by the Nigerian Ship Registry and other relevant ones issued under the auspices of the Safety Department of the Agency in due course. A Marine Notice will be issued at the appropriate time to notify all shipowners of the existence of the new certificates and commencement date, while the old certificates will be gradually phased out.

3. Automation of the Ship Registry: We have acquired a software licence to commence the automation of the Ship Registry processes as we all are aware that automation is the only way that our business processes can be quickened. Our principal aim in the near future is to achieve online electronic registration, accept electronic copies of documents and issue electronic certificates.

4. Upgrade of the Ship Registry Filing Facility: We are upgrading the Ship Registry Filing Facility to ensure effective documents management and control.


5. Review of Ship Registration Guidelines: We are reviewing our ship registration requirements to ensure a harmonized process between Survey and Ship Registry Units and also align ourselves with standard international best practices. Your comments at this meeting will be very useful. Presently, the Ship Registry current guidelines, tariff and registration forms are uploaded on our website with a dedicated email address through which stakeholders are encouraged to communicate directly with the Registry.


6. ISO 9001: 2015 Certification: Our Maritime Safety and Seafarers Standards Department and allied Units in the Agency have undergone ISO 9001: 2015 certification and are awaiting issuance of the certificate. We are working the Ship Registration Office through the same process to ensure a sustainable quality management system.

Stakeholders’ expectations


A shipowner, Mr. Emeka Ndu, applauded the move to automate the Nigeria Ship Registry and called for a reasonable level of urgency in the implementation of the project. He said he and his associates in Nigerian shipowners community, as their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is ready to fund the automation process if need be, to ensure that it is completed to due time.

Chairman of Starz Investment Limited, Engr. Greg Ogbefun who also commended the ongoing reforms of the Nigerian Ship Registry, said unless the Ship Registry is gotten right, the entire gamut of the Nigeria shipping industry ‘is not going anywhere’. He told NIMASA that having announced to the global shipping community that it has commenced taking steps to reform its Ship Registry, the agency owes it a duty to continue to update the expectant shipping community on the progress made. 

The Director General of NIMASA, Dakuku Peterside promised to immediately upload on the NIMASA website the progress the agency has so far made on the reform of the Ship Registry.

Also speaking, Engr. Emmanuel Ilori, who chaired the committee to review of the activities and operations of the Nigerian Ship Registration Office and is equally chairing the committee monitoring NIMASA’s implementation of the report, said one of the highlights of the committee’s suggestion in its report is the disbursement of the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund (CVFF), saying there is urgent need to inject fund into the sector.


Another shipowner wants NIMASA to commence urgent training of fresh graduates as Ship Surveyors to take over from the aging Surveyors. He said that the timeframe for obtaining the certificate should be reduced.

Also a NIMASA staff in the Ship Registry Unit wanted to know if the agency has plan to train the Surveyors on how to identify the special security features of the new Ship Registration Certificate.

To this Nigeria’s Registrar of Ships, Mrs. Nneka Obianyor explained that not only is a training programme going on for new Surveyors, that will replace the aging ones, there will also be training for the Nigeria Surveyors who will be going onboard vessel to inspect the certificated the shipowners have.

Meanwhile as the old certificate which is still being issued by NIMASA pending when work will be completed on the new one has a five year lifespan; Mrs. Obianyor assured that there will be a seamless transition from the old to the new. 


Another shipowner asked what Nigeria is doing with the IMO’s order on phase-out of Single Hall Tankers. To this NIMASA explained that dates given by IMO have elapsed, “however the UN agency gave every maritime administrator the right to decide on what it will do with the date it wishes to commence enforcement of the phase –off. To us in NIMASA, we have decided that on December 31st, 2020; no Single Hall Tanker will trade on Nigerian waters.”

Last line

The most important expectation of most stakeholders was captured was by Engr. Emmanuel Ilori in his affirmation that if the momentum of the ongoing reform process of the Nigerian Ship Registry is sustained, in the next two years, Nigeria will not be going to the IMO to campaign for votes to the IMO Council, “It will just be invited to come and be on the Council take well deserved exulted position on the influential body,” he said.

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