“For you to participate in cabotage, you don’t have to be a ship owner…”
Nigerian indigenous ship owners have between them more than 500 ships of various sizes and characteristics. But many are not in class, most are in need of essential dry-docking, some would need suitable crewing to pass the test and the adverse terms of engagement by the NNPC, other international oil companies (IOCs) and local oil companies (LOCs) make Nigerian ship owners look like sitting ducks. Consequently, the current profile of local maritime trade in cabotage is nothing to write home about, despite seven years of implementing the Coastal and Inland Waterways (Cabotage) Act passed in June 2004. Engr Akin Olaniyan, the chief executive officer of classification agency, International Naval Survey Bureau (INSB), says the original framers of the law “over-shot some bounds”; that there is no way Nigeria can establish a ship yard for big ships. In fact, according to him, she shouldn’t set up one, it would be putting the cart before the horse – a veritable castle in the air! Moreover, as he told DDH during an exclusive interview, Nigerian officials should be implementing IMO regulations to suit local conditions, by engaging with technical professionals so that the so-called international laws that have been a muzzle on Nigerian operators can be applied in such a way as to cater to Nigerian needs without breaking the spirit of the legislation, just like it is done in Greece, USA, France, and even in many developing maritime nations with proactive leadership. What about the seafarer training campaign being run by NIMASA, how should it be done effectively? Will CVFF work eventually or go the way of similar programmes in the past? How can the dream of Nigerian shipyards be attained? Despite the hue and cry about scarcity and ageing of Nigerian professional seafarers, is there unemployment in their ranks? Only hands-on chartered marine engineers like Engr Olaniyan can give the kind of insight elucidated in this encounter. This is food for thought for indigenous shipping practitioners or those who just love the sector or even for interlopers looking for a good foray! In summary, the marine engineer of international repute wants huge support for what he called the new regime in NIMASA currently, which he hopes will succeed to “correct mistakes of the past”. This is a must-read for all who want to comment relevantly about Nigerian shipping and general maritime trade. Excerpts:
DDH: There is much talk now going on in the industry about the chances of Nigerian operators taking advantage of the cabotage law provisions to participate more in maritime trade of the country. As someone who knows about availability of the tonnage for the trade and what is available to Nigerian operators, are you optimistic that Nigerian operators are in good stead?
Engr Olaniyan: When you talk of available tonnage in the industry, I have always believed that that is not our problem. For example, look at the issue of wet cargo, the issue of oil industry, because they interweave. The oil industry is so enormous that our development should have gone further than what we have now. The crude oil we sell, you know we are just an agency nation, to mean that we are just selling crude oil, we are not really utilizing it. We will sell crude oil to an outsider, an outsider will now sell us refined products. I think we should look at even the Ghana experience when it comes to cocoa. Ghana has a lot of cocoa. Five years ago, they realized that enough is enough. They would [formerly] sell cocoa to Switzerland, to Germany and Switzerland will now make Swiss chocolate and bring it back to them at a premium. They have said enough is enough: any cocoa that is leaving Ghana must be refined, no more selling of cocoa (raw). And I think we should learn from that. It has added jobs to their labour market; it has added value even to their own lives. They want the whole world to be saying this is Ghana chocolate and we too should talking like that.
DDH: Are they producing chocolate now in Ghana?
Engr Olaniyan: Oh yes, you should go to shops in London, shops in America, you will see Ghanaian chocolates, which was not so in the past. In fact, when I saw it, I was happy for Ghana. It made me proud. And I believe that our leadership in Nigeria is up to that and even much more, really. You might say that am gullible in some things but I strongly believe that our current President, given the right advice, can do much more than he is doing right now.
DDH: When you say you don’t believe that our problem is tonnage of ships, the cabotage law says that the usage must be of Nigerian built, crewed, registered, etc. Why do you say that availability is not our problem now?
Engr Olaniyan: When they drafted [Nigerian] cabotage law, the people that originally drafted it were maybe too excited to do something to move the industry forward. I think they over-shot some bounds. We are not even talking of made-in-Nigeria vessels, because it will take a long while. I was talking to some government official the other day. He too accepted and said, don’t let us kid ourselves, nobody can go to the bank and say I want to borrow money to build a shipyard. Our economy is such that you must pay back in five or ten years. Today’s shipyards are not something you pay back for in five or ten years, it’s almost a generation. To establish shipyards is very simple but we are not looking in that direction. All we need to do is to establish boat yards. There’s a lot of jobs for boat yards. You have a lot of contracts here and there for patrol boats, for ferry boats, etc. Establish a boat yard and then with time, the boat yard will start to develop. Am not saying the government should establish the boat yards but private people. The boat yards will develop to make small supply boats, small crew boats, small tug boats, even dredgers. In fact, in the docking world, the technology has shifted from dockyards completely manufacturing the vessel. No, they do it in sections, and then they put them together. It’s like the auto industry. No auto maker can say that from the start to the end, it’s done in this factory. No, the CKD system, they assemble them. You’d be surprised that an auto factory like Ford, is doing just one panel that it is doing from scratch. The seats, other parts, they get from their suppliers. Likewise, the issue of boat building or ship building.
DDH: So what should happen to the clause in the cabotage law about ships built in Nigeria?
Engr Olaniyan: I think it should be removed. We are not yet ready for that level. We should grow into it. What we can do is to accelerate our growth. And how do we accelerate our growth? If the government is really serious about it, we should be talking about the government providing a lot of projects in providing ferry services, for example, and sub-contracting it out to the private industry. They can say, go and supply me ten ferries or go and supply me twenty ferries. And let us start with that. And with that you will see the private sector really coming alive. And we are even lucky that we have a lot of creeks along the Niger Delta. All the government should do is to establish peace and security. And once that is done, you will see people moving there to build infrastructure, like site and services industry.
DDH: Even in Lagos, couldn’t that type of development solve the transport problems of Lagos?
Engr Olaniyan: In fact, I will tell you Lagos is taking a lead role in that. I know of some concerns that are spot-on; they are going head first into building ferries for Lagos environs. Because Lagos is advantageous in that sense, it has a lot of water axis and I know a couple of people that are really doing that. And I know that before the end of this year, the landscape of Lagos would have changed. Lagos state government has shown a lot of willingness to assist the private sector in terms of policy and the issues of bureaucracy they have removed, from what I have seen. You could just walk up to LASWA and tell them you want to start ferry service and they will tell you the credentials that you need, and once you fulfill it, they will tell you pay this for that one, pay that for that one. So, in that wise, there is a lot of progress. To come back to the original question, cabotage is the best thing for us. But when we say cabotage, the cabotage areas around the country where cabotage is enforced, we should allow Nigerians to really work it. What do I mean by that? Our crude oil, for example, should be F.O.B [free on board] when leaving the country.
DDH: But won’t this be mired in politics and difficult to legislate?
Engr Olaniyan: No, don’t let us hide behind political issue. (General laughter). You see, we are talking economy now, don’t let us shy away from issues and say it is political. It’s not a political issue. My brother, that I am hungry is not political issue. If we could organize it so that all these Vitol, Trafigura, etc [foreign carriers of Nigerian crude oil], for example…. Ask Nigerians to collect the crude oil from the loading stations and go and deliver it to Trafigura outside the [cabotage] limits. It will not increase the cost of the crude oil because in any event Trafigura has accounted for it from wherever they are taking it, to the source. What we are just saying is that that part of business, that segment, you bring it to us, instead of giving it to them. Likewise anybody that is bringing anything from anywhere to our ports, you tell them, when you get to our cabotage limits, you give it to Nigerians to bring it in. We only want to see Nigerian vessels. There should be a lot of transshipment and whatever. But the question that will easily arise is do we have the wherewithal to do it, the ships? But I will tell you, yes. You see, that is one thing we don’t realize. If, for example, you are a minister today, and you say Akin, I want to do this and this and that. I know that we don’t have the ships but I want to do all these and I want to give it to a Nigerian, go and acquire the ships. I will easily go and acquire the ship if I have a contract. If I have a contract, it’s a matter of going to the bank. “Bank, I have this job to do. This is what will do it. This is my profit. It’s guaranteed by the person that is giving me.” Now, what else do I need? I will get a good ship because I have a job already. The problem that ship owners are facing in this country is that they cannot afford to get a good ship because they have not been guaranteed any jobs. Most of them do spot charter. So, tell me, why should I get a brand new ship when I know there is no job? It doesn’t make sense. If there is no cargo, there is no need for me to acquire a new ship. When the cargo is guaranteed to me, I will acquire the new ships, I will tell my brothers in the village to go and train themselves so that I can employ them. They will go to universities, maritime academies, to get knowledge.
DDH: So we can summarise that not many Nigerians have really participated in the cabotage trade?
Engr Olaniyan: Far, far less. Why is that? You see, cabotage trade, for you to participate in cabotage, you don’t have to be a ship owner, the spin-offs are too enormous. It’s a large-base pyramid, they are so enormous but at the tip of the pyramid, it’s the cargo. Once the cargo is there, it now brims down to the base. And the base is too enormous, it touches every part of our lives. If you look at it from this angle that about 93% of what comes into this country is by water, then you will understand what am saying. Aviation is very minor, yet it has a ministry. We should be talking about having a ministry of maritime because it’s the base. In this country now, apart from oil and gas, the next is maritime and without maritime the oil and gas will not work.
DDH: The last time we interviewed you, you gave scenarios where Nigeria can internally manage the application of international laws on the pre-qualification of tonnage in such a way that local ship owners are not shunted aside because of the accusations of the so-called rust buckets. Was any progress made in this direction to empower local operators within the available technical leverages?
Engr Olaniyan: No. I hope and pray that the DG of NIMASA will not pay lip service to this. He seemed to want to make progress. I have always told him, the few times that we met, that this whole industry belongs to all of us. So anything by way of advice we can give, we shall give. By virtue of what I do in the industry as a classification society, I have come to see a lot of things. It has opened my eyes to how the industry is operating. There are some minor things, minor in size but maybe major in ramification, that needs to be addressed. You see the issues of our laws. Nigeria, I don’t know whose wisdom it is, we go to IMO, we append our signatures on some of these conventions and that is that. Maybe we think that will give us a space in the IMO Council. And I have always asked people what benefits we have gained by being in the IMO Council? The last time Nigeria was in the Council some years back, there was so much pomp that we finally made it, we are now in the Council. How has it benefited us? Unfortunately most of the people there in NIMASA that time are no more there now. And it will be very unfair to ask the DG that question but I would want him to look at the past mistakes and try as much as possible to correct them. You see we go to the IMO meetings and, the way I see it, it’s as if we, more or less, follow the crowd. It’s not a tea party; in fact, it’s a market place and as you put your wares, so shall it be priced. If we are to follow IMO verbatim, what we would be doing is killing our own industry, totally. Why? Because we have said it, no tonnage, no ships. So everybody is like doing a spot market. If I bring my ship in and I operate it today I might not get work for the next six months, maybe after six or seven months I now get a small carriage to move from here to Port Harcourt, and am back. And what happens, I owe my staff money, I owe banks money, I owe creditors money here and there. That’s not shipping, certainly not. I do a job once in six months or once a year. Of course, after that time, I don’t maintain my vessels because there’s no money. I don’t have money to service the vessels or be in class. Now, tell me, on those conditions, you bring in an IMO regulation that binds me to do some things which I cannot do. This is one of the things killing our growth. Now, some people go to IMO meetings and say yes, double-hull exemption, for example, we shall follow IMO regulation because we want to be world-class. It doesn’t make sense. You talk about standards, that it must be world standard, it must be this standard or that standard. If I follow American standard, is it world standard? It’s a country standard. If I follow British standard is it world standard? It’s a country standard. If I follow German standard is it world standard or I go to the Far East and do things the way they do things, will I say that am world standard? Many of these IMO conventions, if you go and check it, America is not a signatory to many of them. America will tell you that “look, all these your things, that’s your own. In my own country, this is what I do”. All these limits [like EEZ, continental shelf, etc] that we give ourselves, America will say I don’t have any limits or zones. My zone is where my vessel is. And to hell with the whole world, nothing happens.
DDH: So, do you mean that we can do that in Nigeria?
Engr Olaniyan: You see, I will use the word, it’s the political will. A lot of things we can do. If I were the authorities, I would go to IMO and tell the Secretary-General that in my country, this and this and this is what operates. I don’t have the money to do this and this. This is my local law, how you will accommodate me to be part of the comity of nations is left to you or else if I pull out and tell my other colleagues in Africa to pull out, you will have a problem. So, let us talk these things out; all these things are about bargaining, using what you have to get what you want. Unfortunately, in the past…but I believe that now things will change, I want to believe so. Now there’s a lacuna in the growth of professionals, the next generation, we don’t know how they are going to cope. All the old hands, many of them have retired and left the stage and now you have a blank space.
DDH: How does this worry those of you who are older generation professionals in the industry?
Engr Olaniyan: Look, I class vessels, I inspect vessels, and I know what I go through in, first of all, trying to explain to ship owners, the mundane things. In fact, it gets to a near-frustration point, where I just say, don’t worry, just do it like this, because you can’t communicate anymore. But, like they say, they are ignorant and arrogant. The other day, I was at the Nigerian Dredging Summit and talking to dredger operators, and I saw a lot of hostility, as if they are saying, who is this, a class society, who are they, are they local government? This is part of multiple taxation, we don’t want them.
DDH: In the circumstances, what do you recommend for NIMASA to do to begin to achieve the cabotage and other mandates?
Engr Olaniyan: They must embark on a revitalization programme for all stakeholders. It is their duty to grow the industry, it is their job. Am not saying to give anybody money. Let them go on a revitalization campaign to educate people, to talk with people, to in fact, get jobs for people. Because without the jobs, there will be no ships, and if there are no Nigerian-flagged ships, then why do you have all these gigantic buildings? So, they should be in a position to secure tonnage from NNPC, from LNG, from wherever. We are operating a closed registry, don’t forget. If it were an open registry, then I would be saying well, my taxes are smaller than other taxes. In America, they operate a closed registry but they have satellite open registries, Panama, Marshall Islands, Liberia, etc. But it got to a stage where they discovered that their taxes were too high. If you go to other open registries, you get lower taxes. They now called ship owners together and said look don’t worry. Come and register with us, we know our taxes are high, we will reduce it. So that you too can come and the trade within America will be exclusively yours. That was the way to help their own cabotage trade.
DDH: Do you think NIMASA requires to massively re-train its staff across the board?
Engr Olaniyan: Certainly. What I have discovered about that is that over the several past administrations, they have been paying too much lip service. They will say now, we are going to re-train our surveyors but it is like a scratch on the surface. Retraining your staff doesn’t stop at taking them overseas. That was what they have been doing in the past, take staff overseas, and next year again, they will take the same person for a refresher course. No. Even if they did that, the person that went for that course should come back and retrain others. It shouldn’t be the exclusive preserve of one person. Look at our Maritime Academy. With the population of Nigeria, we only have one. In the Philippines, that’s a major export.
DDH: I understand they have 48 maritime colleges?
Engr Olaniyan: Am sure more than that. It’s all lined up along their coast, so you take your choice. And they train themselves and export their seafarers.
DDH: In terms of assistance to cabotage operators, how do you rate CVFF?
Engr Olaniyan: In my own opinion, I don’t think we should have CVFF. Number one, it breeds corruption in a way because if you are the CEO of NIMASA, and you are that type, it gives you the opportunity to play around with money. Number two, why do we need the CVF Fund. At the end of the day, CVF Fund will say, Edmund, you applied for CVFF. For what vessel? You go to Europe and look for a tokunboh 15-year old vessel and you say the vessel is $10m. Then they will say, alright we shall give you $5m, go and look for $5m. And then you run helter skelter, get the money and buy the vessel. It’s still the 15-year-old vessel and the oil industry says oh, we can’t use this one. IOCs will say we can’t give you STS (ship-to-ship) transfer. Then you are left alone to go and sort it out yourself. What you now end up having is you have a vessel, you are doing spot hire, and when nobody is watching, you go to the creeks to steal petrol or to steal crude, take it to Togo Triangle and sell it off. Those are the things that many of them do to survive. They must do something to survive. Look, a ship needs constant attention, particularly when it’s not working, that’s when it needs more money.
DDH: Looking at the issue of ageing generation of Nigerian seafarers like master mariners, engineers, surveyors, etc, and efforts to regenerate the sector with younger ones, do you think that enough is being done, especially with the NSDP? If not, what are the needed urgent steps to ensure that Nigerian maritime sector will still have more generations of skilled personnel?
Engr Olaniyan: What I can tell you, as I said before, is that we have paid too much lip service to all these things. When NIMASA finishes training the NSDP beneficiaries, what job do they want them to do? That is the issue and where we should start from. The reason the industry is dying, fading away is because there are no jobs. All these ones [the training programmes] am not sure it is needful. Let us have the jobs.
DDH: Do you mean jobs for master mariners, marine engineers, etc?
Engr Olaniyan: Yes.
DDH: Are there unemployed master mariners and marine engineers and the like?
Engr Olaniyan: Ah, you can say that again. You have many seafarers that are on the streets and don’t know what to do. The truth is that there are no ships for them. Many of them, to make life bearable for themselves go into trading, buying and selling oil, ‘petroleum products’, that they never see. You hear them saying, ah I have 50 tons, do you want to buy it? The other one will say, yes I will buy it. In his turn, he takes the relay and tells another person, I have 50 tons, do you want to buy it? And then you see a chain of able-bodied young men saying I have 50 tons, do you want to buy? The funny part is that the person that originated it, another person comes to ask him, I have 50 tons, do you want to buy? (General laughter). If they were employed, would they be doing that? The truth of it all is that if our shipping industry is revitalized and shipping companies have jobs, they would be forced [to train their staff]. Look, if am a shipping company and I have good contracts, I would be the one training young people, sending people to go to Cairo, go and do this, go to Accra, go and do that. But in the event that I don’t have a job, and can hardly pay my salaries….
DDH: Are there many Nigerian ships that are laid up, unemployed?
Engr Olaniyan: Oh yes. Majority of Nigerian vessels don’t have work, many; in fact, an armada of vessels. They just park them and they do spot hire now and then. Many of the shipping companies, that’s why they have a high turnover of staff. Because when you work in company A, it doesn’t pay you for six months. You move to company B. Then in the process, because you must survive, you will steal; you start stealing R.O.B (remainder on board), either AGO [diesel] or you pilfer vessel parts. The vessel starts to deteriorate. Those are the things that happen. But if there were jobs, as we have been saying, if cabotage trade ensured that there were jobs, if our crude oil was sold at F.O.B, for example, then Nigerian-flagged vessels operating in cabotage would have a job. If I have a job like that perpetually, I would be able to train my staff. The dearth of seafarers would not be pronounced. We would encourage universities to have departments and faculties. But if they do so now, where would the graduates get a job? So, like I said, the pyramid starts with cargo at the tip and then at the base, you see a lot of fallouts.
DDH: Is it possible for you to give me the statistics of the vessels we have, the numbers, the types, any ideas.
Engr Olaniyan: What I may give you in terms of numbers may be misleading, so let me not mislead you but about 60% of our vessels are tankers including barges and the rest are service boats and special equipment vessels. Then we have crew boats and service boats, offshore supply vessels. We have very limited numbers of reefer boats, in fact, I don’t think we have reefers. We have maybe one or two or three dry cargo ships.
DDH: Do they do ocean shipping?
Engr Olaniyan: Maybe once in a while, [otherwise] they do coastal services.
DDH: In terms of tankers, can you say we have 20, 30, 40 or what number?
Engr Olaniyan: Much more than that. If I go by what I have even in my class, very much more than that. Nigerian-flagged tankers, we should have over 200 but many of them are out of service. So you can’t say whether some are still in existence. But if go by my experience, we should have over 500 Nigerian-owned and flagged vessels but this is over a period of years. However, many of them might have been retired.
DDH: As of 2011 maybe over 200 or 300 that may still be active?
Engr Olaniyan: Am sure that information you can collect from NIMASA.
DDH: Still can we say we have up to 200 or 300 active vessels (Nigerian-owned) that may be active?
Engr Olaniyan: ‘May’ is the key word. But again, what is active? A vessel that has not done any job for six months, one year, is that active? Is it in class?
DDH: But could we get 100 that is active and in class?
Engr Olaniyan: I don’t think so.
DDH: Do you think 50 is a good number?
Engr Olaniyan: Maybe, thereabout.
DDH: That are sound and ready to go?
Engr Olaniyan: No no no. There are no sound and ready to go vessels. When you say sound and ready to go …. What you should say is, which vessels are currently under charter now.
DDH: So, can we say Nigerians have up to 20 or 30 of that?
Engr Olaniyan: Don’t let me mislead you. I cannot give you figures because it might be misleading. Most of these statistics, really, if you go to NIMASA, at least they can help you a bit to tell you the number of vessels they have registered.
DDH: Now, as a nation endowed with maritime resources, isn’t it shameful?
Engr Olaniyan: This is totally unacceptable.
DDH: Now, sir what does the International Naval Survey Bureau do in the industry?
Engr Olaniyan: Oh yes, we do a lot of consulting. We are a technical service provider, a classification society. We inspect, assess, verify and we certify Ships and ship security, ship safety, pollution prevention, in accordance to local and national laws, and IMO regulations. Although the local-national laws and IMO regulations seem to be the same but I think we should distinguish between them. We offer service to the banks, the finance industry, insurance companies and even to individuals by way of evaluation and valuation. We are truly independent marine and maritime technical advisors. Again, we promote maritime businesses without being involved. The idea is to guide up-starts. Surveying has evolved from being the ‘policeman’ to being the ‘friendly adviser and gentle supervisor’.
DDH: That means if Nigeria is interested in adapting international laws so that local practitioners are not shunted aside, your company can advice about that?
Engr Olaniyan: If my society is asked to advice in that wise, why not? We will do so and it will be based on our experiences, how we have seen the industry, how the industry is being operated, how ship owners see the industry. For example, when you talk about ISPS Code, ship owners don’t really understand what it is. They don’t understand what security really is. To them, IMO is just trying to be funny and want to make up an extra multi-taxation bla bla bla. But it is really for their good. We talk to them, we encourage them, we see their problems and their limitations. Then we try to see how we can manage them.
DDH: When you say a ship is out of class internationally, how can you adapt that ship to work in Nigeria?
Engr Olaniyan: When it is out of class, it doesn’t have anything to do with whether it can work. Most of the ships out there are out of class anyway, and they are still working. All the ships they are stealing R.O.B from are not in class, because they cannot afford to take their vessels to the dockyard. However, what we can look at is how can we make them work safely within our confines? Here, we don’t have adverse weather. Only one storm we had one time ago and of course you know the effect. It took everybody unawares. But the root cause of that was human error on the part of the flag administration which did not warn the vessel owner that there was a storm coming in the flags port of refuge, the human error on the part of the ships’ crew who were caught napping and many more who did not have any officer on watch when the thing happened. Otherwise, usually we don’t have storms, it’s like we don’t have hurricanes, we don’t have earthquakes, there might be some tremors here and there. So, with all these things, the class can help develop a local set of rules and regulations for ships operating only in the locality, for cabotage. Once you leave that locality, you are on your own and you have to abide by international rules. But you see, you have majority of our vessels that just come here, they don’t leave the cabotage [area].
DDH: So this should suit them?
Engr Olaniyan: Certainly, it will help them. It’s being done in many other countries. It’s not just particular to Nigeria. It’s not because Akin Olaniyan said so. It’s being done in Greece. Greece is regarded as the capital of shipping in the world. In America, they have their own subtle way of doing it. Even in Singapore. These are models Nigeria can base a lot of things on.
DDH: And on the question of waiver being granted to foreign ship owners to operate in the cabotage trade, what are your suggestions on how optimize its use for Nigeria?
Engr Olaniyan: Well, in these things I believe that we can look at the practice in other countries as a comparison; we don’t have to re-invent the wheel. Countries like the US, UK, Singapore, even South Africa. In the aviation industry, like Belgium. They have this kind of arrangement. What do they do? If a foreign vessel comes to ask the Minister for a waiver, what the Minister does is before he appends his signature on the consent for a waiver, he takes the case, the job the foreigner wants to come and do in their shores, he takes it to their Chamber of Shipping or the equivalent of ISAN (Independent Shipowners Association of Nigeria) or groups like that and says, “look, there’s a job in Port Harcourt for this, this and this. Can any of you do it? If you can’t do it and giving it to XYZ from Nicaragua or Outer Mongolia”. If they can do it, then you tell the foreigner, am sorry no waiver. But if the technology is not there for us to do it, then you can tell the foreigner, “Alright Mr. Foreigner, I give you six months’ operation to do it. In that six months, if you still have to do it, you come for a waiver, and if I ask my people and they say they are not available, then you can continue doing it”. Simple and straightforward. You see, the essence of cabotage is to empower your people. So, you always give them the first choice of refusal. What that means is that the minister should encourage groups of people that come together. Then there will be a lot of progress in the industry.
DDH: And if the jobs are many, and the minister has to do this for all of them, would this not brook delay in the field where the contracts are awaiting execution?
Engr Olaniyan: Delay for whom? We are to benefit. If delay for the foreigner, who cares about the foreigner, they can go back to their country. For the local industry, if, for example, am NNPC and I want to give out a job, and the foreign company says, yes I can do it for you, what I will tell him next, you see the system must be built in, now we have the Local Content law. So the checks should have been built in in the Local Content Act. But I can still tell the foreigner to go to the Ministry of Transport or Local Content Office and get a waiver. But for me that is bringing out the job, because of Local Content, I would have built in the time-frame to give the person that will do the job four or five months to mobilise. So, within that window, you get the waiver sorted out.
DDH: There is the allegation that if Nigerian ships operating in cabotage trade is 20, then foreign ships are like 80 in number and they get the jobs first before Nigerians…?
Engr Olaniyan: Yes, I believe that allegation but again the Minister’s office has said that they have not given anybody any waiver. The truth of the matter however, is that we have not really supervised or marshaled our cabotage regime. So, really, anything gives here. A lot of jobs that are supposed to be here, the clever ones just take them to Cotonou and do it. They say that, after all, it’s not in your cabotage jurisdiction. But until the F.O.B policy is changed, so that even if you go to wherever, and you are bringing your cargo in, that when you get to the cabotage limits, you must adapt [and surrender it to Nigerians]. We have left a lot of things undone and people are just doing it anyhow. All people like us can do now is to be optimistic and keep hope alive.
DDH: Do you have faith that a forward-looking NIMASA regime can add these ideas in their implementation of the cabotage trade to improve it?
Engr Olaniyan: Well, the regime that is there now, I want to believe so, until am proven otherwise. I think it will be premature to say that this NIMASA [regime] there now are not good enough, they are not this, they are not that, no no no. If they leave, what legacies have they left behind? For now, we should be able to back them up and not pull them down.