Nigerian shipping expert; Capt Tony Onaharigho who was recently appointed Deputy Registrar of ships by the Liberian Maritime Authority has opened up on how his appointment will benefit Nigerian maritime industry and the seafarers, even as he revealed that over 500 vessels are ready to be registered under Nigeria flag, but the processes are too cumbersome.
Onaharigho in an interview with DAILY TREND NEWS in Apapa Lagos assured that his appointment by Liberia would benefit and create job opportunities for Nigerian seafarers because he is ready to convert their Certificate of Competency (COC) into Liberian COC in order for them to get employed on Liberian flagged ships.
He advised the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to adopt an ‘open registry’ in order to allow more vessels pick up Nigerian flag.
According to him, the current procedure for placing a vessel under Nigerian flag is very tough and it takes six months to complete the process.
He said part of the requirement is for vessel owners to call a Nigerian surveyor to survey the vessel, write a report and bring it back to NIMASA for vetting.
According to him, in order climes, registration of vessels under a flag takes not more than 24 hours.
Capt Onaharigho is also the President of Nigerian Institute of Shipping (NIS) and Deputy President of Chattered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT)
The Liberian authorities granted him position of Deputy Registrar for vessel under 500 gross tons flying the Liberian flag, and for him to issue appropriate certificate accordingly.
Speaking, he said “Right now, I have so many people who are interested to pick Nigerian flag, there are about 500 ships right now, even more than that, who wants to fly the Nigerian flag among those countries I represent, because Nigerian name is a big name in the maritime industry, but the development, operations and legislative aspect of it is quite cumbersome”
“Because, you have to go through the process of calling a Nigerian surveyor to fly in there to survey the vessel, write a report and bring it back to NIMASA for vetting, before you can register a vessel in Nigeria, it would take you about six months or more than, but you can register vessels in Borivia, Tanzania, Cyprus, Mongolian Island under 24 hours”
“I run several other flags as a Recognized Organization (RO) My company; Conarina Limited has about 31 countries in which we are special agents and RO, so I know how it works”
“I have put so many vessels in Tanzania, put so many vessels on Togo flag and so many others. I also put vessels there in Nigerian flag”
Speaking on the recent effort by the NIMASA to resuscitate the Nigerian ship registry and the inauguration of an implementation committee, Capt Onaharigho offered his professional advise to the committee headed by Eng Emmanuel Ilori, saying that it is more profitable to run an open registry.
According to him, some of the benefit of open registry is that it would help to launder the hitherto damaged reputation of Nigeria abroad, it would also bring about financial gains for Nigeria as each vessel seeking to pick her flag will be charged a tariff in dollars per their gross tonnage.
He assured that operating an open registry will not erode the functions NIMASA, but that the agency would appoint Deputy Ship Registrars of the different class that are available in the world to help her coordinate affairs in different countries.
The NIS President said other advantages of operating an open registry is that it would give employment to one half of the currently unemployed seafarers in Nigeria as they would be highly paid and negotiate for higher salaries.
Speaking on his appointment into the Liberian ship registry, he said “I am so excited because I can use my appointment to help sailors, the area I am looking at this moment is not to make money for myself, it is about removing unemployed seafarers from the ground to the water”
“You can imagine a seaman that had his OOW and Nigerian COC but he cannot get a job, this is because there are no vessels flying Nigerian flag.With this, those seafarers with their COC goes to another country’s flag”
“What I am going to do now is that, I am going to convert people’s Nigerian COC into Liberian COC, if you have a Nigerian COC, I will do and endorsement for you and then use you to run a Liberian flagged ship, because most Liberian flagged ships, once they put you onboard as a seaman, you must hold their discharge book and their COC, but we in Nigeria only hold our Nigerian COC to work on our Nigerian vessels which is not even accepted outside our waters because Nigeria is on the black list of IMO white Liberia is on the white list as one of the highest ship registry in the world”
“So, by virtue of this appointment, I can speak to anybody in Liberian administration to help, so it is a win win situation”