By DAPO OLAWUNI
There are clear indications of an increase in the number of vessels stranded at various jetties across Nigeria and out of class due to the refusal of International Oil Companies (IOC) to accept vessel classification certificates issued by Non-members of International Association of Classification Societies (IACS)
DAILY TREND NEWS gathered that this discrimination by oil companies has been the major bane of the Nigerian Cabotage Law, and the Local Content Law.
Classification societies are non-governmental organisations that establish and maintains technical standards for the construction and operation of ships and offshore structures. The class societies certify that the construction of a vessel comply with relevant standards and carry out regular surveys in service to ensure continuing compliance with the standards.
Over 90% of the world’s merchant shipping tonnage is classified and issued marine classification by the 12 member societies of the IACS with headquarters in London. The IACS members are; Lloyds Register, American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) Bureau Veritas (BV) China Classification Society (CCS) Korean Register of Shipping (KRS) among others.
However, due to the high cost of getting a vessel classed by the IACS members, there are other highly competent and trustworthy class providers as recognised by various countries so that Shipowners can carry out their operations. The non IACS members involves companies like Phoenix, INSB, IRS, Conarina among others.
President of Nigerian Institute of Shipping (NIS) Capt Tony Onoharigho in a chat with DAILY TREND NEWS raised an alarm that many Nigerian class societies that have been recognised by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) are out of jobs due to the monopoly and discrimination by the IOC’s that any vessel not classed by IACS should not operate at their oil fields.
He said the IACS members have formed a monopoly whereby the oil companies do not want to see any Non-IACS classification companies for vessel.
According to him, oil companies are now refusing to accept the certificates that are issued by the Non-IACS members and this has left many Nigerian shipowners abandoning their ships at various jetties.
The maritime expert noted that the cost of putting vessels in class by an IACS member is three times higher than using a Non-IACS member, but that a lot of stringent measures which is one of the political approach in the industry to deprive Nigerians from participating in the oil fields have been put in place.
The NIS President said that the problem has been existing in the Nigerian maritime sector for several years, and there were attempts by some Nigerian experts to form classification societies which was approved by NIMASA.
According to him, “For so many years when we were having problems with certification of vessels and the IACS members refused to take Nigerian vessels because the dry docking were not there, standards of these vessels were not too high, so, some of us decided to come together and create the non IACS, it was during the time of Capt Olopoenia, it was just to help Nigerians, to enable them classify vessels and also on a cheaper rate to Nigerians”
“After some time, these people on their own started liaising with oil companies and they are now rejecting the Non-IACS classified vessels”
“The Nigerian government which is NIMASA that is in charge of regulating this sector have acknowledged the non IACS members to certify vessels in Nigeria, and they accept certificates issued by them, but the oil companies refuse to accept”
“If the Nigerian government have accepted the non IACS members to carry out survey and certification of vessels, why would the oil company majors reject a vessel classified by non IACS members”
“The IACS members are foreign class society companies, while the non IACS members, most of us are Nigerians. We need to compel the oil companies to allow the vessels classified by non IACS members to work in their oil field”
Capt Onaharogho argued that unless NIMASA as the apex regulatory agency in Nigeria intervenes, most of these foreign oil companies may not accept non IACS classed vessels and this would continue to hamper the effect of the Cabotage law.
He said that with the oil companies 60/40 sharing formula with the federal government on the crude oil, they have a lot of control over what happens in their oil field.
“So, they compel the shipowners to make use of their own classification societies which is very expensive, and this has caused a lot of ships in Nigeria not to have class to operate, it has kept many people out of work, and many vessels are tied down at different jetties because the oil companies dont accept non IACS certification”
“This has been going on, long before now, but I and Capt Olopoenia fought it and we brought in INSB, IRS and we started getting jobs, but because these foreign class societies saw that we were doing well, they decided to go to the oil majors to keep Nigerian class out of their oil field”
“NIMASA should compel the oil companies to accept vessels certified by non IACS classification which are approved by the government”
“Within the oil sector where we have the supply boat of 120tonnes or 300tonnes, how do you expect them to take IACS certification when they have paid about $35,000 for the vessel, and they are not even sure of getting jobs when they finish”
“It is making life difficult for the shipowners because most of them want to classify their vessel but they cannot pay the funds, and the stringent measures put in place by IACS right now is to monopolize the industry”
“They have no right to deprive any vessel from working in Nigeria because it is a national approval.
Chevron, Mobil for example doesn’t touch any vessel that is non IACS and this is not good, these vessels are not deep sea going vessels” Capt Onaharigho lamented.