Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), on June 8, 2012 imposed a Marine Environment (Sea Protection) Levy on various types of vessels. This action pitched it against stakeholders who argued that the policy was illegal and should be cancelled.
The levies include, $1.25 per gross tonnage on vessels of 100 to 1000 gross tonnage; $1.00 per gross tonnage for ships of 1,001 to 10,000 gross tonnage; $ 0.75 per gross tonnage for ships of 10,001 to 100,000 gross tonnage and $ 0.50 per tonnage for vessels of 100,001 gross tonnage and above.
For Nigerian-registered ships, the rate of the Marine Environment (Sea Protection) Levy is as follows: N500.00 per gross tonnage for ships of 100 to 1000 gross tonnage; N350.00 per gross tonnage for vessels of 1,001 to 10,000 gross tonnage; N300.00 per gross tonnage for vessels of 10,001 to 100,000 gross tonnage and N250. 00 per gross tonnage for ships from 100,00 I gross tonnage and above.
The regulation further stated: “The rate of levy payable by an offshore installation and oil pipeline shall be (a) in ‘the case of an offshore oil installation that is producing. Processing, storing or transferring oil, including buoys used for the loading and/or receiving of oil, NI5,000,000.00 per annum: “(b) in the case of an offshore oil installation used or constructed for the purposes of exploring for oil, N10,000,000.00 for each oil well drilled by that installation; “(c) In the case of an oil pipeline, NI,500.00 per cubic metre of pipeline volume from the high water mark to the termination point offshore.” The Marine Environment (Sea Protection) Levy affects all commercially-operating vessels of l00 gross tonnage and above in Nigerian waters and on oil installations and pipelines. The Marine Environment (Sea Protection) Levy is charged against ships and is based on the “potential polluter pays” principle. The levy applies to vessels which are more than 24 metres in length and have onboard more than 10 tonnes of oil in bulk as fuel or cargo.
But five years into its life span, rather than improve the relationship with the stakeholders, the levies have been met with violent rejections and provoked a lot of embarrassing statements. Regulators, in the long run, had their way but not without serious misgivings by stakeholders who have continued to condemn and describe the levies as illegal, unconstitutional and punitive.
For the co-ordinator, Save Nigeria Freight Forwarders, Dr Patrick Chukwu, the sea protection levy is not in tandem with the Act setting up the agency. He wondered why NIMASA should collect sea protection levy and vessel owners still pay Navy to protect their ships.
“What kind of sea protection levy is that when private vessels pay Navy to guard their vessels. Is the sea protection levy in line with the act setting up NIMASA? Do they (NIMASA) have any approval in that respect? Have they met up with all the necessary approvals to collect such levies? Did they call for stakeholders’ meeting? Let them collaborate with the Navy and make sure they safeguard the vessels – both foreign and local.
President, National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (AMDCLA), Lucky Amewero, did not mince words to condemn it. In his opinion, the collectors of the levies should be prosecuted and jailed for perpetrating illegality.
“You cannot collect any levy when there is no law backing it. NIMASA Act did not mention any levy. It did not make provisions of that levy. It only gives them 3 per cent outboard and inboard cargo. There is nothing like sea protection levy. That provision is illegal. They must go back to the National Assembly to get a law to back it up.
“That is the most important issue. That one is critical. You cannot be collecting money that you don’t have any law to back it up. It is an illegal collection.
If there is no law backing it up, it is an illegal act and if it is an illegal act then it should be cancelled. Otherwise, people that are violating that act should go to jail. You cannot be collecting money when you don’t have a law to back it. Nowhere in the world that you collect money without a law backing it. There must be an Act backing the provision. It is not an executive provision. It must be backed by a law. A small lawyer will just take them to court and rubbish them.
“Protection of the sea is the core function of NIMASA. The core functions of most of these agencies are under-performed. The agencies spend time organising seminars and the government allows them. By May it will be three years of this government and one thing you notice about this government is seminar, seminar, seminar. If NIMASA knows that it cannot protect our waters it should hand it back to the Navy. The Navy should be held responsible because the provision of the Act is that there is going to be a collaboration with the Navy and is that the Navy should be the foot soldier while NIMASA sponsors them.
“In America you have what is called the Coast Guard. NIMASA does not have the power of enforcement. Coast Guard has the enforcement power in America. There is need for a rejig of the whole system. It is not about money collection. It is all about enforcement. If NIMASA is not doing it well then let us know how it is done in other countries of the world. There is need for you to have an enforcement team. There is need to set up a coast guard under NIMASA. The coast guard should have the enforcement power to guard the sea. Let’s look at what happens in other countries and embellish and finetune them and remove those areas that are too foreign and domesticate them into our system. It is not a question of collecting those fees. If your seas are not protected, your freight will be very expensive. You will discover that lately, there is a collapse of cargo coming into the country. Nigeria controls 80 per cent of the throughput of cargoes within the sub-region and it is losing them out. We have lost trans-shipment; we have lost domestic cargo of almost 40 per cent. We have all these ports around us building their draft level.
Nigeria’s draft level is 13 metres. Ghana is going to 19 metres. That means Ghana can carry as much as 20,000 teus. Togo is going to 16 metres, Cotonou is 15 metres and Cameroon is 16 metres. So, all the ports around us have higher drafts. Those ones can take 14,000 teus. All these ports are targeting our cargoes. In another two years it is going to be terrible for this country” he lamented.
But NIMASA for its part explained that the sea protection levy is not a port charge per se, but a levy imposed by law for the entrenchment of clean and healthy marine environment.
Speaking at a summit on port charges in Lagos, Director, Shipping Development, Mr. Ojadi Anthony, who represented the Director General of NIMASA, Dr Dakuku Peterside, noted that the levy is paid by all vessels that call on Nigerian waters including offshore locations or at the ports as well as on pipelines in water, oil exploration platforms, rigs among others.