By Foluke Akinmoladu
Vessels are not permitted to just roam and rove the Nigerian waterways without having been first properly registered. The same goes for the owners of such ships. Therefore, individuals cannot acquire vessels and sail them at their whims and caprices. Registration of Ships begun with the need to identify vessels for the allocation of liability and for recognition of the right of property in the vessel since it is a moving asset that can have varying levels of ownership and possession. Registration is enforced in order to have control over ships, monitor the activities of seafarers and ensure that local content is included in the building and ownership of vessels. In addition to these, whatever other importance is associated with vehicle, land, company registration also apply to ship registration generally.
Before we negotiate the steps of registration procedure, let us consider the mandatory requirements as to Ownership and Vessel Eligibility which are set out by the Merchant Shipping Act of 2007 and must be met to the letter as a condition precedent to ship registration.
Persons Qualified to own and Register a Nigerian Ship
The following persons are eligible to own and register a Nigerian vessel:
• Nigerian Citizens;
• Duly registered Nigerian Companies;
• Foreign Citizens having a maximum of 40 per cent equity ownership in a National Carrier;
• Joint Owners (not exceeding five persons);
• Such other persons as may be permitted by the Minister for Transport.
Vessels Eligible to be registered
The following categories of vessels are eligible to be registered provided that they are not more than 10 (ten) years old according to the Government Inspector of Shipping (GIS):
• Ships under construction;
• Ships that weigh 15 Gross Tons or more;
• Licensed ships that weigh under 15 Gross Tons;
• Merchant ships;
• Ships on bareboat and similar charters that exceed 12months;
• Nigerian coastal and inland waters operation licensed ships;
• Fishing Trawlers/vessels;
• Ships owned by individual Nigerians or registered Nigerian Corporate bodies;
• FPSO Oil Platform vessels (floating production storage and offloading)
• Name of ship;
• Application for approval of Ship name;
• Time and place of ship purchase;
• Name of Shipmaster;
• Ship managers name and address;
• The Ship’s best particulars as to tonnage, construction, model and description;
• Ship Bill of sale/Seller’s Warranty;
• Deletion certificate;
• Ship Insurance Cover/Evidence of Protection and Indemnity;
• Ship log book;
• Purchaser/Owner’s evidence of means as to finance and skill to operate and maintain the Ship;
• Call sign certificate;
• Load line certificate;
• Tonnage Measurement certificate;
• Tonnage measurement certificate and Condition survey report;
• International Tonnage certificate;
• Marking and Carving sign of the Ship and
• Certificate of marking and carving note of the Ship.
Procedure for Registration
• The owner of the Ship or their agents will submit a letter of application addressed to the Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) indicating their interest in registering a ship in Nigeria;
• Complete and submit application for Ship name approval Form at the Ship Registry;
• Payment of statutory fees on the gross tonnage of the Ship to Director-General of NIMASA for Ship Condition Survey;
• The Registrar of Ships nominates a Maritime Surveyor to carry out the Ship condition survey;
• The Maritime Inspectorate Division (MID) under the Government Inspector of Shipping (GIS) will either the American Bureau of Shipping, Bureau Veritas, Germanischer Lloyd, or Lloyd’s Register of Shipping to Classify the Ship;
• Complete the Declaration of Ownership (NIMASA Form 1) deposed before a Commissioner for Oath at the Federal High Court and submit at NIMASA;
• Complete Application Form for Registration (NIMASA Form 2) and submit at NIMASA with the following documents:
Required Documents (not all documents are required of individual owners in Nigeria)
• Copy of Certificate of Incorporation;
• Certified True Copy of Company Memorandum and Articles of Association;
• Certified True Copy of Form CAC 7 (Particulars of Directors);
• Certified True Copy of Form CAC 2 (Allotment of Shares of a Share Capital which shall not be less than Twenty Five Million Naira[N25,000,000]);
• Current Tax Clearance Certificate;
• Duly completed Declaration of Ownership Form;
• Bank Statement/Reference Letter;
• Applicable waiver certificate;
• Certificate of Nigerian Ship Registry;
• Cabotage Affidavit Form;
• Crew list declaration;
• Evidence of payment of Fees and
• Certificate of Registration of Shipping Company with NIMASA
• The Registrar of Ships after being satisfied that the applicant has met all the registration requirements and duly completed the process, will then enroll the Ship in the Register of Cabotage Vessels and Ship Owning Companies of Nigeria.
More interestingly is the fact that where applicants are able to provide all the required documents in good time, the registration process may not take more than 2 weeks. However, the regulation time frame for provisional registration is a maximum period of 6 months. The maximum amount for Ship registration in Nigeria and for national carriers precisely is about N1,000,000 (One Million Naira) Also worthy of note is the fact that Parallel registration is not permitted. Furthermore, if full control of the ship and the owner-company is 100 per cent beneficially held by Nigerian citizens, the Ship’s crew and officers are Nigerian seafarers and the Ship is built in Nigeria, Ministerial Waiver on some registration procedure and even fees may be granted as the case may be.
Grounds for refusal of Registration
The application for registration of a Ship may be on the following grounds:
• Non-compliance or partial compliance with the mandatory registration requirements of the Merchant Shipping Act 2007;
• If the Ship name sought to be registered is already registered, prohibited, offensive, malicious or contradicts public policy;
• Failure to provide any of the required documents and
• Failure to survey the Ship and effect Tonnage ascertainment.
Finally, it is mandatory that every Ship and Shipping Company engaged in coastal shipping must be registered in the relevant register. Vessels and Companies that were previously registered at the Nigerian Shipping Registry and now intend to partake in coastal trade must also be registered in the relevant Cabotage Register in Nigeria.
Foluke Akinmoladun is the Managing Solicitor of Trizon Law Chambers Nigeria. She is a lawyer, accountant, mediator and arbitrator. Her work experience covers both domestic and international commercial legal matters and she belongs to the panel of neutrals of numerous arbitral institutions. She was a onetime Director General of the African Ship owners Association of Nigeria and is a member of the Presidential National Action Committee on Nigeria’s Implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) (Transportation stream). She is also the secretary of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce (LCCI) Maritime Sector.
She can be reached at: Foluke.A@trizonlawchambers.com