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19 April 2017
Unsafe or unseaworthy vessel
Offences committed by shipmaster or owner
Trading in Nigerian waters contrary to Coastal and Inland Shipping (Cabotage) Act
Non-payment of dues and rates
Dispute as to weight or quantity of goods or ship's draught
By virtue of the statutes that established them, certain government agencies in Nigeria are empowered to detain vessels operating within the country's territorial waters. This power of detention is distinct from the power to judicially arrest a ship in connection with a maritime claim. Detention is mostly used to enforce regulatory compliance and secure the payment of statutory dues at Nigeria's various ports. It is usually a last resort and offending ships may, in some cases, be given a timeframe in which they can rectify the default giving rise to the detention. In order to avoid vessel detention in Nigeria, it is necessary to identify the circumstances in which such a detention can arise.
Unseaworthiness concerns not only the physical condition of a vessel, but also the size and competence of its crew. A ship may be considered to be unsafe or unseaworthy where, for example:
Where a NIMASA officer has reason to believe that a shipmaster or owner has committed an offence under the NIMASA Act or the relevant regulations, he or she may detain the vessel.(3) Such offences include:
Further, where a ship officer is implicated in an offence and the Board of Customs and Excise imposes a fine in lieu of forfeiture of the ship, the ship may be detained until the fine is paid.(4)
The Coastal and Inland Shipping (Cabotage) Act empowers a NIMASA officer who has reasonable grounds to believe that a vessel has contravened the act to:
An example of such violation is where a vessel not wholly owned or manned by a Nigerian crew unlawfully engages in the domestic carriage of cargo and passengers within the country's coastal waters.
In addition, where there are reasonable grounds to believe that an offence has or is being committed under the Coastal and Inland Shipping (Cabotage) Act in respect of a vessel, a NIMASA officer may issue a detention order in respect of the vessel without a court order.(6)
The Nigerian Ports Authority is empowered by its corresponding regulations to collect certain rates and dues, including:
Where a shipmaster in respect of whom any of these dues or rates is payable refuses or neglects to pay the dues or rates on demand, the Nigerian Ports Authority may arrest the ship or its tackle, apparel or furniture until they are paid.(7) Where the dues or rates remain unpaid after 14 days of such detention, the authority may sell the vessel and retain the amount of dues, rates or expenses owed from the proceeds.
The Nigerian Port Authority is empowered to enter any ship within the limits of any port in order to ascertain the dues or rates payable in respect of the ship. Where there is a disagreement between the authority and the shipmaster or owner with regard to the weight or quantity of goods or the ship's draught in respect of which harbour dues or rates are payable, the authority is empowered to detain the vessel until the goods or the ship's draught have been weighed or measured.(8)
Other instances where detention could arise include where there has been a failure to:
In addition, a wreck may be detained until payment is made for its salvage.(18)
In general, vessel detention serves as a deterrent and is a means of ensuring compliance with port and safety regulations. Vessel owners should thus take necessary precautionary steps to comply with relevant extant laws and regulations when trading on Nigerian territorial waters.
For further information on this topic please contact Enare Erim at Akabogu & Associates by telephone (+234 1460 55550) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org). The Akabogu & Associates website can be accessed at www.akabogulaw.com.
The materials contained on this website are for general information purposes only and are subject to the disclaimer.
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