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Singe-Hull Vessel Ban: Unanswered Questions

Singe-Hull Vessel Ban: Unanswered Questions

A single hull vessel

As part of efforts to comply with the International Maritime Organization (IMO) international International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) in Nigeria, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has stated that it wouldn’t allow the operation of any single hull tanker vessel on Nigerian waters from December 2020.

Although the phase out of such vessels was borne out of genuine desire to prevent pollution, it is still viewed by some indigenous operators as a calculated ploy to frustrate them out of the Cabotage trade.

What would be the fate of owners of such vessels still operating in Nigeria? How does NIMASA achieve this whilst pursuing its major responsibility which is the development of shipping in Nigeria? With the disbursement of the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund (CVFF) still uncertain, are there alternative sources to funding to enable such operators acquire double-hulled tanker vessels?

Speaking with MMS Plus newspaper last week, the Assistant Director, Cabotage Services, NIMASA, Capt. Sunday Umoren said that the agency had given sufficient grace period, admonishing ship owners to comply before the December 2020 deadline.

Although Capt. Umoren couldn’t reveal the level of compliance on the number of double-hulled vessels in the nation’s ship registry, he expressed optimism that the change could be achieved.

Since the break up and sinking of the single hull tanker “Prestige” off the Northern coast of Spain in November 2002, the issue of decommissioning or conversion of single hull tankers has been hotly debated.

The timetable given in Regulation 13G in Annex I of MARPOL 73/78 was revised following the Erika incident in December 1999. However, with the sinking of the “Prestige” came renewed calls for yet further acceleration of the phase out timetable and, in some cases, an immediate ban.

Most countries have complied with the double-hulled tanker vessel regime, however many Nigerians have opted to invest in single-hulled vessels because of the affordable cost. How would they transmute in ten months?

Who will buy the Nigerian single-hulled tanker vessels? Where would Nigerian ship owners get finance to acquire double-hulled vessels?

Should NIMASA implement this policy that would hamper the growth of local capacity in vessel ownership?

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