Nigeria vessel registration slumps from 607 to 412 in 2020

The Nigeria’s Ship Registry in 2020 witnessed a decline as only 412 vessels with 524,978.58 tonnage were registered in 2020 compared to 607 registered in 2019 with 1,278,041.75 tonnage.

Disclosing this at the 2020 virtual annual lecture of the Nigerian Maritime Law Association (NMLA) in Lagos recently, the country’s Registrar of Ships, Nneka Obianyor also blamed the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic to the delay in implementation of the recommendations made by the committee set up to reform Nigeria’s Ship Registry.

In her paper presentation titled ‘Imperative of automation of the Nigerian Ship Registry and fleet development’, Obianyor said Nigeria registered 412 vessels with 524,978.58 tonnage in 2020 as against 607 registered in 2019 with 1,278,041.75 tonnage.

Noting that automation was the only way to boost the worth of the ship registry, attract investors and improve efficiency, Obianyor said efforts are ongoing to automate and reform Nigeria’s Ship Registry to increase opportunities for shipping development.

“For people to want to fly Nigerian flag, they would want to see a registry of integrity and a responsive registry that is at speed with what it does. Our quest to build a quality flag that will attract investors and grow tonnage capacity led to a committee that was set up in 2018. The committee carried out comparative studies of notable registries globally to understand how best we can run our own.

“The recommendations were made and grouped under short, medium and long term measures which we have developed to the roadmap for reform of the Ship Registry. This was done in February but unfortunately after, we had the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In 2020, it became very clear that digitalization was a key differentiator. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ship Registry staff became essential workers because we were not automated and we needed to be in the office all the time to ensure that our stakeholders’ needs were met. If we had a digitalised and automated ship registry, it would have been easy to work from home as it is done in other climes.

“The imperative of automation will be for us to build investors’ and stakeholders’ confidence because when people are confident of your processes, they would want to come to you. We are aware that a number of Nigerians had their vessels outside of the shore and I prayed that once our processes are automated and things begin to work as it is being done in other climes, investors will come in and help us see how we can grow our tonnage and make Nigerians more feasible in international maritime trade.

“Automation will help us to redefine our registration process, improve decision-making and improve our audit efficiency. While we are not folding our hands and waiting for COVID-19, we have begun the journey to see how we can get automated,” she said.

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