The Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dakuku Peterside, has commended the judgement of the Federal High Court in the case involving Seadrill Mobile Unit Nigeria Limited and the Federal Ministry of Transportation (FMOT), which confirmed NIMASA’s right to collect fees from drilling operations. NIMASA was later joined as a necessary party in the suit originally instituted by Seadrill Mobile Unit Nigeria Limited against the FMOT.
Dakuku said the judgement was “yet another landmark attempt by the judiciary to set the record straight and boost implementation of our Cabotage law, while generating opportunities for jobs.”
The suit instituted by Seadrill Mobile Unit Nigeria Limited was to determine whether drilling operations fell within the definitions of “Coastal Trade” and “Cabotage” under the Coastal and Inland Shipping (Cabotage) Act, and whether on a proper interpretation of the Cabotage Act, drilling operations fell within the definition of “vessels” under the Act.
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On the first issue, the court, presided by Justice Babs Keuwumi, ruled that drilling operations fell within the ambit of exploration, exploitation, or transportation of the mineral or non-living natural resources of Nigeria, whether in or under Nigerian waters, as provided under the definition of coastal trade in the Cabotage Act.
Similarly, the court held that the combined reading of the Admiralty Jurisdiction Act, Interpretation Act, and Cabotage Act meant that drilling rigs fell under the definition of vessel under the Cabotage Act.
Having determined the two questions in the affirmative, the court granted NIMASA leave to collect all outstanding payment of the 2% Cabotage surcharge from owners of drilling rigs and associated platforms.