The President of the Seamen and Water Transport Workers Association (SWTWA) in Rivers State, Mr Horsfall Topman has said that the registration fee for vessels, barges and boats being demanded by the Joint Military Taskforce (JTF) through its operational code-name “Operation Pulo Shield” amounts to double taxation.
Mr Topman, who made this assertion in a chat with newsmen in Port Harcourt recently while reacting to the demand by the JTF said members of the association had been paying their annual registration to the federal government, and wondered why they should pay another registration fee.
According to him, members were not opposing the documentation of all boats, and vessels in the Niger Delta, but the fee attached to it, adding that JTF should concern itself with the security operations.
The President said,” we are not opposed to that, what we are asking is that, is the revenue going to the federal government or a tax made by the National Assembly through the JTF?. He argued that such registration fee is illegal and amounts to double taxation.
He noted that the National Inland Waterways, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) or the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) are the authorised organisations that could collect or demand registration fee for boats, and vessels.
Meanwhile, the announcement by the JTF over the registration of boats, vessels, barges and motorised boats in the Niger Delta had been generating disapproval in the maritime sector.
Some boat owners who spoke with our correspondent said although the registration is a good move, attaching a fee to it, which they had already paid is questionable. They called on the government to urgently wade into the issue.
However, a top member of the taskforce who spoke wit The Tide on telephone on condition of anonymity said what the JTF is doing was verification of already registered boats inorder to enable it control crime in the Niger Delta as well as protect lives and property.
He however hinted that there has been reasonable compliance by boat owners and the exercise is on-going without hitches.
It would be recalled that the JTF announced that vessels and boat owners are to pay the sum of N25,000 registration fee, N10,000 for motorised boats and N5,000 for small boats.
‘No Plans To Increase Fare From PH To Bonny’
Ahead of this year’s Christmas, boat drivers under the umbrella of Bonny Maritime Transport Association (BMTA) say there is no plan to increase transport fare from Port Harcourt to Bonny Island.
The body said the fare from Port Harcourt to Bonny remains N2,200 per passenger plying the route.
Speaking with The Tide on Tuesday through a telephone interview, a staff of BMTA, Port Harcourt branch, Chief Kim’s George, said all boat drivers were advised not to hike fare from Port Harcourt to Bonny, but to maintain the normal N 2,200 per head.
He lauded the state government for the deployment of three gunboats to Bonny routes to curb piracy.
George also thanked the Nigerian Navy and the Marine Police for the regular patrol of the Bonny waterways to ensure safety of lives and property.
On the issue of life vest, the boat driver said all passengers to Bonny now wear life jackets for safety.
“Passengers now comply with the wearing of life jackets while on board of a speed boat to Bonny.
“Bonny waterways is now safe and secure for sea travelers, three gunboats now patrol the channels and creeks, the Navy and the marine police are working tirelessly to reduce crimes on the waterways,” he said.
Rivers Port Is Safe For Investors
The Federal House of Representatives Committee on Ports and Harbours says the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Rivers Port Complex, Port Harcourt, is safe and secure for investors to do business .Chairman of the Committee, Hon Datti Garaba Muhammad, stated this in Port Harcourt last Tuesday during an interactive session with the management of the port at its Basket House complex.
The House Committee was in the port for a familiarisation visit and oversight function of the port and its terminal operators.
Muhammad noted that Rivers Port Complex was booming with maritime activities, thereby accruing high revenue to the Federal Government.
He said that for the past six months, there was no longer the issue of pirate attacks on sea in the port complex.
“ Rivers Port Complex is now safer for investors to do business as there is no longer attack on vessels for over six months now,” he said.
The Chairman noted that the improved security networks in the port had increased container traffic and attracted more ship owners and importers to the port.
He told the management of the port led by its Port Manager, Engr. Yunusa Ibrahim Anji, that the Federal Government was working tirelessly to revamp the port to attract more investors.
The chairman said that its oversight functions include overseeing the NPA and the terminal operators doing business in the various ports across the nation.
He said: “We are here to oversee the port, we have visited NPA headquarters, Tin Can Island, Apapa Port, Onne Port and some terminal operators to ascertain the level of compliance”.
On lack of tugboats for the port to carry out effective operations, the committee said the Federal Government would look into the absence of such boats and approve the purchase of tugboats to enhance the port operations.
Muhammad said the committee wanted Rivers Port to be revamped and bounce back to maritime activities as it is done in the past.
Earlier in his welcome address, the Port Manager, Rivers Port Complex, Engr. Yunusa Ibrahim Anji, said that container traffic had improved in the port compared to 2018 port statistics.
The manager said in 2019, its traffic was 1870,379 while in 2018, its level of traffic was 1723,169.
He told the committee that since his assumption, there has been no problem of attacks on sea going vessels in the ports.
On the security, the manager said the port secured the service of the Nigerian Navy and the marine police to patrol the port waterways to curb any act of insecurity within the complex.
He mentioned lack of tugboats, pilot cutters, accommodation for the pilots and legal issue with BUA terminal operators as some of challenges at the port.
By: Chinedu Wosu
Pirates Kidnap 19 Seafarers Off Bonny Island
No fewer than 19 seafarers working as crew members of a tanker vessel have been kidnapped by suspected sea pirates off Bonny Island.
The seafarers were abducted in a tanker identified as Nave Constellation, about 100 nautical miles off Bonny Island.
A statement made available to The Tide by Dryad Global said the attack occurred 26nm South East of the Egina terminal while the ship was underway on Tuesday.
Eighteen of the crew members abducted were Indian nationals, one is a Turkish, while seven other crew members are still on board the tanker, the statement said.
Navios, which is the owner of the ship and Anglo-Eastern Tanker Management (Hong Kong), which is the vessel’s technical manager, have both confirmed the incident.
The Hong Kong-flagged crude oil tanker had departed Bonny Offshore Terminal in fully laden condition when it was boarded by armed men late on the night of December 3rd.
“The criminal gang departed the vessel taking 19 of those onboard with them as hostage; 18 Indian nationals and one Turkish national. Seven seafarers remained on board and were instructed to take the tanker to a safe position to await the arrival of a security vessel and other support craft. There was no pollution or damage to the vessel.
“Navios as owners and Anglo Eastern as technical and crew managers’s prime concern is the safety and early return of the 19 persons taken by the pirate gang. All the appropriate authorities, including the Flag State, have been alerted and are responding and all the necessary action is being taken to secure their wellbeing and early release,” the two companies said in a statement.
The companies said the families of those taken by the pirates are being kept fully informed of the developing situation.
The International Maritime Bureau (IMB), Piracy Reporting Centre, has also confirmed the attack on the tanker.
“Nineteen crew were identified as missing. The vessel owners notified the Nigerian Navy and MRCC for assistance.
Remaining crew sailed a tanker to a safe area,” the IMB said.
This is the 6th maritime security incident and the fourth kidnapping incident to occur within 30nm of the South Eastern boundary of the Nigerian EEZ within 2019.
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