VESSEL REGISTRATION AND DE-REGISTRATION IN NIGERIA

Vessel registration is an essential and necessary part of the use and operation of vessels in Nigerian and International waters generally. It is therefore important to consider the process by which vessel registration and deregistration is carried out in Nigeria

A good starting point in this article is to postulate what is regarded as a vessel under Nigerian law.

A ship is defined under Section 16(5) of the Merchant Shipping Act , 2007 (MSA)as:

“For the purposes of this part of the Act, “ship” includes any barge, lighter or like vessel used in navigation in Nigeria and however propelled, so however, that no self-propelled vessel which is less than 15 gross tons shall be subject to registration.”

In Section 2, the definition section, of the Coastal and Inland Shipping (Cabotage) Act 2003, a vessel is defined as:

“” vessel” includes any description of vessel, ship, boat, hovercraft or craft, including air cushion vehicles and dynamically supported craft, designed used or capable of being used solely or partly for marine navigation and used for the carriage on, through or under water of persons or property without regard to method or lack of propulsion”

Under Nigerian law, vessel registration is governed principally by the MSA and enforced by the Nigerian Ship Registration Office (NSRO) which serves as a department under the Nigerian Maritime and Safety Administration Agency (NIMASA) that deals with ship registration.

Section 28 of the MSA provides that:

Unless as otherwise provided in this Act, the agency shall be responsible for the registration of ships.
The Nigerian Ship Registration Office is established in the agency to register ships in accordance with the applicable provisions of this Act, The Merchant Shipping Act, and its amendments
The Agency may establish branch offices of the Ship registration Office at respective places in Nigeria as the Agency may determine.

Under the MSA, only vessels wholly owned by Nigerian citizens; bodies corporate or partnerships established under or subject to Nigerian laws, having their principal place of business in Nigeria; and such other persons as the Minister may, by regulations prescribe are allowed to be registered in Nigeria.

Therefore, where a foreigner or a foreign company seeks to register a vessel in Nigeria, they would need to incorporate Nigerian subsidiary companies and confer ownership of the ships in the said subsidiary companies.

Any application for vessel registration shall be made formally in writing to the Registrar of ships at a port in Nigeria in such form as the Minister may approve from time to time.

A ship is bound to the law of its flag state being the country the flag of the ship applies in matters relating to the ship. Accordingly, the flag state exerts regulatory control over the ship and determine its specifications, certification of the crew members and ship equipment and so on.

Under the NSRO the main types of ship registration are:

Provisional Registration
Flag Registration
Bareboat Registration
Cabotage Registration

For ship registration in Nigeria, the MSA provides that the following information and documentation are necessary: full names, addresses and occupations of the purchasers of the ship; evidence of ability or experience of purchasers to operate and maintain the vessel; ownership of shares in the company applying to register the ship; apportionment of shares in the vessel; where a ship has previous registration, a bill of sale; log-book of the ship; evidence of financial resources to operate and maintain a ship; certificate of incorporation and Articles of Association of the company3.

The owner of a ship applying to register a ship would be required to have the ship surveyed by a Surveyor of Ships and the tonnage of the vessel determined, declaration of ownership of the vessel, e.t.c.4

There is a validity period of 5 years for a certificate of registry, and upon expiration a shipowner is required to apply for the renewal of the certificate with the following documents:

Formal application letter by registered owner
Copy of Certificate of Incorporation
Certified True Copy (CTC) of Memorandum of Association
CTC of Form CAC7
CTC of Form CAC2
Current Tax Clearance Certificate
Declaration of ownership form
Return of expired certificate
Bank Statement
Completed application of registry form
Condition Survey Report
NIMASA Official Receipt for Payment of Registration
Annual Survey Report for 3 years

Cancellation of Vessel Registration

Section 28 of the MSA provides:

“The Registrar shall cancel the registration of a ship registered in Nigeria at any time the ship:

appears to be registered also in a foreign country; or
ceases to comply with the qualifications for the ownership of a Nigerian ship as required by Section 18 of this Act; or
appears to have been lost, abandoned or broken up.”

The MSA also provides that the written consent of all mortgagees is required for the Registrar to permit the deregistration of a vessel5.

The owner of a vessel may also apply for the cancellation of the registry of a vessel which application should be supported by: A board resolution authorizing the cancellation; return of certificate of registry and evidence of payment of fees for issuance of certificate of cancellation.

This paper was authored by Segun Awodein who carries on his legal practice at the Law Firm of Femi Atoyebi & Co.

Vessel registration is an essential and necessary part of the use and operation of vessels in Nigerian and International waters generally. It is therefore important to consider the process by which vessel registration and deregistration is carried out in Nigeria

A good starting point in this article is to postulate what is regarded as a vessel under Nigerian law.

A ship is defined under Section 16(5) of the Merchant Shipping Act , 2007 (MSA)as:

“For the purposes of this part of the Act, “ship” includes any barge, lighter or like vessel used in navigation in Nigeria and however propelled, so however, that no self-propelled vessel which is less than 15 gross tons shall be subject to registration.”

In Section 2, the definition section, of the Coastal and Inland Shipping (Cabotage) Act 2003, a vessel is defined as:

“” vessel” includes any description of vessel, ship, boat, hovercraft or craft, including air cushion vehicles and dynamically supported craft, designed used or capable of being used solely or partly for marine navigation and used for the carriage on, through or under water of persons or property without regard to method or lack of propulsion”

Under Nigerian law, vessel registration is governed principally by the MSA and enforced by the Nigerian Ship Registration Office (NSRO) which serves as a department under the Nigerian Maritime and Safety Administration Agency (NIMASA) that deals with ship registration.

Section 28 of the MSA provides that:

Unless as otherwise provided in this Act, the agency shall be responsible for the registration of ships.
The Nigerian Ship Registration Office is established in the agency to register ships in accordance with the applicable provisions of this Act, The Merchant Shipping Act, and its amendments
The Agency may establish branch offices of the Ship registration Office at respective places in Nigeria as the Agency may determine.

Under the MSA, only vessels wholly owned by Nigerian citizens; bodies corporate or partnerships established under or subject to Nigerian laws, having their principal place of business in Nigeria; and such other persons as the Minister may, by regulations prescribe are allowed to be registered in Nigeria.

Therefore, where a foreigner or a foreign company seeks to register a vessel in Nigeria, they would need to incorporate Nigerian subsidiary companies and confer ownership of the ships in the said subsidiary companies.

Any application for vessel registration shall be made formally in writing to the Registrar of ships at a port in Nigeria in such form as the Minister may approve from time to time.

A ship is bound to the law of its flag state being the country the flag of the ship applies in matters relating to the ship. Accordingly, the flag state exerts regulatory control over the ship and determine its specifications, certification of the crew members and ship equipment and so on.

Under the NSRO the main types of ship registration are:

Provisional Registration
Flag Registration
Bareboat Registration
Cabotage Registration

For ship registration in Nigeria, the MSA provides that the following information and documentation are necessary: full names, addresses and occupations of the purchasers of the ship; evidence of ability or experience of purchasers to operate and maintain the vessel; ownership of shares in the company applying to register the ship; apportionment of shares in the vessel; where a ship has previous registration, a bill of sale; log-book of the ship; evidence of financial resources to operate and maintain a ship; certificate of incorporation and Articles of Association of the company3.

The owner of a ship applying to register a ship would be required to have the ship surveyed by a Surveyor of Ships and the tonnage of the vessel determined, declaration of ownership of the vessel, e.t.c.4

There is a validity period of 5 years for a certificate of registry, and upon expiration a shipowner is required to apply for the renewal of the certificate with the following documents:

Formal application letter by registered owner
Copy of Certificate of Incorporation
Certified True Copy (CTC) of Memorandum of Association
CTC of Form CAC7
CTC of Form CAC2
Current Tax Clearance Certificate
Declaration of ownership form
Return of expired certificate
Bank Statement
Completed application of registry form
Condition Survey Report
NIMASA Official Receipt for Payment of Registration
Annual Survey Report for 3 years

Cancellation of Vessel Registration

Section 28 of the MSA provides:

“The Registrar shall cancel the registration of a ship registered in Nigeria at any time the ship:

appears to be registered also in a foreign country; or
ceases to comply with the qualifications for the ownership of a Nigerian ship as required by Section 18 of this Act; or
appears to have been lost, abandoned or broken up.”

The MSA also provides that the written consent of all mortgagees is required for the Registrar to permit the deregistration of a vessel5.

The owner of a vessel may also apply for the cancellation of the registry of a vessel which application should be supported by: A board resolution authorizing the cancellation; return of certificate of registry and evidence of payment of fees for issuance of certificate of cancellation.

This paper was authored by Segun Awodein who carries on his legal practice at the Law Firm of Femi Atoyebi & Co.

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