IMO Mandatory Maritime Single Window: Nigeria may receive sanctions for non-conformity


By Foster Obi
Nigeria may be sanctioned by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) for lagging in the (IMO) mandatory January 1, 2024 deadline for the implementation of a Maritime Single Window (MSW) for the electronic exchange of data in ports around the world.
Feelers show that while many member nations have kept to this mandate, Nigeria, in its usual lackadaisical approach to world best practices is yet to conform as there is still no formal commitment from Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) especially in the Maritime domain to digitalize and automate port processes.
Recall that IMO’s Facilitation Committee adopted amendments to the Facilitation (FAL) Convention to make the single window for electronic data exchange mandatory in ports around the world for ship clearance.
The amendment makes it mandatory for public authorities to establish, maintain, and use single window systems for the electronic exchange of information required on arrival, stay, and departure of ships in ports.
Also Executive Order on the Promotion of Transparency and Efficiency in the Business Environment was signed by Prof. Yemi Osinbajo on May 18, 2017, mandating all agencies physically present in the ports to, within 60 days, harmonize their operations into one single interface station domiciled in one location in the port and implemented by a single joint task force at all times, without prejudice to necessary backend procedures.
The Executive Order also stated that the new single interface station at each port shall capture, track, and record information on all goods arriving and departing from Nigeria and remit captured information to the head of the MDAs and the National Bureau of Statistics every week.
The Executive Order mandated Apapa port to resume 24-hour operations within 30 days of the issuance of the Order.
However, seven years later, the Executive Order is yet to be implemented at the seaports by the agencies due mainly to a lack of corporate governance as well as other myriad issues hindering the effective implementation.
Maritime stakeholders have variously highlighted that political will, legal framework, and basic technological skills are major issues that must be addressed for Nigeria to implement the maritime single window system. While so many lectures have been held on the benefits Nigeria will derive from the MSW, in the end, it is consigned to the scrap heaps of forgotten projects.
Analysts believe that the current non-conformity toward the implementation of the IMO MSW will further diminish the placing of Nigeria by the international body in integrity rating.
For instance, Nigeria has in the last six attempts lost its bid to regain the Category C seat of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) which it lost in 2009.
Stakeholders believe that the loss in 2021 was particularly painful as the country lost against high expectations and hope for a better outing.
The disappointed stakeholders have since then been making wild guesses as to why Nigeria has consistently become a serial loser at the IMO Council seat elections.
While Nigeria goes all out at each election year to vie for the seat with a lot of funds wasted and frittered in the name of campaigns, it is obvious that the IMO member nations are yet to take the country very seriously because of the deliberate flouting of corporate governance issues and world best practices.
At the IMO General Assembly in November 2023, Nigeria’s Minister of Marine and Blue Economy, Gboyega Oyetola reaffirmed Nigeria’s commitment to maritime sector transformation. He disclosed Niger’s plans to seek election into the IMO Council in 2025.
While the IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim commended Nigeria’s futuristic approach, critics think that Nigeria’s desire to occupy the coveted seat may remain a mirage if we refuse to put our house in order.
IMO says that the Maritime Single Window is mandatory from 1 January 2024.
According to the Organization, this year 2024 marks a milestone in the acceleration of digitalization in shipping – the mandatory “Maritime Single Window”.

Picture: Nigeria’s President, Bola Ahmed Tinubu

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