In a recent ruling concerning a claim for crew wages, the National Industrial Court held that Section 254C(1)(a) of the Constitution clearly vests the court with the exclusive jurisdiction to hear and determine civil causes and matters relating to or connected with labour, employment, trade unions or industrial relations and matters arising from the workplace. The claim in question was for N500 million in compensation for the defendant's failure to observe safety standards and procedures during a fumigation exercise.
The president recently assented to the Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences Bill, successfully concluding almost a decade of advocacy to implement such a law in order to curb and deter sea piracy, armed robbery and other unlawful acts at sea. The new law has ended the controversy around whether the crime of sea piracy is defined in any local legislation and bestowed on the Federal High Court exclusive jurisdiction to determine matters of armed robbery and other unlawful acts at sea.
A tripartite arrangement between the Federal Ministry of Finance, the Customs Service and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) seeks to encourage the expansion of Nigeria's indigenous fleet by creating a special tariff regime for vessel acquisition in the country. According to NIMASA Director General Dakuku Peterside, the high cost of vessel acquisition is gradually driving away many indigenous players in the maritime sector.
The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency has announced a five-year strategic plan to stop the issuance of cabotage waivers. This plan appears to be a tacit admission that the waiver regime – which was intended to be a stop-gap measure pending the development of indigenous capacity – is derailing the country's lofty cabotage goals. Nonetheless, the cessation of the issuance of cabotage waivers represents a significant shift in policy.
Following the Federal High Court's recent ruling that claims for crew wages fall outside its jurisdiction, practitioners and other observers are understandably eager for judicial elaboration on the fate of such claims. Although initial reactions appear to be that crew wage claims may no longer be enforceable through the adoption of the in rem procedure, some have argued that the ruling, being merely persuasive, can and should be sidestepped by other Federal High Court judges.
Where a bill of lading holder fails to take delivery within a reasonable time, the carrier may be entitled to land and store the goods at the cost of the bill of lading holder. This common-sense position accords perfectly with the Bill of Lading Act 1856. Although conversion claims based on the creation of unauthorised liens on cargo are maintainable against carriers, cargo holders should remember that this is the case only in specific circumstances.
The Ports and Harbours Authority Bill recently passed its third and final reading in the Senate. The bill's objectives will resonate with followers of Nigeria's port reform efforts, as they clearly demonstrate an intention to give legal status to the landlord port management and administration model adopted by the government in 2006. The bill thus addresses some of the legal issues that have resulted from the inadequate statutory provisions that support Nigeria's so-called 'port concessions era'.
A court of appeal sitting in Lagos State recently declared that the collection of the shipping line agency charge (SLAC) by shipping companies and its subsequent levy on importers and consignees was illegal. This judgment clarifies that shipping agency charges are illegal in Nigeria. The Nigerian Shippers' Council is now expected to recover the SLAC collected by the shipping companies, as ordered by the court.
Two recent Supreme Court decisions provide case law on the fact that, as regards carriage of goods by sea claims, concurrent rights to sue in tort as well as under the contract may coexist for a claimant's benefit. However, English cases admit to the concurrent liabilities position certain exceptions that the Supreme Court, which substantially referenced an English Court of Appeal decision in one of its decisions, failed to point out.
Claims for delay are not limited to the terms of a charterparty. Another class of claims can be founded on tort, negligence or contract and brought by or against parties not named in a charterparty. Extra-charterparty delay claims are important in a jurisdiction such as Nigeria, where factors that result in delays are frequent and may not be adequately handled by claims founded on a charterparty.
In serving an in rem writ, the practice in Nigeria – and in most other common law jurisdictions – has been that the plaintiff will cause it to be issued against the ship or other res and at least another defendant. However, the traditional view of service of an in rem writ has been altered by a recent Court of Appeal decision.