The Nigerian economy is a mixed economy and the maritime sector is a major sector of the Nigerian economy, taking into consideration that the country is a major oil-producing and exporting country. The maritime industry plays a pivotal role in the development of the country’s economic growth.

The legal framework regulating the maritime sector in Nigeria encompasses a wide range of laws and International Conventions, to wit; the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999, as amended), the Admiralty Jurisdiction Act 1991, the Merchant Shipping Act 2007, the NIMASA Act and the Cabotage Act. These laws and Conventions have helped to shape the Maritime sector. Adhering to the provisions of these regulations is therefore essential for promoting safety, security, and sustainable growth in Nigeria’s maritime sector.[i] A breakdown of these regulations is seen below;

  • The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999, as amended)- The Constitution empowers the federation government to own minerals, mineral oils, and natural gas, as well as resources in the territorial sea, contiguous zone, and Exclusive Economic Zone. It also gives the Federal High Court sole authority over maritime and admiralty cases.[ii]
  • The Admiralty Jurisdiction Act 1991- This Act confers exclusive authority on the Federal High Court to adjudicate on admiralty matters, including civil and criminal matters. It addresses property interests in ships, aircraft, and maritime claims. The Act combined existing admiralty jurisdictions, provided liability limitations, and addressed disputes connected to shipping, navigation, and national waterways.
  • The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency Act 2007 (NIMASA)- This is the apex regulatory and promotional maritime agency in Nigeria. It oversees maritime safety, security, and shipping development enforcing regulations that cover vessel registration, crew certification, and safety standards.
  • Merchant Shipping Act 2007- This Act regulates merchant shipping and related matters in Nigeria. It also involves provisions for ship licensing, registration, and limitation of actions for maritime claims.
  • Coastal and Inland Shipping (Cabotage) Act No. 5, 2003- This regulation aims to promote Indigenous participation in maritime activities, as the Act restricts the use of foreign vessels in Nigeria’s domestic coastal trade. Compliance with this Act supports the growth of Nigeria’s maritime industry and protects local stakeholders.

Despite the various laws regulating the maritime sector, several challenges still plague this sector. These challenges include;

  1. Safety and Security- The safety and security of the Nigerian maritime sector has improved over time but there is still a pressing need to increase security in this area. Even with the increase in military intervention, piracy, sea robbery, and illegal bunkering continue to thrive. In an attempt to increase safety, NIMASA encouraged the Nigerian Airforce to provide tactical support for sea-based operations against illegal operations of ships.
  1. Infrastructure Deficit- One of the most significant issues in the maritime sector is the lack of infrastructure. Ports, harbors, and terminals need major investment to satisfy international standards.[iii] Ports and maritime infrastructure require significant investment and modernization to enhance efficiency and competitiveness.
  1. Marine Environmental Pollution- The effects of marine pollution on water bodies and coastal areas cause degradation to the environment and its ecosystem. Marine pollution has been a major cause of social unrest over the years, attracting national and international attention, thus causing the Nigerian government to take extraordinary measures in a bid to stop this menace.[iv]
  1. Inadequate Skilled Workforce- The maritime sector is a sector that requires a skilled workforce, however, the industry often faces a shortage of qualified professionals, including seafarers, marine engineers and experts in maritime logistics and management.[v]
  • Regulatory Compliance- Inconsistent enforcement of regulations and bureaucratic inefficiencies tend to hinder effective maritime operations and investment, thus posing as a challenge in the maritime sector.

The Nigerian maritime sector has grown over the years but there is still a compelling cause to develop this sector continuously.[vi] This sector affects the economic development of the nation and Nigeria is a major exporter of oil and majors on trade with other foreign countries, using the maritime industry. The government needs to pay more attention to this sector and its affairs to boost the economy.


[i] https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/maritime-law-nigeria-key-provisions-impact-industry-abdulhaleem#:~:text=Merchant%20Shipping%20Act%202007%3A%20This,and%20provisions%20for%20salvage%20services.

[ii] https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/maritime-law-nigeria-key-provisions-impact-industry-abdulhaleem#:~:text=Merchant%20Shipping%20Act%202007%3A%20This,and%20provisions%20for%20salvage%20services.

[iii] https://www.bimakassociates.com/challenges-and-prospects-in-nigerian-maritime-industry/

[iv] https://dj.univ-danubius.ro/index.php/DWP/article/view/126/285

[v] https://www.bimakassociates.com/challenges-and-prospects-in-nigerian-maritime-industry/

[vi] https://dj.univ-danubius.ro/index.php/DWP/article/view/126/285

Written bVera Enubianozor for The Trusted Advisors

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