Capt. Emmanuel Ihenacho, a master mariner, has advised ship owners to have their P&I policies fully updated in the event of a court action where the ship might be threatened with arrest.
Ihenacho, former Minister on Interior, said in Abuja at the 12th Maritime Seminar for Judges that their P&I Club would be in a position to promptly post adequate security acceptable to the courts to leave their vessels free while they proceed on the litigation with their accusers.
P&I clubs are associations of ship owners and charterers, owned and controlled by the insured ship owner or charterer members.
According to him, our judges have a major and significant role to play in deterring the fraudulent sue of the arrest instrument as an easy tool for pressurising and blackmailing ship owners or other carriers to yield in court.
He said the judges could indeed prevent the misuse of the ship arrest facility in maritime litigation by being more circumspect and restrained in their review and consideration of applications for the arrest of vessel brought to them by way of ex-parte motions brought by counsel for the plaintiffs.
The mariner added that where the arrest of a vessel becomes unavoidable, judges should in consideration of the serious economic and social consequences of the prolonged arrest and detention of vessels, “go out of their way to ensure that that the defendant ship owners is put on notice regarding the plaintiff’s intention’’.
He explained that the arrest of ships remained a very stressful and traumatic experience for most ship owners and a dreadful experience for the crew of the arrested vessel.
“The poor ship owners nearly lose their vessels as the knocks on effects of the original arrest kick in as the arrest process progresses.
“Additional claimants generally emerge from the woodwork, filing claims for all kinds of losses including failure to deliver promised service as per charter party or bill of lading.
“After a brief but spirited struggle, the beleaguered owner succumbs, gives up the fight and the vessel, his prized asset is eventually sold to auction,’’ Ihenacho said.
He said the initially, the crew tried to cope with the inconvenience brought about by the altered status of the vessel and remained supportive of their beleaguered owner.
However, as time progresses and supplies and wages dry up, loyalty gives way to enlightened self interest and the crew ultimately turn on their owners in search of answers regarding the loss of their of their benefits and comfort, the mariner said.
The seminar is jointly organised by Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) and the National Judicial Institute (NJI)