A doctor of Law in the country has high lighted prospects for legal practitioners in the maritime industry.
Dr Adewale Olawoyin, SAN, stated this at a one-day training by the Young Lawyers Forum (YLF), Uyo Branch, in collaboration with Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Uyo Branch, Maritime Law with the theme: Akwa Ibom State: An Emerging Maritime Landscape: The Roles And Prospects for Legal Practitioners; at Bar Centre, Judiciary Headquarters, Wellington Bassey Way, Uyo, recently.
Olawoyin explained that shipping lawyers deal with the carriage of goods or people by sea, plus every matter related to the financing, construction, use insurance and decommissioning of the ships that carry them (or are arrested) sunk or salvaged while carrying them).
The major division is between 'wet' work relating to accidents or misadventure at sea, and 'dry' work involving the land-based, commercial and contractual side. By extension, disputes or litigation relating to contracts mean there is also a contentious side to dry work while some lawyers in the area maybe generalist, some specialize on dry shipping or wet shipping.
He said dry shipping is an area of shipping law that covers contentious contractual issues, including bill of lading disputes, cargo claims, the arrest of vessels and charter party disputes while wet shipping covers areas covering contentious issues occurring at sea, such as collisions, salvages, oil pollution damages, wrecks.
Olawoyin urged lawyers in such cases to act swiftly and decisively at a moment's notice to protect a client's interest and minimize any loss, travel the world to assess the condition of ships, interview crew or witnesses and prepare cases.
"Take witness statements and advise clients on the merits and strategy for cases. Handle court and arbitration appearances, conferences with experts and client meetings.
"Lawyers are to negotiate and draft contracts for ship finance and ship building, crew employment, sale and purchase agreements, affreightment contracts and the registration and reflagging of ships. They may specialize in niche areas such as yachts or fishing, an area in which regulatory issues feature prominently. Handle similar tasks to wet lawyers in relation to contractual disputes but are less likely to jet off around the world at the drop of a hat.
The veteran lawyer maintained that shipping is capital-intensive, this is because critical maritime assets are usually long term assets that have longer life span and gestation periods. Thus, the Nigeria's maritime industry forecast is encouraging government intervention in the sector to source funding required to unlock the acquisition of the required maritime assets.
However, he said prospective investors may explore innovative financing models away from existing traditional models of bank financing. Lawyers will be required to advise clients on different financial models, loan, providing legal advisory services on private equity.
He stressed that lawyers can play a significant role in relating with government and lobbying for policies that can help improve business of shipowners, charterers and all other stakeholders in the maritime industry.
Oluwoyin noted that the Ibom Deep Seaport would become one of the largest deep water ports in West African and serve as a hub for port operators in the whole of the sub-region. Once completed the port would be a game changer as the port will influence the generation of direct and indirect jobs in Akwa Ibom and the Nigerian economy as a whole.
This economic growth will benefit a cross section of people living in Akwa Ibom and close communities without doubt, lawyers will be one of the biggest winners of the new found maritime business hub which is fast developing in the state.