Nigeria has continued to press for the lifting of the War Risk Insurance (WRI) imposed on vessels delivering goods and merchandise to Nigeria due to fears of insecurity.
The management of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety (NIMASA) led by Bashir Jamoh (Director-General) is said to have launched series of moves and presentations across the globe for its removal.
Ubong Essien, the special assistant to the DG revealed in a media parley in Port Harcourt at the weekend that is causing serious inflation in Nigeria. He explained that goods coming to Nigeria carry very high and discriminatory fees that fuel inflation in Nigeria.
Revealing how the NIMASA DG has gone to key maritime stations around the world to make case for WRI removal, the Essien said it is sad that this has persisted despite huge improvements in the security in Nigeria’s waters.
He lamented thus: “We are all paying the price for it. When goods enter the country, the higher cost in shipping and insurance will drive the cost up.
“The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) has admitted that the attacks have drastically dropped as never before in decades. What baffles the NIMASA management is why that though this reduction in attacks has been admitted by the IMB but the WRI is still in place. It’s a punitive insurance measure. The DG has gone to three international meetings where he has been making demand and appeal for removal of War Risk Insurance.”
Giving vivid explanations on what Nigeria (NIMASA) did to bring down piracy, Essien said Nigeria flagged off the Deep Blue Project which is a security architecture in the waters. He said it is a collaboration of the Navy, Air Force, the Army and NIMASA as driver.
He revealed the workings thus: “It is a collaboration between the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Transportation. NIMASA is driving it as the realizing agency in terms of funding for acquisition of the assets.
“You have three categories of assets, air, sea and land: In air asset category, we have two special mission helicopters and two aircraft. The helicopters handle surveillance but in the event of emergency, they can serve as intervention assets. NIMASA bears responsibility of safety of sea operations and thus uses the air assets to ensure this.
“In sea assets, we have two special mission vessels that go to sea and can stay at one spot from time to time and watch out. There are fast-moving interception boats that can take about 16 armed agents each. They serve as MSU (Maritime Security Unit). They can be deployed in the event of an attack on any vessel at the nation’s territorial waters or anywhere within its jurisdiction or permit. The vessels stay at sea and gather information via satellite and general surveillance and receive distress calls. They can deploy any number of fast boats to intervene.
“On the Special Mission Vessels, there are helipads to launch choppers and receive them back. We have drones that go out for up to 16 hours to survey and share information.
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On land asset, he went on, there is the C4i Centre which is like the nerve centre of the entire operation. It is an IT environment that is driven by computers connected to satellite that brings information and intelligence. It runs an identification system of vessels. A drone can be sent to find out what is happening to a ship.
At the C4i, he said information is coming from air to sea to land through the C4i centre and this helps to decide which asset to dispatch to where.
There is the human element which he described as the maritime security unit comprising the Navy, Air Force, Army, the DSS (department of state security), and the Police. “We are working together. It is not a small set up. We are partners but NIMASA is the driver.”
On the huge results which Nigeria expected to move the world into removing the high shipping fees imposed by the IMB, the DG’s special assistant said the Deep Blue Project as a specialised security strategy yielding huge dividends, not only in reducing pirates’ attacks but in the many arrests and recent convictions secured. With the latest 10 convictions and fines of N200,000 each by a federal high court sitting in Ikoyi for hijacking a merchant vessel, FV Hailufeng II, on May 15, 2020, the total number of convictions is 20. This is being achieved under the Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences (SPOMO) Act of 2019.
He said: “This is the first time such feat has been recorded in Nigeria’s waters. Before now, there were no strong legal instruments to hold the criminals or pirates. Now, Nigeria is becoming a model in the Gulf of Guinea in terms of security the nation’s security architecture and model.”
He said these accomplishments and many others have earned the DG the prestigious Zik Prize award in public policy and administration especially as Jamoh is on record for having positioned NIMASA for driving the maritime economy, delivered the Deep Blue Project, reducing pirate attacks to the lowest levels ever, created the Littoral States group to drive the Blue Economy, flagged off the training of 200 cadets, and many other initiatives so far in the past 14 months.
He mentioned another major accomplishment as the flag-off of removal of wrecks that have been there in the waterways for a long time. They constitute a potential danger to vessels as far as navigation is concerned. “The Minister of Transportation flagged this scheme off, and it is now ongoing. This way, NIMASA can fulfill one of its critical mandates in safety.”
He mentioned the Shipping Development & Capacity Building where 200 cadets have been flagged off to some foreign countries to train to be world class seafarers, an area Nigeria has been lacking in global participation. It is gathered that what makes a maritime nation important is how many seafarers found in any ship at sea that come from that country. For, it was gathered, South Korea leads, with the likes of Malaysia giving hot pursuit. Nigeria seems nowhere in this, but the cadet flag-off scheme may be a starting point.
He also said the National Fleet Owners Development (NFOD) would soon be unveiled to enable Nigerian shipping magnets to own vessels and play big in the trade.
He talked about how the DG launched the Triple S policy as performance anchor and for assessment, hinging on security, safety and shipping development.
He stated that Maritime Security looks at safer seas so that Nigeria can be attractive, especially looking at what was happening in the Gulf of Guinea, the criminality in the place that was earning Nigeria a very negative reputation. So, the policy seeks solution to this.
On safety, he said this looks at the operational and environmental wellbeing of the area of jurisdiction. If a ship is going to sail, let’s make sure that our shores are clear and safe.
On shipping viability policy, he said it is to give birth to productive shipping industry. His conviction is that without capacity, Nigeria as a maritime force cannot take advantage of all of her coastal world, the country cannot achieve the much-dreamt Blue Economy.
He revealed that NIMASA is working with Littoral States to create a Blue Economy where the states choose areas of advantage to participate in.
NIMASA, he stated, is out to boost the economy of Littoral States: “We want to make fishing much more economical. Tourism is a sector waiting for action. Our aim is to galvanise the littoral states to participate in areas they have comparative advantage.”
He also said NIMASA is helping in the mapping of environmental sensitivity. “This is one of the ways NIMASA is trying to boost the Blue Economy vision.”
The plank of the Blue Economy is security in the maritime sector to allow entrepreneurs unlock many areas such as fishing, tourism, transportation, etc. “What matters is that security has improved tremendously and this has been recognized by the IMB (International Maritime Bureau).
He urged states that are yet to key into the Littoral States Scheme to join and identify their areas of priority so that the partnership can reach them.