The Nigerian ship owners have thrown their weight behind the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) for terminating the operations of the private sector managed Secure Anchorage Area (SAA) in Lagos.
To them, Nigerian ship owners never supported the idea of having a private sector managed anchorage because securing the nation’s waters is the sole responsibility of the NPA, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and Nigerian Navy.
Speaking to newsmen in an interview in Lagos, Aminu Umar, president Nigerian Shipowners Association (NISA), said there is nowhere in the world an anchorage is operated by a private sector company, and that was why Nigerian ship owners do not utilise the SAA.
Stating that foreign ship owners that come to Lagos Ports assume that Nigerian waters are not safe, Umar said this was why foreign ships prefer to have a special anchorage that is frequently patrolled against pirate attacks.
“In other West African ports like Lome and Benin, anchorages are owned by their ports authorities. Though, we do not want to question why government gave the private sector the right to operate the SAA but we think there is no need for such rather all our waters should be made secured for shipping,” Umar stated.
An anchorage, according to the NPA Act, is as an integral part of a seaport, and is the responsibility of the NPA to chat, designate, own, operate and manage ports anchorage areas except where such responsibility is entrusted to a third party in accordance with section 9 of the Ports Act.
BusinessDay investigation reveals that shipping companies patronising the SAA are charged $2,500 for the first two days and $1,500 for subsequent days, as much as the vessel is anchored in the SAA. These charges at the SAA add up to the high port charges for vessels coming to Nigerian ports.
Recall that the NPA vide its letters dated 24th October 2017 and 25th October 2016 respectively sought the intervention of the Minister of Transportation to dismantle the facility due to its high cost on ships.
Also, the Authority vide letter dated 9th October 2019 addressed to the Nigerian Navy, requested for stoppage of the operation of the SAA pending conclusion of a new framework, and this has generated several controversies.
A source close to the NPA, who does not want his name on the print, told our correspondent that the responsibility to oversee the maintenance of security in Nigerian maritime domain lie with the Nigerian Navy, Marine Police, NIMASA and NPA in accordance to their area of jurisdiction as provided by relevant legislation.
The source further claimed the SAA is being operated by Ocean Marine Services Ltd (OMSL), a private sector entity but with logistical support from the Nigerian Navy, and that in 2014, the NPA procured and handed over to the Navy, three new patrol boats for usage by the Nigerian Navy to safeguard the Lagos anchorage and offshore waters within the Lagos Pilotage District.
“The NPA investigation shows that the said SAA was authorised by NIMASA, and it published a marine notice on the existence of the SAA as an additional security service facilities for the provision of dedicated 24/7 watch to vessels seeking extra protection while at the anchorage offshore Lagos,” the source claimed.
According to the source, it has become very worrisome that the revenue generated from the SAA operation from 2014 till date has not been remitted to the NPA nor to the Federal Government since 2014.