Insecurity in the maritime domain has forced three government agencies to pool C3i, C4i and Falcon Eye, the surveillance platforms to protect over $170 billion commerce transiting Nigerian waters, BAYO AKOMOLAFE reports
ver 70 per cent or $177.1 billion of the $253 billion maritime commerce, which transits the Gulf of Guinea finds its way to Nigerian ports amid insecurity that has made the region the hotbed of criminal activities.
Already, some indigenous shipping companies have closed down operations as they can no longer afford the huge cost of private armed guards, which ranges between $30,000 and $50,000, following the wave of insecurity plaguing the eastern flanks of the nation’s waterways.
Nigeria, in the past, had developed its maritime security strategy to address maritime crimes in its waters.
For instance, there have been joint task forces between the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and the Nigerian Navy backed with electronic surveillance assets that could track all vessels and craft transiting the corridor of Nigerian waters.
Correspondingly, the Nigerian Navy has also partnered two private maritime security firms to launch a secure anchorage area (SAA) around Lagos Port in 2013 in order to protect ships craving to either anchor or conduct ship-to-ship transfers offshore within the designated shipping lanes.
In its struggle to combat criminals, within the last one year, navy said that it acquired 20 riverside patrol boats, 20 Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats (RHIBs) and two 25-man house boats, which has been merged into the service’s fleet.
Others are 60m Hydrographic Survey Ship, two 40m FPBs, one 43m SDB III constructed from Naval Dockyard Limited Lagos, two 35m FPBs, a 24m FPB and four Manta Class Boats, 20 RHIBs, 23 8.5m Riverside Patrol Boats, a 25man house boat and one Leonardo helicopter AW139 used for several operations such as choke point management and control regime, river sweep, TSARE TEKU, calm waters and swift response to improved maritime security with significant economic gains.
Even with these, it was learnt that the country and others in the Gulf of Guinea needed 90 offshore patrol vessels to cover its 3,000 nm of coastline while the region has only 32.
As part of efforts to address the security issues, the Federal Government said it had made arrangements to provide the Integrated National Security and Waterways Protection Infrastructure (INSWPI) called the Deep Blue Project, the central security structure for all anchorage areas in the Nigerian maritime domain.
The Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala Usman, said in Lagos after a recent meeting with the executive management of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) led by the Director-General, Dr. Bashir Jamoh, that the two agencies had agreed to work out modalities for effective removal of all wrecks and derelicts that may hinder navigations in Nigerian waters.
She said: “We had a range of discussions bordering on the secure anchorage area, which our supervising ministry desires the Deep Blue Project to provide security for all anchorage areas in the country. Aside saving the country a lot of money, it will ensure that the security of the Nigerian maritime domain is given a focal attention.”
Also, Bala- Usman explained that both agencies had agreed to interlink the C3i of the NPA and C4i of NIMASA in order to interchange information that would assist the Nigerian Navy’s response to security.
She said: “We have the C3i Command, Control and Intelligence center at NPA and NIMASA has the C4i while the Navy has Falcon Eye. We need to interlink these facilities and we believe that this would assist the country in response to maritime security threats.”
Also, Jamoh reiterated the need to harmonise most of the working models among all maritime agencies in order to avoid duplication of duties which would also lead to more costs.
He explained that the secure anchorage area, which has been a subject of debate among the stakeholders, would now be covered under the multi spectrum security architecture popularly known as the Deep Blue Project.
According to him, “there is absolutely no need for us to have private security in our maritime space. You are aware that this increases the cost of shipping in our country. By the time the Deep Blue Project becomes fully operational, the cost of shipping would drastically reduce.”
There is need for the Federal Government to support the deep sea blue project in order to tackle insecurity and reduce the cost of doing business in the country’s maritime domain.