Monday, November 15, 2021 4:39 pm
Okafor Ofiebor/ Port Harcourt
The management of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, has said it is determined to ensure that the War Risk Insurance placed on goods being shipped to the country is lifted.
Mr Ubong Essien, Special Assistant on Communication and Strategy to the Director-General of NIMASA, Dr Bashir Jamoh, disclosed this in chat with section of journalists in the Agency’s Zonal Office in Port Harcourt.
Essien who spoke of behalf of Jamoh noted that the recent wave of arrests and convictions of sea pirates as well as massive investment in security assets were part of the measures being pursued by NIMASA to guarantee safety of ships on Nigerian waters.
He added that the arrests and convictions of pirates will help Nigeria win the quest for the removal of War Risk Insurance(WRI) that resulted in imposition of heavy cost on imported goods being shipped into Nigeria.
According to him, among the convicted suspects were 10 pirates who were each jailed 10 years with a fine option of N200,000 last week by a Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi for hijacking a Merchant vessel, FV Hailufeng II, on May 15, 2020.
The conviction of the 10 persons brings the number of pirates that have so far been convicted under the Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences (SPOMO) Act of 2019 to 20, he noted.
Essien explained that the accused person were convicted on a three-count charge that borders on piracy in contravention of the provisions of sections 3, 10, and 12 of the Act.
“This is the first time such feat has been recorded in Nigeria’s waters. Before now, there no strong legal ground 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.
Essien noted that the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) has admitted that the pirate attacks within the territorial waters under the jurisdiction of NIMASA have drastically dropped as never before in decades since Dr Bashir Jamoh took over as DG.
Essien however lamented that the success has not led to the removal of the War Risk Insurance slammed on Nigeria (vessels coming to Nigeria are charged higher fees for the sake of insecurity).
“It is also sad that this has persisted despite huge improvements in security in Nigeria’s waters. 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”.
According to him, the DG of NIMASA is also concerned and has been on international campaign for the lifting of the War Risk Insurance, WRI placed on Nigerian goods.
“It’s a punitive insurance measure. The DG has gone to three international meetings, where he has been making demands and appeals for the removal of War Risk Insurance on goods and Ships coming the Nigerian territorial waters”.
“The DG had declared that given all of the challenges in the Nigerian Maritime domain, he was going to approach it from a three point agenda, which is known as the NIMASA Tripod or three ‘S’.
“The first is maritime Security, targeted at returning security to the waters and creating a safe coast area. The Second is Maritime Safety with the goal of looking at how Nigeria can secure an enabling environment so shipping can take place in a safe and secure manner and third is Shipping Development aimed at developing the capacity Nigeria needs so that shipping can thrive.
“On Maritime Security,the agency focuses on the policy on 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.
“On the other hand,Safety looks at the operational and environmental wellbeing of the area of jurisdiction. For instance,”If a ship is going to sail, let’s make sure that our shores are clear and safe”.
“Shipping Viability policy is to give birth to a 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.
“The major accomplishment there is the flagging-off of the removal of wrecks that have been there in the waterways for a long time.
“They constitute potential danger to vessels as far as navigation is concerned. The Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi flagged this scheme off, and it is now ongoing. This way, NIMASA can fulfill one of its critical mandates in safety.
“In the area of Shipping Development human Capacity Building, he stated that two weeks ago 200 cadets have been sent to India and Greece for foreign training.
Essien further added that Jamoh has initiated Littoral States programme in which some states have shown willingness to volunteer participation in some aspects of the Blue Economy.
“For instance, Bayelsa State has offered to do recycling of wrecks. It is going to be a collaboration project with NIMASA, Nigerian Railways Corporation (NRC), Bayelsa, with a South African Technical company. This may produce parts from the recycled wrecks for the NRC.
“Some other states prefer to participate in training and manpower development schemes, some will do fishing, etc.
“Ours is to galvanise these states and partners to embark in the Blue Economy. These efforts are expected create employments and create market for the products”.
Also he said further that in collaboration between the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Transportation,NIMASA is driving it’s set objectives the area of funding for acquisition of the assets.
He added that the agency has acquired two special mission helicopters and two aircraft. According to him, while the choppers handle surveillance, 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,” Essien said.
On sea assets of NIMASA, Essien said, “We have two Special Mission vessels that go to sea and can stay at one spot and watch out. They 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.
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. NIMASA has drones that go out for up to 16 hours to survey and share information.
On Land Assets of NIMASA, Essien said, “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 identification system of vessels. A drone can be sent to find out what is happening in a ship. At the C4i, information is coming from air to sea to land through the C4i centre and this helps to decide which asset to dispatch to where.
“In the area of human element, the agency maritime security unit is made up of the Navy, Air Force, Army, the DSS and Police working together as partners but NIMASA is the driver.”