With the prevalent security threats everywhere in the country, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has introduced new measures to check security threats in the country’s maritime domain.
The measures are mainly to deter persons who may seek illegal means of entry into the country as stowaways.
Under the new procedures, all ship captains are to submit the Security-Related Pre-Arrival Information (SRPA) forms to the Agency at any Nigerian ports not later than 48 hours before the arrival of ship.
Ship captains are also required to exchange the Declaration of Security (DoS) with the Port Facility Security Officer (PFSO) of their next port of call not later than 72 hours before the ship’s arrival at that port for conveyance to NIMASA within 48 hours.
Also, all ships are to maintain 24 hours vigilance and surveillance to detect strange movements, including small boats and skiffs that may not be captured by radar.
Other measures include proper pre-departure search and completion of pre-departure form before departure from any port; switching on Automatic Identification Systems (AIS); close monitoring of communication channels and response to any VHF call from the Nigerian Navy or the Regional Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (RMRCC).
These measures were contained in a recent statement signed by the Agency’s spokesman, Mr. Osagie Edward, who stated that the Director General NIMASA, Dr. Bashir Jamoh, said steps were consistent with the strategy of trying be ahead of criminal elements.
“Director General NIMASA, Dr. Bashir Jamoh, said that the measures are consistent with the strategy of trying to keep one step ahead of the pirates, armed robbers, and anyone or anything that poses a danger to the country’s maritime domain and Nigeria, in general.
“The procedures are easy to follow and deliberate steps have been taken to make the reporting process seamless, all for the good of the ship operators and the international shipping community. They are in keeping with NIMASA’s statutory mandate to provide maritime security and implement special actions to enhance security in line with the ISPS Code Implementation Regulations (ICIR) 2014″, the statement added.
Nigeria has in recent times witnessed a significant drop in attacks in its waters. The International Maritime Bureau (IMB), the global focal point in the fight against maritime crimes and malpractices, recorded only two incidents in Nigerian waters between January and March this year in its latest quarterly report of piracy and armed robbery against ships. This was against 11 attacks within the same period last year, 14 in 2019, and 22 incidents in 2018.
Recall that the Nigerian maritime domain and the Gulf of Guinea had seen spikes in piracy and armed robbery at sea. But since the deployment of assets under the Deep Blue Project began about two years ago, there have been drops in such security breaches. IMB reported a decline in piracy attacks in Nigeria in the third quarter of 2019, saying in its report, “Nigeria has reduced Q3 piracy attacks from 41 in 2018 to 29 in 2019.” This represented nearly 30 per cent year-on-year reduction.
One of the aircraft for the Deep Blue Project of NIMASA
The Deep Blue Project aims to prevent illegal activities in the Nigerian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), enforce maritime regulations, enhance safety of lives at sea, and prevent illegal activities in the inland waterways. In February, the Federal Government added the Secure Anchorage Area (SAA), off the coast of Lagos, to the areas under the protection of the Deep Blue Project.
A container vessel that could be susceptible to piracy attack
The project is designed with three categories of platforms to tackle maritime security issues on land, sea, and air. The land assets comprise the Command, Control, Communication, Computer, and Intelligence Centre (C4i) for intelligence gathering and data collection; 16 armoured vehicles for coastal patrol; and about 600 specially trained troops for interdiction, known as Maritime Security Unit. On air, there are two Special Mission Aircraft for surveillance of the EEZ, one of which was received May 12, with the second expected to arrive soon; three Special Mission Helicopters for search and rescue; and four Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. The sea assets consist of two Special Mission Vessels and 17 Fast Interceptor Boats.
All these have combined to mitigate the sufferings of shipowners and their crew in not only the Nigerian waters but in the entire Gulf of Guinea (GoG), as piracy and armed robbery attacks have reduced drastically.