France’s Ocea has received another order from Nigeria, this time for nine vessels for the Nigerian Navy.
French publication Mer et Marine in January reported that the contract entered force at the end of 2022 and covers three 46 metre OPV 190 offshore patrol vessels, four 15 metre interceptors, and two 32 metre FPB 96 vessels.
Nigeria’s 2023 budget allocates N9 billion ($19 million) for the ongoing procurement of three 32 metre Ocea fast patrol boats, six special forces boats, and six RHIBs (rigid hull inflatable boats). Another line item lists N12 billion ($25.8 million) for the acquisition of patrol boats for the Nigerian Navy.
Nigeria has been a repeat customer for Ocea vessels, having received 18 boats and ships from the French shipyard. These include one FPB 98 Mk I patrol vessel, eight FPB 72 Mk II vessels, two FPB 110 and two FPB 110 Mk II patrol vessels in addition to four C-Falcon interceptors and the hydrographic survey vessel NNS Lana.
In October 2021, Ocea announced that it would be supplying a 35 metre OSV 115 SC-WB hydrographic survey vessel to Nigeria in support of the NNS Lana.
Other recent naval deliveries include a donated 46 metre patrol boat from China, received in October 2022, four RHIBs from the UAE’s ASIS Boats, delivered in August 2022, and the Landing Ship Tank NNS Kada, which arrived home from Damen Shipyards in the UAE in May last year.
The new acquisitions are helping Nigeria ensure safety and security in the Gulf of Guinea, which has for years been plagued by piracy, armed attacks against shipping, sea robbery, Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing, smuggling of small arms and light weapons, contraband and narcotics, trafficking and illegal mining as well as crude oil theft/illegal bunkering activities.
The Gulf of Guinea stretches from Senegal to Angola, covering over 6 000 km of coastline, with Nigeria’s maritime environment constituting 12% of the entire Gulf of Guinea. The region accounts for 10% of oil and 4% of natural gas exports to the European Union, with sea-borne trade accounting for over 85% of total trade with the rest of the world.
Nigeria loses around $26 billion a year to criminal activities, particularly piracy and sea robbery. Up until 2021, the Gulf of Guinea was regarded as the most dangerous maritime area in terms of the success rate of ship attacks, with the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) stating that of 135 maritime kidnap cases recorded in 2020, 130 took place in the Gulf of Guinea. Concerted efforts by the Nigerian Navy and other navies in the region has led to a reduction in pirate activity, with Nigeria recently exiting the International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy List.
According to the IMB, pirate activity in the highly risky waters of the Gulf of Guinea continues to decline, going down from 35 incidents in 2021 to a low 19 in 2022. Nevertheless, the IMB has cautioned that sustained efforts are still needed to ensure continued safety of seafarers in the Gulf of Guinea region, which remains dangerous as evidenced by two incidents in the last quarter of 2022.
Consistent funding over the past five years has enabled the Nigerian Navy to acquire a number of platforms and has commissioned over 100 new ships and small craft. The creation of an indigenous shipbuilding capability in 2007 has provided a number of Seaward Defence Boats. Such is the activity of the Nigerian Navy that it spent of 32 669 hours at sea during 2021, compared to 29 932 sea hours in 2020. The increased presence at sea is instrumental to the decline in criminal activities in the Gulf of Guinea.
Furthermore, the enactment of the Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences Act by the Federal Government of Nigeria in 2019 enabled a legal framework that fostered the Nigerian Navy’s collaboration with Maritime Law Enforcement Agencies to criminalize and prosecute maritime offenders.
The Special Boat Service complements Nigerian Navy Special Operations efforts in counter terrorism, counterinsurgency, maritime security operations and riverine operations. The Special Boat Service has been involved in a number of operations within the Gulf of Guinea, such as rescuing crews from hijacked vessels.
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