Ship owners and Master Mariners have commended the Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and the Nigeria Navy for securing the Lagos anchorage area and ensuring that there has been no pirate attack after the cancelation of the OMSL Contract by the Federal Government about two months ago.
Recall that President Muhammadu Buhari recently cancelled the controversial Lagos Secure Anchorage Area (SAA) contract handled by Ocean Marine Solutions Limited (OMSL).
The contract, in which OMSL, in partnership with the Nigerian Navy had been providing security services to foreign ships calling at the Apapa and Tin Can Island Ports in Lagos at $2,000 per day at a designated area called the Secured Anchorage Area, became controversial when the Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, in February last year announced its cancellation, asking NIMASA and Nigerian Ports Authourity to take charge of the security of the area.
But, about three months into the cancelation, ship owners and Master Mariners have commended the role played by NIMASA and the Nigeria Navy in ensuring the security of the Lagos anchorage, while calling that such security should not be limited to Lagos anchorage alone.
Shipping Position Daily recalls that at a recent meeting with the Shipping Association of Nigeria (SAN), the Director General of NIMASA, Dr Bashir Jamoh had assured that the agency was intensifying efforts to protect, interdict, and deter threats around vessels anchored in the Secure Anchorage Area.
The Shipping Association of Nigeria is the umbrella body for all multinational shipping lines operating in Nigeria.
Jamoh said the new security effort was encapsulated in the total deployment of assets under the Integrated National Security and Waterways Protection Infrastructure, also called the Deep Blue Project. The deployment is on-going with the primary aim of providing security in Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea and tackling the security challenges encumbering the shipping business in the area.
“We are deploying high-tech assets under the Deep Blue Project to not only deal with piracy and armed robbery in our territorial waters frontally, but also respond to the increasing sophistication of these maritime crimes,” Jamoh stated. “The Nigerian Navy and NIMASA are partnering to ensure a high level of security in our waters. We are tying up all loose ends and very soon everything would become manifest and clear to stakeholders and operators.”
The DG, who spoke in response to security concerns raised by SAN following the cancellation of the SAA contract by President Muhammadu Buhari and transfer of the responsibility for the area’s protection to NIMASA and the Nigerian Navy, said there was no security vacuum in Nigerian waters.
Representatives of major shipping lines operating in Nigeria, who attended the meeting, included the Managing Director of Grimaldi Nigeria, Ascanio Russo, and Managing Director of CUA- shipping, Haul Odeyer. Maersk Nigeria and GAC also had representation at the meeting.
But, in a chat with our correspondent, the immediate past President of Nigeria Indigenous Ship Owners (NISA), Mr. Aminu Umar noted that since the OMSL cancellation, there has been no increase in attacks on ships in the Lagos anchorage, he however called for robust security in the entire Gulf of Guinea.
He said, “so far, we cannot say there is any increase in threat compared to how it used to be, we understand that the Nigeria Navy in conjunction with NIMASA have intensified patrol at the Lagos anchorage, the secured anchorage is just within the Lagos anchorage, so the entire Lagos anchorage is under patrol under Navy and NIMASA.
“Remember that the directive is that NIMASA should secure the entire Lagos anchorage, so I think NIMASA is doing that, I understand they are deploying some assets that will add to what the Navy have, so far the threat or attack on vessel at Lagos anchorage, I don’t think we have witnessed any and we thank God for that and we are grateful for whatever NIMASA and Navy are doing there.
“However, in the entire Gulf of Guinea, south of Lagos, the threat has not reduced and the situation is still on and we witnessed an attack just recently and this is something that is not good to hear, and we want to see the Navy and NIMASA handle that area as well” he said.
Speaking also, the President National Association of Master Mariners (NAMM), Capt Tajudeen Alao, also commended the effort of NIMASA and the Nigeria Navy in securing the Lagos anchorage, while also demanding that the security should extend to the entire Nigerian waters.
“I commend the courage of those who fought for the stoppage of that illegal set up, so when you have such a thing being removed, normally there would be issues of some attacks to show that they need to be there, but in the last two months everything is quiet. So our bone of contention now is to make the water safe, not just a fee-paying for specially carved area, we should demand from the government to make the whole of our waters safe” he said.
On his part, the President of the Ship Owners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Dr. Mk George Onyung, said there is need to wait for the deployment of the deep blue asset of NIMASA before giving verdict on whether the Lagos anchorage area is secured
“Nobody sleeps at the anchorage, so it is hard to say and again the security is not for a secure anchorage, it is for the whole coast line, NIMASA said they are going to deploy the deep blue project asset, let everybody wait and see what they will do after it is deployed”.