Unless, she drastically upgrades the security status of her ports within the next 44 days, Nigeria may lose calls by ships of the United States (US) and those of certain American allies.
Nigeria may also risk a ban on vessels departing her ports being allowed berth in American ports, or those of close allies of the US.
This disturbing scenario is consequent upon the imminent expiration of the 90-day deadline America had issued Nigeria to raise what was seen as the lowly security standards of her ports, or risk vessels departing Nigerian ports being denied entry into US ports, and compelling all vessels departing the US to remove Nigeria from their schedules.
The hard stance by the American Government came in the wake of a damning report by a team of the US Coast Guard that recently audited the security status of Nigerian ports, according to sources.
The American Government had passed on its position to Nigeria through a diplomatic note to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, via the US Embassy.
In turn, the Foreign Affairs Ministry had passed on America’s message to the relevant agencies for the required remedial actions, including the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
And half way down the line to the expiration of the American 90-day deadline, a two-day General Stakeholders Conference opened yesterday at The Expo Centre, Eko Hotel and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos, on the International Ship and Port Facility (ISPS) Code Implementation and Governance.
The forum, which has its theme Reviving ISPS Code Implementation in Nigeria, is organised by NIMASA, supported by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), Federal Ministry of Transport, NPA., Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), and the Nigerian Navy (NN).
In his welcome address, NIMASA Director-General, Mr. Ziakede Patrick Akpobolokemi, said that the issues that have prompted the convening of the conference are issues that are at the heart of a global mandate, but also have implications for Nigeria as a nation.
Tracing the origin of the ISPS Code, Akpobolokemi said: “After the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York on September 11 2001, the vulnerability of lives, property and other assets to attacks by criminal-minded elements under whatever guise became a global reality. The unconventional manner in which the infamous attacks were successfully carried out and the frightening devastation they caused brought to the centre of global discourse, the need for a concerted effort to ensure the safety of lives and property everywhere. As much as terrorism is unacceptable, what is even more unacceptable is a lack of proactive response by independent nations to the constantly evolving menace of terrorism. I am pleased to note that the Federal Government of Nigeria has consistently demonstrated its awareness of the imperatives of making our nation safe and secure. It is in pursuance of our government’s commitment to combating terrorism by applying global best practices, that we are gathered here today.
“Different responses to the increasing wave of global terrorism have been adopted by nations across the world and solutions have been and are still being fashioned out for different sectors. The one which most concerns us today as stakeholders in the maritime community, is the protocol put in place by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), in the form of the ISPS Code, to ensure that the global maritime arena is free from the threat of terrorism and other maritime crimes.”
Noting that, until recently, the phenomenon called terrorism seemed alien to Nigeria, the NIMASA boss said that, at the inception of the ISPS Code, many were averse to this concept “as it was viewed as a western problem.”
He said: “Today, we have three states in the Federal Republic currently under emergency rule as a result of terrorism. This new challenge requires an articulated and comprehensive response in the form of developed and workable protective measures if our maritime sector is to remain mitigated from this scourge. There is therefore no better time to have this issue in the front burner than now.
“The ISPS Code is the standard international framework through which contracting governments, government agencies, local authorities, port and ship industries can cooperate and be assessed in the global commitment to detect security threats in the maritime transportation sector. Beginning from July 1st 2005, the ISPS Code became mandatory for contracting governments and member states of the International Maritime Organisation. It is noteworthy and commendable that the Nigerian government was quick to embrace the ISPS Code and the need for its implementation.”
NIMASA, according to him, convened the conference for stakeholders to articulate the agenda for ISPS Code implementation on behalf of the Federal Government.