Anxiety mounts over Nigeria’s ISPS Code status

The United States Coast Guard (USCG) and the United States Embassy in Nigeria have snubbed requests by SHIPS & PORTS DAILY to comment on Nigeria’s status with regards to the 90-day ultimatum given to the Federal Government to update the security of Nigerian seaports and other related facilities to the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code standards.
The 90-day ultimatum expires today.
In a bid to independently confirm the Nigeria’s ISPS Code status, SHIPS & PORTS DAILY had, early last week, sent separate mails to the USCG and the US Embassy in Nigeria, but both, as at press time, maintained sealed lips over the issue none responded to the emails.
The USCG, which visited and conducted an assessment of Nigerian ports in May this year, had issued a damning report, which prompted the ultimatum. The USCG team is expected back in the country in September to determine Nigeria’s compliance with the deadline.
Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), the Nigerian Government’s Designated Authoriyy (DA) for the enforcement of the ISPS Code in Nigeria, Mr. Patrick Akpobolokemi, who briefed newsmen in Lagos last Wednesday on efforts of the agency to beat the deadline, hinted that tremendous successes have been recorded in making Nigerian port facilities comply.

According to him, many port facilities have already complied with the requirements while some others are in the process of complying, saying that the issue is an ongoing exercise.
Akpobolokemi said that NIMASA has commissioned an audit of Nigeria’s coastal maritime assets.
The ongoing stocktaking exercise aims at establishing the number, location and nature of operations of all port facilities and jetties in the country.
The audit is expected to facilitate the effective execution of NIMASA’s brief as the DA for Nigeria’s implementation of the ISPS Code.
He said that the “audit will help the DA capture and catalogue all port/berthing facilities as well as verify their ISPS Code compliance status.”
All port facilities, according to Akpobolokemi, are also currently undergoing security assessments as a step towards preparing security plans that are ISPS Code compliant.
“The DA has just recently concluded Verification Inspection Exercises (VIE) on all shore-based PFs (port facilities) in the country. The report of this VIE will form the basis for re-certification of these PFs in line with ISPS code requirements. PFs deemed non-compliant will not be recertified and in extreme cases, attract added punitive action,” the NIMASA boss said.

He explained that one of the problems that had plagued port facilities, jetties and terminals has been the lack of understanding of the ISPS Code, its relevance and application, noting that a United States of America (USA) diplomatic note had roundly captured it that “security personnel were found to be ignorant of the code.”
Akpobolokemi said: “To address this, policies and measures are being put in place to ensure more training and capacity building among not just security personnel but all personnel in the maritime sector as everybody has a role to play in the ISPS theatre. Security companies that provide guard force personnel to companies operating in the maritime domain will now be required to provide ISPS training for their personnel seeing that they are functionally the primary custodians of the ISPS protocol. These security companies as well as vendors and infrastructure service providers in the maritime sector are undergoing registration with the DA in order to ensure better regulation and to streamline their activities in the maritime security arena.
“In accordance with the ISPS Code, it is the responsibility of the DA to set or change security levels for PFs in its domain. The DA will continue to work closely with the Office of the National Security Adviser and other security agencies in determining operating security levels based on the evaluation of risks and trends as well as intelligence in the various Maritime Security Zones (MSZ). The DA is working on a strategy that will see her develop capacity to gather intelligence independently and thus contribute to the nation’s intelligence gathering effort as is the case in many other countries. Furthermore, as the nation’s maritime security regulatory body, it is key that the DA be up-to-date with trends and events in both the domestic and international maritime turf. The DA is considering cost-effective ways of ensuring that it builds its domain awareness capabilities.”

The NIMASA boss said that critical success factor to the implementation programme will be the capacity and the will to enforce the mandate by a regime of incentives and sanctions, pointing out that in the past, “compliance was a huge issue as the previous DA lacked capacity to strictly enforce its mandate having lacked constitutional powers to do so.”
He posited that with NIMASA duly-established by law and possessing enforcement powers, the DA hopes to leverage this in ensuring stakeholders and particularly the port facilities owners/operators remain compliant.
“Considering that the ISPS (Code) is purely a security-related protocol, and given that activities bordering on maritime security are in fact matters of national security, the DA will not go into further details of its implementation strategy. Nonetheless, the press and teeming public will be kept in the picture on developments as the implementation programme progresses,” Akpobolokemi said.