Nigeria will commission $195 million worth of aircraft, boats and vehicles in the next three months to strengthen security in the pirate-infested Gulf of Guinea, Transport Minister Rotimi Amaechi, has said.
The deployment, under the Deep Blue Project, will help reduce shipowners’ reliance on private security companies to protect them in the sea off Nigeria’s coast, Amaechi said in an interview in Abuja.
The assets being deployed include two special mission vessels, two aircraft, two helicopters, four drones. 16 armored vehicles and 17 fast interceptor boats.
“We will have enough vessels located in the water, watching the water full time. You have aircraft watching the water, drones watching the water and all of them have the capacity to respond,” he said.
The Deep Blue Project is coordinated by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
Blue Octagon, a Herzliya, Israel-based maritime security company, was responsible for procuring the equipment, which will be operated by the security forces.
The state’s increased capabilities mean ships supporting Nigeria’s crucial oil industry, or importing and exporting goods, should have less need for the approximately 200 privately owned escort vessels manned by armed naval personnel that cost $8,000-$10,000 per day, Amaechi said.
Nigerian waters are in the center of the Gulf of Guinea, a vast expanse of the Atlantic Ocean stretching from Senegal to Angola that is the source of ever-greater anxiety for shipowners, operators and their crews. Last year, the region accounted for 95% of the 135 seafarers seized worldwide in 22 separate incidents, according to the IMB. Hostages are typically hidden in the Niger Delta region, a dense network of creeks and swamps, while ransoms are negotiated.
President Muhammadu Buhari last month terminated an arrangement in place since 2014 in which a local private security company, Ocean Marine Solutions Ltd., provided boats allowing the navy to patrol a so-called Secure Anchorage Area on the approaches to Lagos, Nigeria’s biggest city and commercial hub.