Nigeria may have impressed the United States of America (USA) enough to have got respite from the potential US ban that, like the Sword of Damocles, dangled ominously on the future of shipping between both countries.
Nigeria had fretted over the outcome of a report by a delegation of the United States Coast Guard (USCG), which toured Nigerian ports a few months ago and scored Nigeria low on the implementation of the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code.
There had been widespread fears that the US would slam a ban on shipping between the two nations, and even go as far as influencing the allies to do likewise against Nigeria.
These fears, however, have disappeared, as the USCG has declared that Nigeria is on the right path to the successful implementation of the ISPS Code.
The Team leader of a USCG delegation to Nigeria, Mr Tivo Romero, made this declaration at a meeting with members of the ISPS Code Implementation Committee in Nigeria last Friday in Lagos during a visit to the Maritime House headquarters of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), the Designated Authority for ISPS Code implementation in Nigeria.
Romero, who disclosed that the USCG team toured six port facilities in the country during their two-week visit to Nigeria, said that tremendous improvement were noticed since the last visit of the USCG to the country.
He commended NIMASA for the outreach to facility operators.
In his words: “I must commend the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency for its efforts so far. However, the United States Coast Guard will provide required technical assistance to ensure that infrastructural and legal instruments needed for effective implementation of the ISPS Code in Nigeria are put in place. I urge you all to see this project as a voyage which we have all embarked on, that must be concluded.”
Dismissing media reports that the US Government would embargo vessels from visiting Nigerian ports, Romero noted that the US Government fully supports Nigeria as a strong business partner that requires desired partnership, a reason for which, according to him, both countries would always continue to work together to ensure adequate security in the maritime sector.
On his part, the Director-General of NIMASA Mr Ziakede Patrick Akpobolokemi, expressed gratitude for the support so far to ensure compliance in Nigeria.
Akpobnolokemi, who was represented by the Executive Director, Cabotage and Shipping Development, NIMASA, Barrister Callistus Obi, noted that the implementation of the ISPS Code in Nigeria requires the support of all stakeholders.
The NIMASA boss urged port and terminal operators to see NIMASA as a partner with an ultimate goal of making their facilities a better and safer place for business.
The USCG team that visited Nigeria included technical experts whose report will be submitted to its headquarters for onward communication to Nigeria.
NIMASA, it will be recalled, was formally appointed the ISPS Code implementation DA with an official letter issued by the Ministry of Transport on May 21, 2013.
Thereafter, NIMASA promptly set out to institute the needed fresh implementation programme.
Since assumption as the DA for the ISPS Code implementation, NIMASA has dispatched competent Recognized Security Organizations (RSOs) to conduct security surveys and assessments aimed at identifying and correcting deficiencies and all other observed vulnerabilities.
The ISPS Code implementation DA is propagating continuous year-to-year inspection of port facilities, in order to meet up with the required standard.