Foremost Master Mariner and former Consultant to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), Capt. Abiodun Omotesho on Friday bemoaned the continued placement of Onne Port, Rivers State on Security Level 2, saying that the cost is enormous to the country.
Speaking at a one-day seminar organised by the Maritime Reporters’ Association of Nigeria (MARAN) on the implementation of the International Ships & Ports Security (ISPS) Code in Nigeria, Omotesho said the consistent emphasis of the oil and gas hub on Security Level 2 of the ISPS Code is having an adverse multiplier effect on the economy of the country while also creating apprehension among shipping lines and crew.
He said, “The Onne Port for over two years now has been on Level 2 and I wondered the damages it would have done to the economy of this country because I can’t imagine that you tell a captain of a ship you will be going to Onne ports tomorrow and he knows you are on level two, his fingers will be biting.
“He will ask himself, ‘what is happening?’ How can I keep a ship in the port for so numbers of time?’ He will be praying to leave.”
Omotesho also said that the insurance premium on ships coming into the Onne Port as a result of the heightened security level would increase insurance premium and freight rates while ships departing the port will experience delays because they would be required to undergo “serious security checks”.
His words, “The crews will have to increase their insurance, they will say Onne Port is not safe for us because they are not operating on Level 1.
“Also, if a ship sails from Onne to another facility and is asked what security level he used to sail to the port and answers Level 2, they may not allow her to come in until they satisfy themselves with further checks. This is the implication of security level change and I know the DA (designated authority for ISPS Code implementation) is always careful before they say change level.”
He cautioned that raising security levels at the port must be done with caution because it is a very sensitive issue that affects a country’s economy.
“The issue of security level is a very sensitive one and the implication that go with it. Can you fancy a ship alongside a terminal and all of a sudden she is advised they have to increase the security level? If you look at ISPS code, there are Part A that is mandatory and Part B which is optional.
“If I am on board a ship as a captain and asked to increase my security level, the first thing I am to do is to tell the owners and by the time I inform the owners in Philippines or whereever, that means there is a lot of restriction coming in. It is now something that is from one country to another country because the ship is a state.
Port Facility Security Officer (PFSO) of Greenview Development Terminal (GDNL), operators of Terminal E at the Lagos Port Complex, Apapa, George Ubana said the reason for the step up of security level at Onne Port was because of incessant pirate attacks in the region.
Ubana said that terminals and port facilities across the country cannot all be on the same security level.
“The security level was raised because pirates attack vessels over there and as soon as a vessel gets there, they must have sent all the necessary information for them to step up their responsibilities and as they are doing that the port facility will also be on Level 2.
“When you heighten up the security level, a lot of armed men will be seen at the gate. The Designated Authority and not facility or its PFSO increase security level of the terminal,” he stated.
Meanwhile, Omotoso, while speaking at the same event, said that the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) had succeeded in implementing the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) code.
“A committee was set up by the government in 2004 to implement the ISPS code but the committee got it wrong from day one and the implementation became problematic.
“The former committee that was set up by the government went straight to implement the code which had caused some racket when some foreign ships come into the country.
“For every nation that endorsed the ISPS code there was publication by the government identifying who is the Designation Authority (DA) and the DA, is NIMASA,”Omotoso stated.
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