Marine engineers and surveyors in Nigeria have raised an alarm on the vulnerability of Nigerian ports to terrorist attacks.
As sanctions threat from the United States of America (USA) dangles ominously over Nigeria on the issue of alleged non-compliance with the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code, the Association of (Nigeria) Marine Engineers and Surveyors (AMES) has told the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to accept the offer of assistance made by the US Coast Guard (MSCG) towards facilitating Nigeria’s attainment of the much-sough ISPS Code full compliance.
SHIPS & PORTS DAILY recalls that the USCG recently, after a security audit of Nigerian ports, had slammed a 90-day deadline, during which Nigeria is expected to have rectified the gaps in her compliance with the ISPS Code.
Perchance, Nigeria does not meet the deadline, the USCG has warned that vessels that have visited Nigerian ports would be barred from the US, while America’s allies would be encouraged to adopt a similar stance against Nigeria.
In the same vein, the American Government is threatening to keep vessels from the US ports and those that allies from calling in Nigeria, if the expected review audit by the USCG does not confirm Nigeria;s ISPS Code compliance at the expiration of the deadline.
About three weeks to the expiration of the deadline, AMES yesterday briefed journalist at the International Maritime Press Centre, Apapa, Lagos, during which the body expressed great worries over the situation.
Flanked by other members, AMES President, Engr. Charles Uwadia, noted that the compliance verification of the ISPS Code is the responsibility of contracting member-nation’s maritime administration, and, in the case of Nigeria, NIMASA.
“In essence it requires that owners of port facilities and ships must ensure their facilities comply with the requirements of the code under the watchful eyes of NIMASA. The non-compliance is tantamount to inadequate measures for anti-terrorist attack which is considered a potential threat to International shipping, the basis of United State reaction,” Uwadia said.
It is a very serious matter, according to him, judging by the reasons of non-compliance with anti-terrorist measures, such as conflicting authority for the administration of maritime security, and, in particular, since the adoption of the ISPS Code.
“Whereas safety and security of international ships are core criteria of the world shipping linkages that must have sufficient professional input for the development of globally accepted standards, Rather than tolerate a weak link that will make global shipping trade vulnerable to terrorist attack, cargo may be diverted to neighbouring ports with political will for tolerable security standard and development, We are professional ship surveyors worried over the current development In Nigeria and cannot resist making some passionate contributions to assist the authorities on this topical issue,” the AMES President said.
He went on: ”It is in fact more worrisome that since the’ adoption of the International Convention on Unlawful Acts Against Maritime Navigation (SUA) in 1988, Nigeria has not concluded the process of promulgating national laws to give the provisions the obligatory effect. Based on these observations and others identified by the US Coast Guard, the intervention and initiative of the American Government should be a turning point towards putting in place the roadmap towards the establishment of a sustainable process for anti-terrorist measures.
“AMES recognises the Presidential bold step at this turning Point by identifying the statutory National Focal Point and Designated Authority as NIMASA, thus ending the 10 years lingering confusion over tne appropriate authority. Consequently, we strongly suggest that NIMASA should take full responsibility and the opportunity given by the Government of America to discuss, without reservation, with the International Port Security Liaison Officer Commander of the US coast Guard, David Gates, who has offered to assist Nigeria. The discussion should continue and include material input until a satisfactory level of compliance is achieved and roadmap developed to at least remove the determination of the American Government on the matter.”
The Association counseled that, while the discussion is going on, NIMASA, now fully designated authority, shouid embark on accelerated National Reform that will not only demonstrate its authority, but provides foundation for sustainable administratlon.
“AMES believes that a well-fashioned process from the evolVing changes occasioned by the US Coast Guard intervention will assist in the reform,” Uwadia said.
He added: “With due regard to the outcomes of the discussion with the US Coast Guard, we wish to suggest that the reform should include:
• Sponsoring of national laws or development of appropriate regulations to capture the essence of Unlawful Acts Against Maritime Navigation, ISPS Code and relevant International instruments;
• Making of rules for anti-terrorist measures; providing for the rights and privileges of stakeholders, setting-up standards (equipment/materials, jurisdiction, training, etc.) operational conditions/limitations, identified offences and sanctions;
• Reference to the relevant actions of the world bodies, including IMO (International Maritime Organisation), particularly the adopted Djibouti Code of Conduct for the repression of Piracy and Armed Robbery against ships in the Western Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden. In doing this, the laws, regulations and rules mentioned in paragraphs 1 and 2 above should be used to fully domesticate obligatory international instrumems. This action, by the National Assembly and the Minister (of Transport) will prepare the executing agencies for appropriate action, demonstrate the political will and the seriousness attached to the precarious situation by the Nigerian Government to meet its obligations for effective prevention, suppression, prosecution of offenders, protection of victims, recovery of damages and generating an environment of law and order.
• Identifying and designating contact persons/authority in accordance with provisions of ISPS Code and quickly updating all the existing information IMO and the world of shipping through the Global Integrated Shipping Information System (GISIS);
• Developing a national anti-terrorist implementation and enforcenment plan based on the newly developed rules and regulations;
• Reforming the existing structure and administrative procedure accordingly
• Ensuring capable hands are put in the right positions of administration and given the opportunities for continued training to become International in their designated responsibilities; and
• Enhancement of necessary co-operation with relevant agencies.”