Securing our water ways

As security threat in the Gulf of Guinea take twists and turns, Nigeria’s effort at stemming the intensity from this end is also commendable.The vandals seem to be coming up with creative ways to beat security forces but collaborative efforts at regional level by Navies of Countries have been quite helpful.

In Nigeria, the synergy between the Navy, Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and other security agencies may be yielding results.

Recently, operatives of the Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) NWAMBA foiled attempt by pirates to hijack a British merchant vessel, MT VECTIS OSPREY.

The operatives while responding to a distress call at about 20 nautical miles offshore of Bonny were said to have engaged the pirates who were about boarding the vessel.

From investigations, the ship’s crew had sent a distress call to Naval Regional Maritime Awareness Centre (RMAC) through the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), notifying them of pirates attack and without delay; NNS NWAMBA was deployed to the scene, where it engaged the pirates in a gun duel forcing them to flee.

The Navy which has also has continued its crackdown on the activities of illegal crude oil thieves and pipeline vandals made several incursions in this area within the month of August. On the 10th, a patrol team deployed by NNS JUBILEE raided an illegal refinery site at IkohImoh Community in Akwa-Ibom State. During the operation, the patrol team destroyed a Cotonou boat laden with suspected stolen crude oil, 103 drums of illegally refined Automotive Gas Oil (AGO) and two motorcycles.
Similarly, on 12th August, at about 0630, patrol team deployed by NNS DELTA raided several illegal refinery sites along Jones Creek in Delta State. During the raid, the patrol team destroyed unquantifiable amount of stolen crude oil and illegally refined AGO.
On August 13, Navy Ship NWAMBA, at about 1000 arrested Marine Vessel (MV) STAR SHRIMPER. The vessel was alleged to have tried to evade interrogation when intercepted by the Nigerian Navy vessel, with an unclear reason for its action. The vessel and its crew were taken for investigation.

Chief of Naval Staff (CNS) Vice Admiral Ibok-EteIbas said the Navy is boosting cooperation with Navies of neighbouring countries to check the menace of piracy and maritime crimes. “As it is done in the north east, even in the maritime frontiers we are cooperating with our neighbours, because as you are aware, security is the concern of everybody more so at sea which does not have well defined boundaries as on land,’’ he pointed out.

He explained that many cooperation initiatives which exist between Nigeria and Navies of Gulf of Guinea recently resulted in the release of a hijacked vessel.

“The case of bombing of pipe lines, some of which is onshore, requires a holistic approach which the Nigerian Navy is cooperating with sister Services and security agencies towards addressing the problem,’’ he noted.

NIMASA on its part is maintaining presence. The Director General, DakukuPeterside, recently assured stakeholders and all vessels calling at Nigerian ports of their safety and security.

“Nigeria as a maritime nation takes the issue of security very seriously that is why we are also taking issue of enforcement of ISPS code seriously because it is crucial to the work we do. Therefore, all we can say to all those who call in our ports is to be assured of their safety and their security,” he said.

Peterside stated that the country as at the last count is rated 78 percent compliance level in ISPS Code implementation.

Maritime experts like Val Usifoh, President Shipping Association of Nigeria (SAN) believe that the security operatives are trying in securing the waters. “I think we the Navy, NIMASA are trying. Initially there was no synergy; no collaboration, but now everybody has seen how strategic it is. It is an international requirement that the waterways should be safe. It is not only an international thing but for the country as a whole. You know the country has pretty security challenges not only on our water ways but in fact more now on land.”

From time, obvious threats by sea vandals includes sea robbery and piracy, crude oil theft and illegal bunkering, unreported and unregulated fishing, drug and human trafficking and proliferation of small arms and light weapons.

SHIPS AND PORTS DAILY thinks that given the momentum, the security operatives should up the ante even more to ensure the pirates are completely neutralised along the gulf of Guinea.

For greater efficiency, the Navy should continuously partner with countries like United States of America to create regional maritime awareness for countries in the Gulf.

The awareness is necessary to have complete maritime awareness of Nigeria’s maritime environment and the Gulf of Guinea and the need for member states to collaborate in terms of intelligence gathering and information sharing.

Let the fire remain.

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