By Stephen Ubanna
Between 2017 and now, the North American country of the United States Coast Guard, USCG, has beamed its searchlight on the Nigerian seaports and jetty facilities located in different parts of the country to ensure that they comply with the International Ships and Ports Security , ISPS, Code.
The ISPS Code is an International Maritime Organisation, IMO, a United Nation, UN maritime agency, document implemented through special measures to enhance maritime security in the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, SOLAS. The Code, according to maritime experts is a two-part document describing the minimum requirements for security of ships and ports.
Giving the alleged non-compliant level of some of the Nigerian ports and jetties to the ISPS Code may have informed why the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, was appointed as the designated Authority for the implementation of the ISPS Code in 20213 in the country.
The USCG, officials may have been convinced that NIMASA under the Leadership of Bashir Jamoh, OFR,with the collaboration of other security agencies, particular, the Nigerian Navy, had actually made good use of the 16 armoured vehicles for coastal patrol,, 17 fat interceptor Boats, Two Special Mission Aircrafts for the Surveillance of Nigeria’s Exclusive Economic Zone, EEZ, Two Special Mission vessels and four Unmanned Aerial Vehicles including three helicopters procured by the Nigerian government with the sum of $195 million to tackle the menace of piracy and sea robbery in the nation’s maritime domain and the Gulf of Guinea.
Jonna L.Clouse, a Lt. Commander, was said to have led a delegation from the US Coast Guard to the agency on Monday July 17, 2023, barely one year after the first visit under the present Jamoh’s Administration for a peer review of the Nigerian ports and Jetties.
The US. Coast Guard, Lt. Commander who could not hide his feelings while on the working visit with his Team to NIMASA, had said that that the USCG is engaging the Nigerian Maritime Regulatory agency on a constant basis ‘’to ensure that more ports and jetties in the country comply with the ISPS Code, expected to enhance the security of the entire Nigeria maritime domain’’.
She was emphatic: We are in Nigeria to assess the level of compliance with the ISPS Code’’, stating further that their desire is ‘’to enhance cooperation between the Nigerian maritime domain and he US Coast Guard and offer its expertise to NIMASA, in ‘’closing identified gaps’’ in its anti-piracy operations.
We hope to work with NIMASA to reduce and end the continuous conditions of Entry regime for vessels calling from Nigeria to the US ports. Clouse had commended Jamoh and his Management Team for the efforts made in cooperating with the USCG.
At present ,there are about eight existing ports in the country which includes the Lagos ports of Apapa, Tincan Island, Port Terminal Muti-services Limited, PTML, Kirikiri Lighter Terminal Phases I and II, and the south east ports of Warri in Delta state, Onne and the Rivers port in PortHarcourt, including the Calabar port in Cross river state.
This is in addition to the over 276 jetties dotting the nooks and corners of the Nigerian maritime domain and the continuous proliferation of other unlicensed jetties scattered across the nation’s waterfronts with its attendant economic, security and safety implications which appears to have made the US Coast officials visit to the agency very important.
Only recently, Godwin Oyekazi, President of the Nigerian Importers Integrity Association, NIIA, had sounded an alarm over the activities of the unlicensed jetties operators on the Kirikiri channel in Lagos, the nation’s commercial nerve centre who have turned their facilities to Container terminals from where hundreds of empty Containers are loaded into barges and shipped out of Nigeria to the neighbouring ports I the Wet African subregion, particular, the Atonomous port of Benin, Conou, Benin Republic, Tema port, Ghana and Lome port in Togo.
Oyekazi had called on NIMASA and other relevant government agencies in 2022. To halt the activities of the unregulated private jetties and oil service centres that have conveted their jetties to Container terminals for contravening the ISPS Code but that was how far he could go.
In apparent response to Lt Commander’s Clause speech during USCG officials recent visit, Jamoh, the agency Chief Executive Officer, CEO, of the agency noted that due ‘’to the dynamism of maritime threats and patterns , NIMASA has been fortunate ‘’to have peer review partners that create avenues for developing capacities needed for effective ISPS Code implementation’’.
He was said to have elucidated the steps taken by the agency over the last three years to ensure that the ISPS Code compliance in the existing Nigerian ports and jetties are over 90%. He was said to have highlighted the need for the United States ‘’to review also the condition of Entry regime for Nigerian .vessels laden with cargoes calling at the ports in the North American country.
He averred that despite efforts taken by the agency in improving security in the Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea including the ISPS Code implementation, in Nigerian ports and Jeties, ’’the issue of condition of Entry , still hovers over vessels from Nigeria calling at the ports in the US and which ought to be removed.
The NIMASA boss, who could not hide his feelings had said that ‘’for vessels leaving Nigeria ‘’ to undergo stringent port controls before being granted access to access any of the US ports, has adverse effects on the aggregate shipping economies of Nigeria’’. He noted that ‘’the delays had led to the additional costs that strain an already present high freight cost of freight within the Gulf of Guinea region, insisting that ‘’ this is adversely affecting shipping in Nigeria’’.
He may have gladdened the heart of industry stakeholders when he disclosed that the agency have reviewed the decision taken by the USCG, on the issue and proposed an action plan ‘’to enable the country’s Coat Guard physically determine the compliance levels of these facilities in the condition of Entry list’’.
Appealing to the USCG, to facilitate the removal of Nigeria from the Condition of the country’s Entry list, Jamoh, was said to have declared the readiness of NIMASA, to cooperate with the US maritime security agency team ‘’to close all identified gaps before the full Audit of August ,2023’’.
He had alluded to the Nigerian ports and jetties compliance level to the ISPS Code, in 2013, when it was a mere 13% and the Nigerian maritime regulatory agency appointed as the designate Authority for the Administration Code, stressing that tat the situation has changed for better.
He had said that the USCG officials visit to Nigeria was part of ‘’ the assessment processes in motoring the compliance levels at the Nigerian ports and jetties while enhancing cooperation and peer review exercise’’.
Recall that during the USCG , Team visit toNIMASA, 2022, led by one- Captain Brian Lisko, of the Department of State to conduct assessment of the country’s ports and jetties to ascertain the International Ships and Ports Security , ISPS, Compliance levels and how it can support in terms of giving technical assistance hand commended Jamoh led NIMASA, ‘’for oppressing criminality in Nigeria’s maritime domain and by extension the Gulf of Guinea.
Captain Lisko and his Team members had left Nigeria with a mindset to have improved collaboration with NIMASA, in 2022, to sustain the momentum of the successes that has resulted in the agency anti-piracy war which had freed Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea from the activities of pirates and sea robbers.
It is not surprising why industry stakeholders had said that USCG, has no reason to still subject vessels calling from Nigeria to any of the US, seaports on the Entry regime ‘’ when much work has been done by NIMASA, under the current Management over the last three years to ensure that the nation’s ports and Jeties facilities complies with the provisions of the ISPS Code.
They noted that the same approach adopted by the agency to see that that the International Maritime nations remove the country from the war list would be adopted in ensuring that the US remove Nigeria from COE list to remove the unguided delays caused ocean –going Nigeria vessels as well as reduce the high cost of freighting cargoes from the North American country to Nigeria.