Piracy:NIMASA And The Nigerian Navy Initiate New Security Measures To Protect Cargo Vessels In The Nation’s Secure Anchorage Area

By Stephen Ubanna

It is no longer going to be business as usual for the Nigerian based Pirates and their Gabonese including other Foreign Collaborators operating in Nigerian Secure Anchorage Area, SAA, to attack cargo vessels sailing to Nigerian ports or heading to other foreign ports from the country .

 This is because Bashir Jamoh, Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, and the Nigerian Navy, under the close watch of Awwal  Zubairu Gambo, a Rear Admiral, appear to have  joined forces, to fully protect Container ships and other ocean –going vessels  in Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea.

The renewed partnership  between  NIMASA and the Gambo led Nigerian Navy, may have been informed by the Saturday, January 23, Pirates attack on the European country of Turkey Container ship, MV. Mozart, which was  sailing  from Lagos to  Cape town in  South Africa.

 The attack on the Turkey Container ship, by the Pirates and   was said to have occurred 60Km or 100 miles off Sao Tome Island in the Gulf Guinea.  It is instructive to note that the attack on the Turkey Containership may have  drawn the attention of the International Community and Kitack Lim , Secretary General, International Maritime Organisation, IMO,  who was said have been  holding Consultation withJamoh, the NIMASA , Director General  on how to avoid a repeat of  such an attack on cargo vessels in Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea in the future by putting appropriate  measures in place.

The NIMASA boss in turn was said to reached out to Gambo,  the CNS, to rub minds on how to develop such anti-piracy measures in order to stop the menace in Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea. Recall the  Pirates  that had attacked the Turkish  Container ship  had kidnapped 15 Crew members and  killed the only Azerbaijani  Crew member in the ship  in their attempt to force their way in. The attack on the Turkish vessel may have forced other foreign cargo ships sailing to Nigeria to be extra-cautious while approaching the SAA and the Gulf of Guinea. This may have woken up Jamoh and Gambo, the Naval Chief into action.

Jamoh, the NIMASA, Chief Executive Officer, CEO, may have taken advantage  of the visit of a delegation  of the Shipping Association of Nigeria, SAN,  mostly CEOs, of foreign shipping Companies, to open up on the steps that had been taken by the agency and its partner,  the Navy  ‘’to protect, interdict  and deter threats  around cargo vessels  anchored  in the SAA, off the coast of Lagos.

The government had awarded a $195 million  maritime security Contract  in 2017, to HLS  Security Systems and Technologies Limited, an Israeli security firm for supply of maritime security equipment for the Integrated National Security  Water Ways  Protection Infrastructure or Deep Blue Project .

 The contract , according to informed maritime sources, was designed ‘’to secure all anchorage areas in the country maritime domain following the Cancellation of the deal between Ocean Marine Solutions Limited, OMLS, an indigenous  security Company and the Navy, which was said to have been entered by the parties without the approval of  the Nigerian Ports Authority and Rotimi Amaechi, a former governor of Rivers state and the  minister of Transportation..

The indigenous  maritime security Company, was said to have  been providing  security services to foreign ships calling  the Lagos ports of Apapa and Tin can Island  as well as the ones calling at the  south east ports  at $2,000 per day at the designated area in Nigerian waters called the SAA.

 The Company may have earned, over 70 million  in 18 months  of Providing such security services to foreign ocean going vessels   in the SAA, without remitting   any amount into the government coffers. This may have informed why the HLS, the Israeli security firm was contracted to provide the security services to the foreign cargo ocean vessels at the SAA.  NIMASA and the Nigerian Navy may have intensified the anti-piracy war, in the Nigeria SAA, in the recent time to stop  the annual loss  of about $2.3 billion to maritime crime to cover the security vacuum in Nigerian waters that may have been created with the cancellation of the OMLS  security deal with the Navy.

nimasa Deploys Maritime Security Equipment Into Nigerian Waters To Contain The Menace Of Piracy

 As a prelude to forcing the Pirates out of Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea, the agency had received two  unmanned Aerial Vehicles, UAV, and two Special Mission Aircrafts from the HLS, the Israeli security firm. The Israeli security firm was said to have also   delivered 17 fast interceptor boats,  15 armoured vehicles and two Special Mission Vessels to the agency,  which  insiders said  are already on ground, awaiting for deployment. Jamoh, the NIMASA, Director General had confirmed that the maritime equipment are scattered  into three different locations: Lagos, Benin and Onne, for easy deployment to areas for operations in the Niger Delta and Lagos SAA and the Gulf of Guinea .

Jamoh, the NIMASA, CEO, had confirmed to the SAN, delegations that  paid him a Courtesy Call recently  that the agency had started the deployment of the HLS,  delivered security equipment with the aim of providing security to ocean going vessels in Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea  .

  Appealing to the Ship Operators that all hands must be on deck  with the deployment of the maritime assets  to secure  the nation’s maritime domain and change all negative narratives, he had said that  ‘’the Pirates  and the other Criminals would soon meet their waterloo’’. He is right.

He was said to have made it clear to the SAN delegations, that the deployment of the maritime assets  ‘’marks a new dawn   for a more secure  and stable maritime environment in Nigeria’’. It is not surprising why he had said that the agency and the Navy  are partnering ‘’to ensure a high level  of security of the nation’s waters’’ because of’’ the increasing sophistication  of the maritime Crimes’’.

 He was said to have assured the International shipping Community that there was no cause to worry about the recent attacks on cargo vessels in the SAA, as’’ they are doing everything within their capacity ‘’to tie up  all loose ends’’, stating  that ‘’ very soon  everything would  become manifest and clear to the  stakeholders and Industry operators’’.  The SAN, delegations may have been worried that the attack on the Istanbul, Turkey based, MV, Mozart, had resulted because of the cancellation of the OMLS, security contract by the Katsina state born Nigerian President.

 But Jamoh, the NIMASA, Director General, would not take it, as he had dismissed the alleged security vacuum in Nigerian waters as the handwork of mischief makers.  ‘’There was no  security vacuum  in Nigerian waters’’, he had said, noting that ‘’the  government had already transferred  the responsibility of providing security at the SAA to the agency and the Nigerian Navy and that the two agencies are carrying out the national assignment perfectly well. Even the Lim, the Secretary General of IMO, had recognized NIMASA   and the Nigerian Navy’s effort  in providing security in Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Gunea.

Jamoh Presenting A Presenting Souvenir To Lynch, MD, Mediterranean Shipping Company Ltd During A meeting Between NIMASA Officials And SAN

 In spite of the fact that Lim, the IMO , Secretary General had appreciated the efforts of the Maritime Regulatory agency and the Navy in providing security in Nigerian maritime domain and the Gulf of Guinea, Andrew Lynch, the Managing Director of Mediterranean Shipping Company, may have let the cat of the bag when he spoke OF the security Challenge at the SAA during their Courtesy Call to the NIMASA boss. Lynch, the Mediterranean Shipping Company, Managing Director, was said to have exposed the security lapses at the SAA, urging the Jamoh led NIMASA Management ‘’to intensify  measures  to sustain the security  in the Area to protect cargo vessels.

 Giving the importance of the SAN meeting with the NIMSA, Director General,  Ascanio Russo, the Managing Director of Grimaldi, which ship services the Port Multi-services Terminal Limited, PTML ,known in maritime circles as a one ship terminal,  and  Paul Odeyer, Managing Director,  BUA Shipping were part of the meting. Maersk Nigeria and GAC,  Shipping, which are also Foreign Shipping Lines, were said to have  representatives  at the all important  meeting with the NIMASA CEO. Jamoh may have gladdened the heart of the CEOs, of the shipping Companies at the meeting when disclosed that some of the agency  Special Mission  Vessels, interceptor boats  and Special mission aircrafts  had been deployed  under the Deep Blue Project.

An elated NIMASA Director General further disclosed to the SAN delegations that ‘’there is an emergency  mobile Line for any vessel under threats in Nigerian waters  and the Gulf of Guinea. This is in addition to the hot line: +23448030685167.  He further stated that the agency response room could also be  reached  on Channel 16 of the Very High Frequency, VHF, radio Channel.

Only recently, the Nigerian Navy deployed 14 warships to enhance security in the secure Anchorage Area and the wide Nigerian maritime domain.  This is bad news for the Pirates, as they may no longer find it easy to attack any ocean-going vessels in Nigerian waters or the Gulf of Guinea, let alone be able to kidnap any Crew member and relocate to their hideout in the Niger Delta region or Gabon to demand for ransom.

Many believe that with NIMASA and the  Naval personnel continuous  Patrols of the nation’s maritime domain using dedicated vessels to Patrol the Secure Anchorage Area, it would give the local Pirates and their Foreign Collaborators much  trouble to contend with. There are indications that NIMASA is also Collaborating with some International Organisations like INTERTANKO  and INTERCARGO, to ensure  total security of cargo vessels in the Gulf of Guinea, with the Yaounde , Cameroon, based  International Coordination Centre playing  a leading role.

Jamoh, the NIMASA Director General had said that the  agency would never rest on its oars until  the menace of maritime insecurity, which is an age-long business  in the nation’s  waters and the Gulf of Guinea, are curtailed.He had enjoined Industry Operators whose vessels are threat  to always contact the Command, Control,  Computer Communication and Surveillance, C4i, centre, located at the agency –  owned  Nigerian Maritime Resource Development Centre, at Apapa, Lagos, the nation’s Commercial nerve centre, for necessary actions, under the Suppression  of Piracy  and other Maritime  Offences, SPOMO, Act.   

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