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.
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.
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.