By Stephen Ubanna
The International Maritime Organisation, IMO, under the close watch of Kitack Lim, appears to have stepped in to take much of financial pressure off the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, which has Bashir Jamoh, as the Director General from shouldering the responsibility of tackling the Pirates in the Gulf of Guinea, region, alone.
The recent Launching of the NIMASA, Deep Blue project by President Muhammadu Buhari, in Lagos to give the Pirates harassing ocean going vessels in the Gulf of Guinea speaks volume.
The United Nations Maritime Agency has urged member states, International Organisations and the shipping Companies to contribute financially ‘to the IMO West and Africa Maritime Security Trust Fund’.
The UN, Maritime agency may have seen it as the only way to support other efforts that are being made by member countries of the two regions which have stake at the Gulf of Guinea to curb piracy and sea robbery against ocean going vessels in the region.
Nigeria may have been a step ahead of other countries that have stake in the region by drafting the anti-piracy Law and Launching the Nigerian Deep Blue project. The Inter-regional Coordination centre, ICC Yaounde, under the close watch of Narciso Fastudo Jr, and the ongoing establishment of the Yaounde Architecture Regional Integration System, YARIS, also bear eloquent testimony of efforts being made in the region to curb the activities of Pirates.
Only recently, the Gulf of Guinea Maritime Collaboration Forum and Shared Awareness De-confliction Conference,GOGPMCF/SHADE, has identified ‘Cooperation, AT sea , between regional and international Navies to be the focus at its inaugural plenary in July , this year.
This was said to have been contained in a joint Communique singed by Jamoh, the NIMASA, Director General and his Counterpart at the Yaounde ICC, in Yaounde, Capital of Cameroon, on Friday, June 11, 2021, barely a day after the Commissioning of the Deep Blue project in Nigeria, by the retired Army General.
A Statement, issued by Philip Kaynet, a Deputy Director, and Head of the NIMASA, Corporate Communications Department , said the online meeting would be hosted by the Gulf of Gunea Maritime Institute in Accra, Capital of Ghana and participation would be based on invitation of the SHADE Co-Chairs, the ICC and the Nigrian Navy.
The NIMASA, spokeperson disclosed that there will be two sessions at the virtual meeting, which would formally open the historic plenary and the second session in which the plenary Co-Chairs would ‘set the vision and plan or what the GOG –MCF/SHADE would seek to accomplish now and in the future’.
The Ladership of ICC Yaounde and NIMASA, may have gladdened the heart of stakeholders when they noted that the planned virtual meeting in Ghana is to produce a meaningful action plan and measures that would translate to a magnificent increase in the Cooperation at the sea level between regional and and international Navies, the foreign shipping Companies and other maritime stakeholders in the Gulf of Guinea.
An insider had said that the action plans and measures to be taken to Combat the increasing activities of Pirates in the region would be delivered by three working groups: Cooperation at Sea Operations. Reporting and Information Sharing, including Air D- Confliction. There are indications that each working group would be chaired by a regional Representative but supported by a subject matter expert.
The GOG-MCF/SHADE, was said to have been floated by NIMASA and ICC Yaounde, recently, following the discussions between Jamoh, the Nigerian Maritime Regulatory agency boss and Fastudo Jr, the Executive Director of the Cameroon Maritime agency.
The forum, The Magazine was informed aims to galvanise regional and international efforts for security at the Gulf of Guinea, which had become a subject of discussions in the comity of nations.
Last May, some 99 Maritime Companies, mostly foreign Shipping Companies, Organisations and flag states including BIMCO, were said to have signed the Gulf of Guinea Declaration on suppression of Piracy , in the region. Between January and May 2021, there reports of 23 23 cases of kidnap of ship Crew members in the region alone. Last year, 135 , Crew members were said to have been kidnapped from their ships globally, with the Gulf of Guinea alone, accounting for 95 of the Crew members kidnapped.
Sadam Kaptanoglu, BIMCO President, and who have had one of his ships attacked and Crew members kidnapped in the Gulf of Guinea region, had said that the best solution the interim to deal with the unrepentant Pirates in the interim is to have military assets from able and willing sub-regional states to effectively Combat the Pirates operating in the region in support of countries in the region.
BIMCO President is optimistic that if this could be done, the 2023 Piracy attacks in the region would be reduced considerably by about 80%.
He noted that with as little as two fregates with Helicopters and one maritime Patrol Aircraft in the area, the Pirates would not have a hiding place any longer to carry out their attacks and demand for ransom, that runs into millions of dollars.
Although, the Katsina state born Nigerian President had Launched the NIMASA , Deep Blue project, being implemented by Jamoh led NIMASA, and which is now ready to deploy its military assets comprising of six armoured vehicles for coastal patrol, two special mission vessels, two special mission Aircraft for surveillance of the country’s exclusive economic zone, three special mission Helicopters for serach and rescue operations and four unmanned aerial vehicles, including 17 fast interceptor boats , procured with $195 million, Kaptanoglu, BIMCO, President, had said that Nigeria , alone cannot address ‘’the root causes of the Piracy problem in the region, noting that all the stakeholders must be involved, to address the real problems with effective solutions, on behalf the seafarers.
Given the continued harassment of ocean going vessels in the region, a number of European union , EU, Naval vessels , are said to be already active in the region. There are indications that it may be networked in the future in order to Communicate Patrol responsibilities and exchange information on pirate activity in the region with Nigeria and other member states. The EU, were said to have spent $66.7 million to fight against piracy in the Gulf of Guinea in 2014, alone. The amount was said to have been spent on the upgrade of harbours and programs designed to improve Cooperation between security forces in the region.
With the Launching of the $195 million, Deep sea project , conceived by the ministries of Transportation, and Defence, which have both Land, air and sea facilities, Zubairu Gambo, a Vice Admiral and Chief of Naval Staff, have asked was said to ordered the Naval Patrol officers ‘’to take a hardened approach to deal with the pirates.