NIMASA And FDFA, Collaborates To Ensure Safety Of Fishing Vessels In Nigerian Waters

B Stephen Ubanna

Multinational and Local Companies   fishing in Nigerian waters can now heave a sigh of relief over the safety of their vessels from Pirates attack.  This is because Bashir Jamoh, led Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, and the Federal Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture, FDFA, have begun discussion to ensure the Safety of fishing vessels and their operators in Nigeria.

. At a recent one day strategic meeting in Lagos, the nation’s Commercial nerve centre, which was said to have been held under the auspices of   the  Maritime Regulatory agency  External Relations  and Technical  Cooperation Programme, aimed at seeking at seeking areas  of Collaboration  between  the two agencies  for the benefit  of the nation’s fishing  industry , they were said  to have discussed  issues relating  ‘’to Safety  of fishing  vessels,, illegal , unreported  and unregulated ,IUU, fishing and other broader crimes that  usually occur  during fishing in Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea.

  Last March the Nigerian army had freed  the Asian country of China fishing boat  from their Pirates hijakers. The Chinese fishing boat which was registered in the Central African country of Gabon, was said to have been jijacked  using  high-speed  off the Gabonese  port of Gentil on February 7, 2021. Six Chinese nationals,  three Indonesians, a Gabonese and four Nigerians , were said to have been kidnapped by the Pirates.  

However, the Nigerian Army had issued a Statement that  the Gabonese flagged Chinese fishing vessel Crew members were freed by the Pirates after one month in their captivity with the payment of  the North American country of the United States, US, $300,000.

Hailufeng 11, Chinese Fishing vessel , Arrested By NIMASA, In June 2020

Also in June, 2020, NIMASA, officials had arrested   a Chinese fishing vessel,  Hailufeng 11  , for turning off its Automated  Identification System , AIS, in order to fish illegally in Nigerian waters. Note that the AIS, is designed  to be capable of giving out  information  about  the ship to other ships  and  Coastal  Authorities  automatically for security monitoring.   Jamoh the NIMASA, Director General, had said that the  accosted Chinese fishing vessel had been of interest to the agency  for some time before it was finally arrested  for turning off its  AIS, which the Crew had claimed was faulty.

The fishing vessel was said to have been hijacked by Pirates on Saturday, May  14, 2020,   in the Coted’Ivoire exclusive Economic zone with 18 Crew members on board, eight Chinese,  seven Ivorians and three Ghanaians.

Informed  sources told The Value News that  through the cooperation  among the different  West African  countries and maritime Institutions, the vessel was tracked  and the Nigerian Navy  was able   to interdict  it some 140 nautical  miles south of Lagos Fairway Buoy in May 16, 2020.

 The vessel was said to have safely been escorted to Lagos with the 18 Crew members rescued but the 10 Pirates that had hijacked the vessel were arrested. The Chinese Company that had owned the fishing vssel was said to have paid a fine of N3 million for switching off its AIS, as a deterrence to other Companies fishing illegally in Nigerian waters.  

Many believe that with the synergy between NIMASA AND FDFA, it would be very difficult for Pirates to succeed in attacking fishing vessels in Nigerian waters,  let alone for  ‘’illegal, unreported and unregulated , fishing  vessels to fish in Nigerian waters and escape.

Eddward Osagie, an Assistant Director,  in the Agency, Public Relations Department,  had said that  Isichei Osambgbi , a Director, and Head of External Relations and Technical Duties  had represented  Jamoh, the agency boss at the strategic meeting with FDFA.  The NIMASA  Director, may have spoken the mind of the Director General when he  noted that  ‘’with the synergy between the two government agencies,  there should be  adequate sharing of information  between  FDFA, which has the mandate to license fishing vessels and  NIMAASA, which is responsible  for the Registration and Survey  of the vessels  in Nigerian waters  to ensure that unseaworthy vessels  were not licensed.

oSambi, who had the mandate of the Director General  to speak on his behalf  at the meeting with FDFA,  had said  that ‘’it is important  that NIMASA and FDFA,  agree to continuously  Collaborate  on modalities  for Registration,  Survey  and Licensing of fishing vessels to ensure  that all safety standards  are met   before they could be allowed to operate in Nigerian waters’’.  He believes that with the Collaboration, ‘’it would drastically reduce the incidents of Pirates attack   of fishing vessels in Nigerian waters.

 Recall that Jamoh on assumption of duties in March 2020, had set a three point agenda in the agency: maritime safety, maritime security and maritime development.  He has moved swiftly for the actualization of maritime security in Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea with the delivery of the $195 million maritime  securityassets, comprising of 16 Armoured  vessels for Patrol of the coastal areas, 17 Boat interceptors, two Special Mission Vessels, SMV, Two Special Mission aircrafts, , SMA, for Search and Rescue, S&R, Operations, three Special Mission Helicopters and four unmanned Aerial vehicles as many Pirates operating in Nigerian waters  were forced to relocate to Ghana, Gabon and other countries in the West and Central African sub-regions.

NIMASA, Deep Blue Project, SMV, A Nightmare To Pirates

This confirms what the NIMASA boss, had said on taking delivery of the maritime security assets from HLS, security Systems and Technologies Limited, an Israeli, firm, that ‘’the days of the Pirates and sea thieves’’ in Nigerian maritime domain  are numbered’’ .  He has every reason to say so. This is because HLS Systems and Technologies Limited, the Israeli firm that had supplied the maritime security assets, the Nigerian Navy and the Nigerian Air Force, have been involved in training the personnel that would  operate the security assets both on land, sea and air.

The Israeli firm, was said to have trained 600  officers Locally  to compliment  the efforts  of the officers drawn from  the military, Department of State Security, DSS,  Nigerian Police Force, NPF, and The Nigerian Civil Defence  Commission, NCDC,  for the Integrated  National Security  and Water Ways Protection Infrastructure, popular ,Deep Blue Project.     

 In his remarks at the meeting with NIMASA, officials, Paul Opuama,  Head, Monitoring , Control and Surveillance , of FDFA,  who could not hide his feelings   had said that the meeting has ‘’provided   a very useful opportunity  to them  not only  to clear  some  grey  operational  areas  but to  foster closer  working relationship  with the agency in order ‘’ to improve  safety of Fishing vessels’’.   

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