maritime security, niger delta, pirate attack, naval personnel

The Director-General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Dakuku Peterside, has said the Agency’s regulatory and promotional activities have been a major economic stimulus for the country, especially in the last one year.

Dakuku stated this at the weekend in Lagos during a world press conference ahead of NIMASA’s Annual Corporate Dinner and Awards ceremony.

He said the Agency had symbolised change, declaring, “No organisation in the country currently typifies change more than NIMASA.”

The Director-General identified recent transformations in the country’s maritime administration that had been major economic drivers to include the Final Billing System for Freight Charges, Improved Maritime Safety, Security, and Domain Awareness, and the Tripartite Agreement by Maritime Stakeholders.

Other critical changes in the sector, according to Dakuku, are the renewed capacity building drive through implementation of a five-year cabotage cessation plan, and the rejigging of the Nigerian Ship Registry.

He said before Final Billing System introduced by his administration, it took between five and 10 years to reconcile bills in relation to the three per cent freight charge on vessels coming into the country. With this tardy system, such vessels were always on NIMASA’s books as owing or having bills to reconcile.

“But with the Final Billing System, we have put an end to double billing, over-billing, and protracted billing. The system ensures closure of all vessel billing transactions within two weeks after departure,” Dakuku stated, adding, “This has led to improved customer satisfaction.”  

He said the country had equally made major strides in the drive for improved maritime domain awareness. “With the use of satellite surveillance technologies, in combination with intelligence systems, we are able to identify, with a consistent 365 days and a five-year profile, all vessels that visit our Exclusive Economic Zone. We are further able to identify vessels that are believed to be engaging in suspicious activities and take appropriate actions,” he explained.

NIMASA has launched a five-year Cabotage cessation plan beginning 2021, aimed at ending the grant of Cabotage waivers and ensuring full implementation of the Coastal and Inland Shipping (Cabotage) Act 2003, which came into force in 2004.

Dakuku said the new cabotage regime had started making impact. According to him, “There has been an increase in the number of wholly-owned Nigerian vessels on the Nigerian Cabotage register. The 2018 half year result showed that 125 vessels were registered, representing a 33 per cent increase when compared with the 94 registered in the corresponding period in 2017. Currently, there are more than 200 vessels captured in the Cabotage register.

“Also, about 68 per cent of vessels trading within the country’s maritime space are Nigerian-flagged.”

On maritime safety, which is one of the core mandates of NIMASA, Dakuku highlighted the following achievements in the preceding year: the emergence of Nigeria as the most outstanding in Port and Flag State Control in the West and Central Africa Sub-Region in a report by the Abuja Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), which noted that the country had the highest port state inspection; increased Certificate of Competency examinations; inauguration of Search and Rescue volunteers in 10 coastal states; development and implementation of Biometric data for non-conventional vessels and small boats; and automation of the process for issuance of Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) and call Sign.

In the area of maritime security, Dakuku said NIMASA had in collaboration with the Ministries of Transportation and Defence, the Nigerian Navy and other relevant security agencies established a multidimensional solution to the issues through the Deep Blue Project. 

The Integrated National Maritime Surveillance and Security Infrastructure (The Deep Blue Project) is a multipronged solution to the issue of insecurity in Nigeria’s territorial waters and the entire Gulf of Guinea. 

It comprises a training component and the acquisition of assets, such as fast intervention vessels, surveillance aircraft, and other facilities, including a command and control centre for data collection and information sharing that will aid the goals of targeted enforcement.

The Command, Control, Computer Communication and information centre, otherwise known as the C4i Centre, of the Deep Blue Project has commenced operations on a 24-hour basis at NIMASA’s Maritime Resource Development Facility at Kirikiri, in Lagos.

Nigeria hosted a Global Maritime Security Conference in Abuja last October as part of efforts to achieve a holistic solution to security issues in the country’s maritime domain.

Dakuku said, “The Deep Blue Project and the hosting of the global security conference are part of efforts to complement on-going actions of the Nigerian Navy, which is the largest in that region.”  

Secretary General of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), Kitack Lim, lauded the conference as the most successful maritime security conference the world had seen in the last decade. Lim also described Nigeria as the most improved maritime administration since his tenure as Secretary General of IMO.

One of the Agency’s major areas of focus in 2019 with respect to Maritime Labour was employment and capacity development of seafarers and dockworkers.

“Perhaps, the biggest achievement in the area of maritime labour last year was the tripartite agreement signed by stakeholders, which NIMASA facilitated,” Dakuku stated.

The Agency facilitated the conclusion of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) and its endorsement by the Tripartite Parties under the National Joint Industrial Council for Seafarers and Dockworkers (NJIC). With this, NIMASA, in conjunction with the tripartite stakeholders (Employers and Employees), successfully completed the International Labour Organisation (ILO) reports on Maritime Labour Conventions (MLC, 2006 and Dockwork Convention, 1973).

The Director-General announced the holding of the Agency’s Corporate Dinner and Awards on January 18, saying the annual event started in 2018 is an occasion to celebrate maritime industry stakeholders and staff of NIMASA who have made outstanding contributions to the growth of the sector.