By Omoh Gabriel
When Bashir Jamoh was appointed Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency two years ago, many skeptics did not give him a chance and due recognition. There were those who saw the appointment as being made from the point of Nigeria factor. But the few who knew him thought other wise. Jamoh had rose from the rank in the organisation and know the intricacies of the maritime sector. As an insider, a transport and logistic expert he knew what was wrong in the sector. Inter agency rivalry. Before his appointment, there was undue clamour for which of the federal agencies at the port was in charge of regulating the sector. There was the idea of Maritime regulator, economic regulator and the port land lord. Each was operating in a world of its own. There was no cooperation in the sector. Jamoh as an expert in Logistics, knew that without a holistic, and systematic approach to the operation of the maritime sector, there will be no visible improvement. His approach was unique. Team work with his colleague at the Agency and key stakeholders. He jettisoned the supremacy tactics of previous leadership and embarked on appeal to all agencies concerned with maritime to cooperate and work together to achieve a common purpose for the nation.
The Nigerian maritime space before his appointment was fast becoming a no go area for shippers because of high sea robbery and piracy. Dr. Bashir Jamoh in his own wards says the Agency is committed to continuously collaborate with all stakeholders to ensure that Nigeria attains the status of not only the hub of maritime activities in the West and Central Africa region but also a major maritime player globally. With this approach he brought on board, two years on, there is remarkable and steady progress in terms of maritime security safety and growing capacity for the industry. The statistics released by the International Maritime Bureau, IMB, showed that piracy incidents for instance, in the Gulf of Guinea has dropped from 81 in year 2020 to 34 in 2021 representing 58.02 per cent. This is not by accident, but a product of conscious collaborative efforts by NIMASA, the Nigerian Navy, Shippers’ Council, Army, Police, Airforce and other stakeholders in the region. The IMB report also showed a 62% decrease in the number of crew kidnapping incidents in the Gulf of Guinea which reduced from 150 in 2020 to 57 in 2021. To attest to the success being recorded by the sector in the last two years, the Agency continues to improve its port and flag state functions which is the core of maritime safety. The performance of the Agency in this regard in the last 4 years showed that in 2017, 525 total port state inspection was conducted by NIMASA, in 2018 the figure rose to 659, and rose further to 725 in 2019 and declined to 510 in 2020 due to the corona virus pandemic. According to available data the Total port state inspections in 2020 was 510 of the 4,728 vessel calls.
In 2019, the Agency performed a total of 2,580 flag state inspections representing 2,123 renewal inspections, 276 condition survey and 181 Random Flag State Surveys. This showed a 49% increase from the 1,737 Total Flag State Inspections carried out in 2018 comprising 1,241 Flag State Renewal Inspections, 381 Condition Surveys and 115 Random Flag State Surveys. However, the decrease in 2020 is attributed to the impact of COVID-19 Pandemic. Sadly also, the Agency recorded 22 marine incidents in 2019 and 21 in 2018. Investigations were carried out while some are still on-going. NIMASA has put in tremendous efforts to mitigate the tide of maritime insecurity in Nigeria and the Gulf of Guinea through several maritime domain awareness interventions and collaborative efforts.
Presenting the Agency score card recently Jamoh listed a number of efforts made to address maritime insecurity. They include Passage of the Suppression of Piracy and other Maritime Offences Bill; establishment of integrated national maritime surveillance and security infrastructure; international Ship and Port Facility Security (Code) Implementation; the implementation of the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code which has steadily impacted on the level of security in the nation’s port areas and facilities; resuscitation of the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System(GMDSS) Equipment; the Regional Maritime Awareness Capacity (RMAC) Centre; international collaboration. NIMASA is currently engaging international stakeholders, including BIMCO, INTERTANKO, INTERCARGO, International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and Oil Companies International Maritime Forum-OCIMF, under the auspices of NIMASA/Industry Maritime Security Work Group (NIWG) to entrench coordinated response to piracy attacks. The Agency has spearheaded the institutionalisation of the collaboration between her and other frontline maritime agencies for improved maritime safety and security and efficient port operations.
Jamoh said that the Agency has made statutory financial contribution to Maritime Academy, Oron; Nigerian Seafarers Development Program (NSDP). Currently, the Agency has trained over 2600 Nigerian Seafarers in various credible maritime institutions in UK, Egypt, Philippine, Malaysia, etc. Alao recently, the Agency secured the placement of over 400 cadets onboard ships for the mandatory SEA-TIME training to make them globally competitive and employable. NIMASA has also sent some of its staff on long term training abroad to build internal capacities in various aspects of the maritime industry at the prestigious World Maritime University. Commenting on statutory levies stakeholders pay to the federal government through the Agency, Jamoh reaffirmed that NIMASA levies are in accordance with the provisions of the Act which set it up. Jamoh said “The NIMASA Act 2007 which is our guiding principle only states that our charges must be a component of the gross freight and must be paid by shipowners not in terms of product to marketers or any other entity”. Speaking further, the NIMASA Chief Executive said that all the payments either in hard currency or Naira, are made into the Treasury Single Account of the Federal Government adding that in the long run it was for the benefit of all Nigerians that the country does not further lose any source of its revenue through underpayment in statutory charges or levies.
Commenting on the explosion which occurred on Trinity Spirit Floating Production Storage and Offloading (FPSO), the NIMASA DG described the incident as unfortunate. He said that NIMASA team is working with other relevant organs of Government to establish the immediate and remote causes of the fire explosion. He said that the issue of environmental pollution was highlighted in the preliminary report and the Agency will work with the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) through the use of the International Oil Pollution Compensation (IOPC) funds for compensation of all the losses within and around the facility. He said that the public will be informed of every detail concerning the incident as the situation unfolds. According to Jamoh some of the achievements of the Agency in the year 2021 include improved contribution to the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) of the Federal Government, from N31 billion in 2020 to about N37 billion in year 2021, an increase of 43.6%, reactivation of the online certificate verification platform to reduce falsification of Nigerian Seafarers Certificate and enhance the employment of Nigerian Seafarers; improved strategic collaboration with the Nigerian Navy, Nigerian Airforce, the Nigerian Police, Nigerian Army and the office of the National Security Adviser a move, that has helped to reduce piracy attacks off the coast of the Gulf of Guinea, as there were no single attack on Nigerian waters in the 3rd quarter of 2021, as reported by the International Maritime Bureau. In the course of the two years in office he said that the agency has Procured the 5th largest modular floating dockyard in Africa to reduce the cost of ship repairs and maintenance. This milestone achievement comes under a unique Fund known as the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF), designed to provide financial assistance to Nigerian Operators in domestic coastal shipping to own vessels and enhance their competitiveness.
NIMASA Jamoh said has continued “its engagement with the MDAs to entrench an appropriate fiscal and monetary policy initiatives to pave way for the competitive participation of indigenous operators in shipping activities in Nigeria. These include but not limited to: a push for the change in terms of trade from FOB to CIF for the affreightment of crude oil (NNPC); single digit interest rate for the maritime sector, Concessional foreign exchange rate for ship acquisition; engagement with office of the Vice-President/EconomicManagement Team; to buy into our cargo support initiative aimed at creating cargo pool for affreightment by indigenous operators. The Nigerian Ship Registration Office recorded 13.8% tonnage growth from 2018 to 2019. This trajectory of growth was negatively impacted by the global covid-19 pandemic. However, the Nigerian Ship Registry ranks second in tonnage measurement in Africa after Liberia which operates an open and more flexible registry. NIMASA he said is remodelling and commissioning its Knowledge Centre E-Library; the facility is open to staff, students/researchers and external stakeholders/maritime operators to increase the knowledge base of the Nigerian Maritime Sector”. NIMSAS has also launched its pet project the Deep Blue sea, which is aimed at furthering the diversification bid of the federal government. The Deep Blue Project was flagged off by His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday, 21st May, 2021. NIMASA has taken delivery of key assets of the Deep Blue Project including: two special mission vessels (SMVs); seventeen fast interceptor boats (FIBs); two Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs) and sixteen armoured vehicles. Some of these assets have been deployed to the Nigerian Navy for its operational use.
Going forward in 2022 the agency plans to Strengthen its maritime safety and security enforcement mechanisms; organise a stakeholders’ engagement towards harnessing the potentials of a blue economy; enhance revenue for increased contribution to the consolidated revenue fund; movement of the Agency’s Headquarters to its newly acquired building in Victoria Island. Operationalisation of the floating dock; establishment of regional maritime safety and security training centre; build regional maritime search and rescue clinic; resuscitate Lokoja office; construction of NIMASA zonal offices (Central zone and Eastern zone). Jamoh’s effort at revitalising the maritime sector has left many wondering if he should not go for a higher national office as the Nigeria maritime sector hat was beret of insecurity through his simple application of team work has cut down drastically incidences of insecurity in the sector.