The Director General Dr. Dakuku Peterside spoke to journalist on issues affecting maritime sector in Nigeria
What are the major responsibilities and duties of NIMASA in providing maritime safety in the nation’s marine channels?
Well, NIMASA has a primary responsibility for safety on our water ways; safety of the vessel and safety of those on-board the vessel and these responsibilities are discharged through 3 principal programs; the Port State Control, Flag State Control and the Coastal State Control.
In terms of safety, it is our responsibility to ensure that ships that call at our ports and our maritime space are not substandard and are manned by those who are competent and certified to man that category of vessel. It is also our responsibility to ensure that vessels that are flagged Nigeria meet international standard in order to be able to call at any port in the world.
It is our responsibility too to ensure that vessels passing through our maritime space meet international conditions of safety. In addition, we owe this country a responsibility to ensure safe passage of vessels within our territorial waters and that speaks to security of vessels and so we have the responsibility for security of merchant vessels trading within our coastal waters or calling at our various ports. And that is why in ensuring that we discharge that responsibility, we are collaborating with a number of government organisation. The Nigerian Navy, which led to the formation of what is called “The Maritime Guard Command” as well as other agencies of government. And so we have principal responsibility for safety and security within our water waves.
What is your assessment of the level of inter-agency collaboration in securing the nation’s maritime channels?
Well, the maritime industry is multi-faceted and multi-disciplinary in nature. You have different agencies playing different roles in the industry. In the case of the Nigerian Port Authority they regulate what happens in our various ports. You also have the Nigerian Shippers’ Council playing the role of an economic regulator in the industry; the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) also play a different role in the industry. And NIMASA as you know is the lead Agency when it comes to maritime regulation especially the issues of safety and security. And so if we talk about inter-agency collaboration, it is of course the key way of achieving our goals in the industry and when you speak of safety and security in particular; in security we collaborate with all the other agencies, we collaborate with the Nigerian Navy, we partner with the Nigerian Port Authority too. And what is our specific collaboration with NPA? We share information; the Navy has a satellite surveillance system with which they keep a bird’s eye view of what goes on in the various ports. So we share information, we work together to ensure safety of vessels at our various port, safety and security of vessels on the major shipping lines. We also work with Nigerian Navy to tackle insecurity, maritime crime on our water ways. So to that extent, we collaborate with Nigerian Navy; we collaborate with the Federal Ministry of Justice in formulating laws that will enable us prosecute those who get involved in Maritime Crime; we also collaborate with the Nigerian Police especially the marine police division in monitoring and manning our water ways to ensure that criminals don’t have a free reign in our water ways. So for us, collaboration is key as we have to achieve the goal of safe navigation within our territorial waters as well as the safety of our marine environment and that of assets that trade between our water ways and those who man those assets.
What is the relationship between NIMASA, other Agencies in the provision of sustainable energy for securing the nations marine challenge.
We have had positive relationship in many ways especially in enforcement of regulations and laws. We are doing joint enforcement of the laws or regulations that concerns the International Ships and Ports Facility Security (ISPS) Code with Nigerian Ports Authority. In terms of monitoring of our water ways as well as enforcement of UNCLOS and other laws within our maritime domain, we are working jointly with the Nigerian Navy, we have MoU which has been there for 10 years which was recently renewed to tackle insecurity within our water ways. We also have a number of other collaborations and all these, helps us discharge the responsibility of ensuring that shipping is safe within our territorial waters, that navigation is safe for all manner of vessels that come calling at our port, or trading within our maritime space.
What is NIMASA doing to ensure greater safety for cargoes and vessels in the nation’s marine channel?
If you talk about what NIMASA is doing, it is codified in what is called the Total Spectrum Maritime Security Strategy of NIMASA. It is a four prong strategy. The first is of course is Intelligence Gathering; we are working with Nigerian Ports Authority, Nigerian Navy and other partners to have a robust intelligence gathering system. NIMASA has her own Satellite Surveillance System, we share information; we keep a bird’s eye-view of what is happening within our maritime domain. We are also working with the Nigerian Navy, her falcon eye which is also a satellite surveillance system.
The second prong of the maritime security strategy, total spectrum maritime security strategy is in acquisition of asset and deployment of asset. We are in the process of acquiring a number of special surveillance aircraft, special mission vessels, fast intervention vessels with which we will intercept anybody who gets involved in maritime crime and piracy within our space; and we are doing that jointly with the Nigerian Navy. The third prong of it is that we have recently pushed for the passage of a dedicated Anti-piracy bill before the National Assembly to give us legal frame work to fight piracy and maritime crime within our maritime domain. We are working with our partners within Nigeria, and outside Nigeria, within the Gulf of Guinea region to fight piracy; and in fighting piracy we have also set up a special or a standing military contingence to fight piracy.
Finally, the Federal Executive Council approved the deep blue project. The deep blue project is a dedicated project of surveillance for our water ways and of course to build response capability. The deep blue project is in three prong, one is acquisition of asset by a firm called HLS International, the second one is training and re-training of our military personnel as well as a dedicated force to keep fighting piracy and of course the third is in intelligence gathering. We are building a dedicated Command Control and Computer intelligence gathering system where we will of course have surveillance and intelligence gathering mechanism within our territorial waters. And with that added to our response capability, we are going to be able to tackle maritime crime and make navigation safe and secure within our domain so that we will attract needed patronage of our port and other maritime activity within our territorial waters. So that is in the interim what we are doing to tackle rising cases of maritime crime. we are working with a number of partners; we are working with the United Nations office on drug and crime; we are working with the Nigerian Navy; the Federal Ministry of Justice, The United Nations Development Program, and a number of international brand especially the IMO to tackle the same problem. We consider that piracy or the cases of piracy in Nigeria is embarrassing, and deserves priority attention, that is why we have also developed a multi prong approach to tackling maritime crimes, because without tackling insecurity, we cannot talk about growth in the maritime sector. We know that there is a direct relationship between maritime crime and growth of the industry. Rising maritime crime means that the industry is not growing. But again, when you tackle insecurity of course you will notice that they will be growth in their industry.