The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency and Nigerian Ports Authority have concluded arrangements to make the Integrated National Security and Waterways Protection Infrastructure, also called the Deep Blue Project, the central security structure for all anchorage areas in the Nigerian maritime domain.
By this, private maritime security firm, Ocean Marine Solutions Limited, will no longer operate the Secure Anchorage Area for ships coming to Lagos ports.
Managing Director of NPA, Hadiza Usman, said the new security architecture would eliminate any form of private sector involvement in securing Nigeria’s maritime channels that only add to the cost of doing business in the country.
“This is to reduce the cost of shipping of goods into the country,” she said, after a meeting with the executive management of NIMASA led by Bashir Jamoh at NIMASA’s headquarters in Lagos.
According to the NPA boss, both agencies had also agreed to work out modalities for effective removal of all wrecks and derelicts that may hinder navigation on Nigerian waters.
The NPA under Usman, last year, attempted to dismantle the SAA.
NPA, backed by the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi, had hinged its reasons for ending OMS’ flagship security facility on the fact that extra charges to ships for security meant additional cost to shippers.
But OMS had insisted that its services were costless and indispensable for shipping lines bringing goods to Lagos ports, as the water around Lagos remained the world’s most volatile. The company had claimed that ships would have paid more carrying armed security officials on board through the sail.
The SAA was approved by both NPA and NIMASA, alongside the Nigerian Navy for OMS to operate and collect fees from ships, which anchor there for some time before continuing to berth at the Apapa or Tin Can port in Lagos. Each vessel pays $1,500 for the first day and $1,000 for subsequent days.
NIMASA is spending $195.3m to acquire maritime security platforms provided by an Israeli private company, Messrs HLSI Security Systems & Technologies, in a controversial contract that stirred Nigeria’s National Assembly.
Now tagged the Deep Blue Project, the contract was awarded to the Israeli firm in 2017, for the provision of three helicopters, three airplanes, three big battle-ready ships, 12 vessels and 20 amphibious cars to aid security of Nigeria’s waterways. The agency has yet to receive any of the platforms three years later. But the new management of NIMASA under Jamoh said the maritime security project would soon take effect.
“We had a range of discussions bordering on the Secure Anchorage Area, which our supervising ministry desires the Deep Blue Project to provide security for all anchorage areas in the country. Aside saving the country a lot of money, it will ensure that the security of the Nigerian maritime domain is given a focal attention,” Usman said.
She also disclosed that both agencies agreed to interlink the C3i of the NPA and C4i of NIMASA to share information that would assist the Nigerian Navy’s response to security.
Director-General of NIMASA, Jamoh, told journalists after the meeting that the SAA, which had been a subject of debate among stakeholders, would be covered under the multi spectrum security architecture popularly known as the Deep Blue Project.
“There is absolutely no need for us to have private security in our maritime space. You are aware that this increases the cost of shipping in our country. By the time the Deep Blue Project becomes fully operational, the cost of shipping would drastically reduce,” he added.
The NIMASA DG also pointed out that barring unforeseen circumstances, the floating dockyard should be operational by the end of July. A facility he said would employ hundreds of Nigerians directly and earn huge amount in revenue for the country.
His words, “We are finalising arrangements with the NPA to get a permanent berth for the floating dockyard, and by the end of July this facility should be operational. The interesting thing is that aside earning a huge amount of revenue, it also has the capacity to employ over 300 Nigerian youths directly.”
The meeting is seen as a major step towards effective collaborations by both agencies to enhance security in the Nigerian maritime domain to achieve growth for the industry.