by Steve Agbota
Piracy and other maritime-related crimes are a phenomenon across the globe and not peculiar to Nigeria and the Gulf of Guinea (GoG) region.
Indeed other maritime nations across the world also experience piracy attacks and maritime related crimes.
However, in line with the Federal Government to stamp out piracy and related illegalities on the nation’s territorial waterways, NIMASA conceived the Deep Blue Project involving a Total Spectrum Maritime Security, that includes Law Enforcement, Regional Cooperation, Response Capabilities Building, and Enhanced Maritime Domain Awareness for all organs of government responsible for maritime security.
The objectives of the Deep Blue Project are to ensure prevention of illegal activities in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), enforcement of maritime regulations, enhancement of the safety of lives at sea and prevention of illegal activities in Nigeria’s inland waterways.
Recently, Nigeria witnessed a number of attacks where seafarers were abducted by pirates but later released after intervention of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and other security agents across board.
To further repress this menace, NIMASA and Nigerian Navy say they are now intensifying efforts to protect, interdict, and deter threats around vessels anchored in the Secure Anchorage Area (SAA), off the coast of Lagos.
Speaking during a courtesy visit by the Shipping Association of Nigeria (SAN) in Lagos recently, Director General of NIMASA, Dr. Bashir Jamoh, said that the agency is working with other security agencies like Navy to address security issues on the nation’s territorial waters.
He pointed out that the new security effort was encapsulated in the total deployment of assets under the Integrated National Security and Waterways Protection Infrastructure, also called the Deep Blue Project.
According to him, the deployment is ongoing with the primary aim of providing security in Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea while tackling security challenges encumbering the shipping business in the area.
“We are deploying high-tech assets under the Deep Blue Project to not only deal with piracy and armed robbery in our territorial waters frontally, but also responding to the increasing sophistication of these maritime crimes.
“The Nigerian Navy and NIMASA are partnering to ensure a high level of security in our waters. We are tying up all loose ends and very soon everything would become manifest and clear to stakeholders and operators,” Jamoh stated.
NIMASA boss who spoke in response to security concerns raised by SAN following the cancellation of the SAA contract by President Muhammadu Buhari and transfer of the responsibility for the area’s protection to NIMASA and the Nigerian Navy, said there was no security vacuum in Nigerian waters.
He explained: “I can assure you that there is no security vacuum in our waters. From what I know, the SAA is more protected than ever before. The Nigerian Navy has recently deployed 14 warships to enhance security in the area and the wider maritime domain. Other assets, including Special Mission Vessels, interceptor boats, and Special Mission Aircraft, are also being deployed under the Deep Blue Project.
“Besides, there is an emergency mobile line for any vessel in distress in our waters, +2348030685167, and the NIMASA emergency response room can be reached on Channel 16 of the Very High Frequency (VHF) radio channel.”
He added that the menace of maritime insecurity is an age-long challenge in the industry, and government is doing its best within the available resources to address the issues. He said with continuous patrols by dedicated vessels to the Secure Anchorage Area, “we appeal for a healthy working relationship and further deliberations are welcome.”
He said NIMASA is also networking with international bodies, such as INTERTANKO and INTERCARGO, to ensure security in the Gulf of Guinea, with the Youndé-based International Coordination Centre (ICC) also playing a central role.
He told stakeholders to always contact the Command, Control, Computer Communication and intelligence (C4i) centre located at the NIMASA-owned Nigerian Maritime Resource Development Centre (NMRDC), Kirikiri, in Lagos, for necessary actions under the Suppression of Piracy and other Maritime Offences (SPOMO) Act.
The spokesperson for the group and Managing Director of Mediterranean Shipping Company, Andrew Lynch, had urged NIMASA management to intensify measures to maintain security in the SAA.