“Maritime safety, security and shipping development are important for global trade.”
Above is the three-point agenda of the director-general of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Bashir Jamoh, for repositioning the maritime industry in a manner that enhances transparency, accountability and meaningful contribution to Nigeria’s gross domestic product (GDP) as well as its economic development.
The three-point agenda was essentially designed to rejig the maritime sector and redirect its primary aims and objectives to gain traction, while not neglecting its revenue-making components.
Prior to his appointment, Jamoh has shown his understanding of the challenges facing Nigeria’s shipping sector and already proffered solutions to some of them in his seminal bookl, Harnessing Nigeria’s Maritime Assets, published and launched about two years ago.
However, the quest to reconstruct the maritime sector to be dependable for the Nigerian economy cannot be overemphasized. Nigeria is blessed as a maritime nation and has all it takes to contribute tremendously to the nation’s GDP, considering its coastline of 852 kilometres bordering the Atlantic Ocean in the Gulf of Guinea and a maritime area of over 46,000km² with abundant resources in its oceans and seas that can back up the nation’s economic diversification and development drive.
After oil, the maritime sector is the second largest revenue earner for Nigeria because it serves every other sector of the economy via import and export. But for Nigeria to be among the comity of respected maritime nations across the world, it needs right policies and good leaders such as technocrats to head various agencies of the sector, especially now that it is being considered as the next highest revenue earner for Nigeria, as oil will gradually fade off.
Jamoh, a technocrat who has spent decades in NIMASA, knows the nitty-gritty of the sector. His agenda for the industry has been yielding results in the area of maritime security as, Nigeria recently witnessed the arrest of 27 pirates within three months, while 17 of the pirates are in the custody of Nigerian Police and 10 were arrested by the Navy in collaboration with the agency.
Information gathered by Daily Sun revealed that, since 2016, there was no single arrest of pirates on Nigerian territorial waters. As a result, maritime international bodies such the International Martime Organisation (IMO), the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), and BIMCO, all commended NIMASA and its director-general for adopting a new strategy in stemming criminalities in the Gulf of Guinea.
However, within Jamoh’s 100 days in office, NIMASA witnessed major promotions, where over 600 staff were promoted. Nine staff were promoted to the position of directors, with about six female staff among those who rose to be directors. This is a manifestation of the DG’s bid to balance gender equality in the sector. He also has since commenced the restructuring of the agency through the professional placement/redeployment of staff.
The new management under Jamoh ensures that the agency stays true to its mandate and ensures effective maritime safety administration, maritime labour regulation, marine pollution prevention and control, search and rescue, Cabotage Law enforcement, shipping development and modern ship registration, training and certification of seafarers, and maritime capacity development using modern tools that guarantee efficiency and effectiveness.
Speaking on the occasion of his 100 days in office recently, Jamoh, dubbed by maritime stakeholders as a result-oriented and disciplined human being, has mapped out new operational strategies to achieve maritime safety, security and shipping development within the shortest possible time.
He emphasised that safety is imperative in maritime operations, adding that NIMASA Act, 2007, empowers the agency to make sure that safety of vessels and those onboard are always guaranteed.
“Security of the maritime domain is very vital for global trade and it is among the core mandates of NIMASA. At present, we are working in synergy with the Nigerian Navy to tackle piracy at sea.”
Shipping accounts for over 80 per cent of global transportation of goods, which sustains international trade supply chain. Shipping plays an important role in import and export trade. As such, NIMASA under his watch is rolling out strategic plans to reposition the shipping sub-sector of the economy.
Already, the Nigerian Navy has apprehended 10 pirates of Nigerian origin, while the Nigeria Police has nabbed 17 suspected sea pirates.
According to Dr. Jamoh, this is the first time in four years that such arrests were made on the Nigerian territorial waters, as the suspects have been charged to court.
However, he said the feat was achieved by a joint effort of NIMASA, Nigerian Navy and the Nigerian Police, adding that every agency involved shared information at different levels, which led to the arrest of the culprits.
He stated that the arrests have sent the right signal to the international community that Nigeria is taking the issue of maritime security seriously, and would not spare any resources to secure Nigerian territorial waters and make it safe for all legitimate maritime activities.
He declared: “Buoyed by the determination of our willing, able and ready Nigerian Navy, Marine Police, and other security agencies, Nigeria is adopting a whatever-it-takes posture in the fight against every watery menace as we shall no longer fold our arms and watch trespassers perpetrate illegalities.
“We have declared zero tolerance for maritime insecurity and, fortunately for us, we now have the Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences (SPOMO) Act to deal with maritime crimes.
“To make our anti-piracy law effective, we will be investing much on intelligence gathering. If you look at the three-point agenda, we concentrated on our core mandates, the primary function of the agency is what we are looking at; revenue is secondary. Maybe before now we concentrated more on revenue, but now, with the international community getting very concerned about maritime insecurity, how can we ride primarily on revenue?
As part of his strategies to achieve shipping development in Nigeria, Jamoh is working tirelessly to ensure disbursement of the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF), even as he disclosed that the first set of beneficiaries would get the funds by ending of the year 2020.
He said: “At some point when we wanted to disburse the CVFF, the issue of single treasury account (TSA) policy came up and created bottleneck. So, the Minister of Transportation is pursuing the review of the CVFF.
“I have been appointed the chairman of the CVFF Disbursement Committee by the Minister of Transportation. We are working to disburse the CVFF, maybe before the end of the year, we hope to be able to disburse the first leg of the fund to beneficiaries.”
He said NIMASA now is re-engineering the Cabotage Act to activate it while addressing the issues associating with the Cabotage Act.
Deep Blue project
Jamoh hinted that over 85 per cent of the Deep Blue project has been achieved, adding that, out of the 17 special mission vessels ordered, 14 have arrived, the armoured vehicles are ready, two special mission aircraft are expected soon, while the three special mission helicopters ordered are expected to arrive in January 2021.
Based on this, Jamoh said the agency went to ground zero in terms of platforms and equipment to fight piracy.
With the arrival of these platforms, he said the agency is set to battle criminality in Nigerian waters and generate more revenue. He said the Deep Blue project would provide training and employment for teeming Nigeria youths. The only aspect of the project remaining now is the training of personnel that will man the platforms, which, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, could have commenced; it comprises foreign and local training.
Deployment of floating dock
Jamoh said the agency and the Nigerian Ports Authority are finalising arrangements to deploy the floating dock to the Continental Shipyard, owned by the NPA, under a public-private partnership (PPP) arrangement.
Jamoh said, already, oil/gas majors are ready to dry-dock their ships with the facility and it is expected to generate over N1 billion annually and over 350 workers will be employed. He explained that the floating dock would save Nigeria foreign exchange and generate more revenue for government as well as serve as a seatime training of cadets in mechanical and electrical fields.
The new approach to the war against piracy has been so effective that it is attracting international commendation.
Jamoh’s approach in securing the Nigerian territorial waters and war against piracy at sea got the attention of the international maritime community.
Recognising his effort, Kitack Lim, secretary-general of International Maritime Organisation (IMO), commended him for his leadership and proactive response to the issue of security threats in Nigerian territorial waters. Lim said the actions taken so far, and other programmes he is pursuing, including the Deep Blue project, send a strong and valuable message to the international community with respect to the considerable efforts he is making to curb piracy and armed robbery against ships in the Gulf of Guinea.
Lim said he was impressed by Nigeria’s efforts to address maritime security threats in the region, adding that Jamoh’s “leadership and proactive response” to maritime security issues were laudable.
NIMASA to ban IOCs from engaging unregistered vessels
Under Jamoh, NIMASA issued a three-month ultimatum to companies engaged in cabotage trade in Nigeria to register all vessels used in coastal and inland waters trade.
In addition to registration in the applicable Special Register for Cabotage Vessels and ship owning companies, and obtaining the Certificate of Cabotage Registration/Licence, operators with expired registration certificates are to ensure the renewal of their Cabotage Operational Certificate/Licence for all cabotage vessels within three months.
At the expiration of the three months, NIMASA would notify relevant government authorities and International Oil Companies (IOCs) to bar vessels without valid cabotage certificates.
Shortly after the agency released the Marine Notice to announce the decision, Jamoh, disclosed that the notice was part of efforts to ensure strict enforcement of the Coastal and Inland Shipping (Cabotage) Act 2003 and Guidelines on Implementation of the Coastal and Inland Shipping (Cabotage) Act 2003.
The NIMASA boss reiterated that the Cabotage Act provided that every vessel intended for use in domestic trade must be duly registered by the Registrar of Ships.
He added: “The law provides that every vessel intended for use under the Cabotage Act must be duly registered in the appropriate register and the operational certificates be renewed annually.
“We are out to ensure strict implementation of NIMASA’s mandate under the law.
Ultimately, our intention is to build and continue to enhance the capacity of Nigeria.”
NIMASA secures more sea time for cadets
NIMASA made significant progress in securing sea time berths for cadets trained under the Nigerian Seafarers Development Programme (NSDP), despite the limitations of the coronavirus pandemic.
A recent three-month extension was granted the 400 Nigerian seafarers undertaking sea time in different parts of the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The three-month programme, leading to the award of Certificate of Competency (CoC) to beneficiaries, was extended for another three months by NIMASA, in the first instance, to enable the seafarers complete their training amid the global lockdowns caused by the pandemic.
Jamoh stated that, despite the outbreak of COVID-19, the Agency had intensified efforts to secure sea time opportunities for a good number of the trained cadets across the globe.
He said: “In the first quarter of 2020 alone, we secured sea time berths for over 550 cadets in various countries for the three months programme leading to the issuance of CoCs. However, due to the pandemic, we extended their sponsorship for another three months, which comes with additional cost, and we are still looking to extend it further as we continue to monitor the pandemic and how it affects the programme.”
The NIMASA DG stated that the agency was in constant touch with Nigerian embassies in the beneficiaries’ host countries as well as the students themselves and their leaders to monitor their situations and guard against anything that could keep them stranded in a foreign country.
“We have adapted our approaches to the peculiar conditions of the different countries where we have Nigerian seafarers on sea time training.
“The feedbacks from the students’ leaders in the various countries have been very encouraging,” he said.
He disclosed that another set of NSDP cadets had been approved for training, but their enrolment was on hold due to the global pandemic.
Jamoh said the problem of sea time training, which is one of the biggest challenges of seafarers, was gradually being resolved.