Stories by Isaac Anumihe
Thirteen years after the adoption of the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) code, some terminals and jetties in Nigeria are yet to comply with the security code.
ISPS Code is a comprehensive set of measures to enhance the security of ships and port facilities, developed in response to the perceived threats to ships and port facilities in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on World Trade Centre in US.
After the 9/11 attack, members of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) signed a security agreement to protect their terminals in ports. The United States Coast Guards being the policemen of IMO have visited Nigeria several times in the past to ensure that standards are met.
In one of the visits, the Coast Guards had expressed displeasure over the compliance rate of the jetties and had declared most jetties in Nigeria unsafe and placed conditions of entry (COE) on vessels coming from a number of Nigerian terminals.
The guards also visited Nigeria in December, last year, as part of the routine checks to ensure that standards are kept. They were equally not satisfied with what they saw. So, they promised to repeat the visit in February (this month). The question is: how ready are those jetties classified as unsafe?
Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) as a designate authority to enforce compliance in Nigeria has closed down some of these jetties in the past. But these jetties have always bounced back into operations without meeting the conditions and NIMASA has always looked the other way.
However, the Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Ms Hadiza Bala Usman told newsmen recently that NPA has been meeting with the officials of US Coast Guards to ensure full compliance. Although NPA is not the enforcement authority, it took some measures as the ‘landlord’ of the ports to ensure its ‘tenants’ comply with the rules.
“One of the meetings we had was with US Coast Guards who had come to look at our facilities to see our level of compliance with ISPS code. We are much familiar with it. Our GM security is on hand to that effect. He is actually with the team from US Coast Guards to assess the facilities we have in our ports. They are coming in February to do another assessment on which they will provide grading for our terminals. That is something that we are on top of. And we have communicated to our terminal operators and they are all very much compliant on ISPS,” Usman said.
But an industry expert, Mr Ismail Aniemu, argued that if the terminals have fully complied, the US Coast Guards would have no reasons to visit Nigeria in quick successions.
“They have not fully complied. That is why United States Coast Guards have scheduled to visit Nigeria in February to check our degree of compliance. They came last year and they were not satisfied with Nigeria’s degree of compliance with ISPS code and they have agreed to visit in February. But no specific date has been fixed. The visit confirms that Nigeria has not fully complied. But that does not mean that Nigeria has not done anything. There has been access control. There have been technological devices installed in some ports to facilitate access. There has been training and retraining of security personnel and every other person that has to do with onboard and aboard vessels. But as we speak, we are expecting a day between the US Coast Guards and NIMASA to come and visit us again and fully certify us as compliant. We have not fully complied. NIMASA as the designated agency for the enforcement of the code, is yet to meet up. If the people who are to score you say that you have not been certified, that fact speaks for itself. They have visited, they have seen and they are coming back this month. We have to find out from NIMASA whether Nigeria is ready to be examined this month or Nigeria will want it extended” he submitted.
However, the spokesman for the Seaport Terminals Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN), Mr Bolaji Akinola, while exonerating the terminal operators, blamed the jetty operators for not complying.
“Most of our terminals are fully compliant. The visits are just routine checks. Don’t forget, it is not just about the terminals inside the ports. It also affects jetties like the oil jetties, shipyards and the rest of them. So, the ones that are struggling to comply now are those oil jetties where you have the tank farms and small jetties particularly, shipyards. If you remember, NIMASA even shut three of them that are struggling–the Star Shipyards in Port Harcourt. But it was reopened later. So, it is mostly the jetties that are non-compliant. But if you go to NIMASA which is the designated authority, they will tell you that most of the terminals in the ports are compliant. If they are not compliant ships will not even be able to berth there.
“Most of the terminals have received commendations as having designated security officers and having perimeter fence. Those are the requirements. Most of the terminal operators have been commended. If they are not compliant NIMASA would have shut those terminals because they are the designated authority. NIMASA has been shutting facilities that did not comply and most of them are jetties. You can go and confirm from them. People just mention terminals and when people say terminals the mind goes to terminal operators inside the ports. ‘Terminal’ is a generic term for many port facilities. It is not all about 13 years. There was a timeframe they were supposed to comply – six months. So, what the Coast Guards are doing is to check regularly. We don’t even need the Coast Guards. NIMASA is there to always carry out checks and audit. They have been doing that and that is why they have been shutting some jetties that have not complied. And again, have you ever heard that they are shutting the terminals,” he said.
But the Deputy Director/Head, Public Relations Unit of NIMASA, Mr Isichei Osamgbi, said that Nigeria is 75 per cent compliant and it is one of the most compliant nations.
“We have done 75 per cent compliant. We are one of the most compliant nations and what that means is that our ports are safe” he said.
However, National Co-ordinator of Save Nigeria Freight Forwarders, Chief Patrick Chukwu agreed that Nigeria has done a lot regarding the security of the ports and that is why some vessels come into Nigeria. He said that the visit is a normal routine check by the US Coast Guards.
FG moves to get anti- piracy law
The Federal Government has commenced the process of enacting an anti-piracy law in Nigeria to address legal issues relating to activities of pirates and sea robbers on the nation’s territorial waters.
This was disclosed at the weekend by the Director General of Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Dakuku Peterside, at an interactive session with journalists in Port Harcourt.
Peterside said the draft bill for the law is presently being worked on at the Federal Ministry of Justice before it goes to the National Assembly as an Executive Bill.
He added that when passed into law, Nigeria will be the first country in Africa to have such law on piracy.
NIMASA, according to him, is enhancing investors confidence in the maritime industry by promoting security and safety through improved surveillance to prevent maritime crimes.
On the planned visit to Nigeria by the United States Coast Guards to ascertain the country’s compliance with International Ships and Ports -facility Security (ISPS) Code, the DG said an Executive Director has taken charge of overseeing Nigeria’s readiness for the visit.
He expressed confidence that after the visit, Nigeria will be rated 90 per cent compliant as the agency is giving increased attention to issues of maritime security.
Peterside gave an assurance that the much-awaited Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund (CVFF) will be disbursed under his watch. He said the agency is set to strengthen its Eastern and Central operations as the board has approved the construction of a befitting multi-storey building in Port Harcourt to serve as Eastern Zonal head office and another in Warri for the Central Zone.
He also disclosed that the board approved the building of a port office in Onne which serves as a very sensitive area for shipping activities in the South South region.
This, according to him, will bring the NIMASA administration closer to the people of the region for quicker and efficient service delivery. He said the agency under his watch has promoted staff who were stagnated on various ranks over the years.
‘’For the very first time in over 20 years, more than 300 members of staff of NIMASA were promoted. Some have been stagnated for 10 years. We were able to go through the process with the support of our board to achieve this,” he said.
‘’We have attracted more technical training to NIMASA more than any other administration in recent times. In the last 10 months, there is no month we are not sending people for one technical training or the other.
On sea time training for graduates of various maritime institutions, he said NIMASA has concluded arrangement for the first batch to be sponsored to expand their chances for job placement.
‘’If you hold a certificate from any maritime training institution anywhere in the world without the sea time training and requisite CoC (Certificate of Competency), such certificate becomes a worthless piece of document’’ he said.
NIMASA, according to him, is working to see that the 2900 youths sent to training in various parts of the world get the practical experience that will guarantee international standard employments and boost earnings for the country.