By Alex Akao
Former Director General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) Mr Temisanre Omatseye has raised the alarm over an alleged underhand transactions in which commercial ships approaching the nation’s seaports are being arm-twisted to pay a whopping $10,000 daily, for security escourt.
Barrister Omatseye dropped this indication while delivering a lecture at the maiden MARAN Annual Maritime Lecture (MAMAL 2023) which was organised by the Maritime Reporters Association of Nigeria (MARAN) held during the week at the Rockview Hotel in Lagos.
While pointing out that such illegal transaction is being largely masterminded by non state actors, Omatseye said the solution lies in government urgently giving vent to the return of Secure Anchorage Contract, as a way of guaranteeing such payments go into government coffers.
While delivering a paper which centred on the theme of the event; “Maritime Security: Emerging Threats and Actionable Steps”, Omatseye disclosed that arising from the practice, each vessel coming into Nigerian waters is guaranteed to pays not less than $50,000 before departing the country.
He lamented that this has been the situation since the cancellation of the controversial Secure Anchorage Area (SAA) Contract which was mainly to provide security for vessels coming into Nigeria.
Recall that the contract was cancelled by President Muhammadu Buhari following recommendations from former Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi.
The former NIMASA boss said that the $195million Deep Blue Project was meant to replace the SAA Contract, even as he urged the Federal Government to take up this service and offer it to shipping companies for free.
“That the SAA was stopped is not a problem, but it should have been replaced.
“A vessel coming into Nigeria right now is escorted by a patrol boat and each patrol boat that brings in that vessel is charging $10,000 per day, whether it is Maersk or MSC Shipping, that is what they are doing right now, they are being escorted. Coming in, they pay for three days, going out they pay for two days, altogether right now, every shipping company pay patrol boats $50,000
“What was SAA charging? They charge $2,500 to vessels for coming into the area first, while every other day they collect $1,500. There is no way a vessel can stay there for ten days, and worse case scenario, a vessel pays $10,000, this is not comparable to the $50,000 vessels are paying right now which is adding to the cost of goods landing in Nigeria, nothing is free, even in Freetown.
“In all the imports you clear at the port, they are charging you for it. This is the sad reality, more so given the involvement of non state actors in the process.
“The SAA back then, was part of the chatter party agreement that NNPC signs with every vessel coming into Nigeria, but since the SAA stopped, the cost of security has gone astronomical.
“This is why the Deep Blue Project should step into the space of the SAA and provide the same service, if you want to do it for free, you can do it to protect our waters and reduce the cost of doing business” Omatseye advised.
The NIMASA former Director General also proposed the setting up of a Response Zone Transit Corridor (RZTC) as a replacement, which according to him, would be a response to the yearnings for adequate security and protection by visiting vessels into Nigeria.
“According to him, the aim of this RZTC zone is to create a patrol transit corridor in key areas in the Nigerian EEZ, it would be a 110 nautical miles long corridor to support vessels moving in and out of Lagos, Bonny and others.
“The corridor would be permanently patrolled by ten security vessels, providing a guaranteed response to an area of 50 Nautical Miles (NM) wide and 110NM long of a maximum of 60minutes location.
“Rather than patrolling 90,000 Square Nautical Miles which is humanly impossible even if you have a radar, the maximum a boat can do is 25nauts, so doing 200 Nautical Miles would take you a long time.
“There should be a notice that all vessels coming should enter into this corridor. When they enter, there are boats to provide the security and Nigeria can know who is in its environment.
“Most of the vessels stealing crude are off the radar vessels. Nigeria should also change its terms of trade from free-on-board, to cost-insurance-freight (FOB to CIF), this would go a long way in reducing insecurity” Omatseye stated
Also speaking, Captain Warredi Enisuoh, Executive Director of Operations and Technical of Tantita Security Services Nigeria Limited, a pipeline security Contract Company, said that the reported lull in cases of maritime security in Nigeria is because most Merchant vessels are now being converted into warships while visiting Nigeria.
Speaking, Capt Waredi, a former Director at NIMASA, said “One thing that is becoming a norm is that American merchant ships can be converted into warships within one hour, this is why you see that these ships are hardly attacked.
“However, as we speak today, nearly every flag have adopted this method and this is why you see the lull in piracy.
“There is hardly a merchant ship that is not armed and is coming into Nigerian waters.
Some of them stop over in Ghana to load their arms before coming into Nigeria”
Also speaking as a panelist on the paper presentation at the MAMAL 2023, President of Nigerian Shipowners Association (NISA) Otunba Sola Adewunmi lamented that the NIMASA Deep Blue Assets are there, combined with that of the Nigerian Navy and other security apparatus, but this has not added value to maritime security because of selfish interest of the operators.
“The equipment is there, but how efficient are the people manning these equipment?
Through the Navy’s “Falcon Eye” equipment, there is nothing happening at sea that the Navy does not see, but we have realised that most of our security agents are engrossed with what come into their pockets.
“What is Lome port doing that is making them have an edge over Nigeria? They saw our weakness, they made sure that their Anchorage is secured and this attracts international operators and they started making money from it.
“NISA has proposed that we should do an African P&I, if we have this, foreigners would not be exploiting us by slaming a huge war risk premiums on vessels coming into this region” he said
Earlier in his welcome address, President of Maritime Reporters Association of Nigeria (MARAN) Mr Godfrey Bivbere said the association is worried about the observed dissonance in the collective national effort to combat maritime economic crimes and crude oil smuggling.
He called on the federal government and its relevant agencies to improve on coordination.
“I want to also especially call on the office of the national security adviser to the president, to have a firmer grip and supervision of the existing collabo between state and non state actors’ roles, in this regard.
“We challenge the Nigeria Government and her regional counterparts to come up with a more workable and result orientated approach to the fight against maritime insecurity in the GOG.
“We believe that until and unless the international syndicates involved in the menace are confronted, apprehended and regularly exposed, through international collabo as often happens with local criminals, the situation will not achieve any purposeful deterrence.
“MARAN is unequivocal in its support for President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to turnaround the fortune of the nation’s maritime domain with the establishment of the ministry of marine and blue economy, which is sector specific.
“We envisage that President Tinubu may consider reworking the deterrence clauses contained in the SPOMO Act, to make its intendment more purposeful and business like.
“MARAN respectfully, wishes to further urge President Tinubu to provide an improved enabling environment for a common and united combat against maritime insecurity through effective harnessing of all available windows, both public and private sector participation” Bivbere said