Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi

The Federal Government has said that Nigeria has signed another maritime security contract with an Israeli firm that is expected to acquire platforms that would be manned in conjunction with officers of the Nigerian Navy and other relevant agencies, about two years after it cancelled a similar contract with an indigenous firm, the Global West Vessel Nigeria Limited allegedly owned by Chief Government Ekpemupolo also called Tompolo.

Minister of Transport, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, who made the disclosure while delivering a keynote address at a one-day event to mark the 2017 edition of the World Maritime Day, which is a global maritime event instituted by the International Maritime Organisation IMO among its member nations with the theme: ‘Connecting Ships, Ports and People’, held in Lagos Monday, said that President Muhammadu Buhari has already approved the contract.

The theme of this year’s event is a follow-up to that of last year’s, which was: ‘Shipping, Indispensible to the world’, which is aimed at helping member nations of the IMO develop their maritime potential by focussing on developing and implementing maritime strategies to invest in a joined-up inter-agency approach that would address the whole range of issues including the facilitation of maritime transport, increasing efficiency, navigational safety, protection of the maritime environment and maritime security.

The Minister noted that the contract with an undisclosed sum had become necessary to end the menace of all forms of criminal activities in the nation’s territorial waters including piracy, sea robbery, oil theft and illegal fishing activities with the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone  EEZ.

It was also gathered that under the contract, in addition to supply the equipment, the Israeli firm is also expected to train officers and men of the Nigerian Navy and other relevant agencies in the patrol of the nation’s waters including officers of the Maritime Guard Command MGC domiciled at the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency NIMASA.

He further disclosed that the Israeli firm is currently buying equipment for the contract, which is also expected to end the practice of paying between $15-$18 million for escorting ships from the high seas into the nation’s seaports in order to provide security for them so as to avoid being attacked, and therefore assured that in security in Nigeria’s waters would be a thing of the past when the contract comes into force, especially with the training of the Nigerian Navy.

The Minister, who also promised that the government was working towards a total overhaul of the maritime industry in Nigeria, disclosed that an interim report on the industry was being expected before the end of the year that would give a road-map on the restructuring of the industry.

On the gridlock on port access roads in Apapa, the Minister disclosed that the Federal Government the Nigeria Railway Corporation NRC has concluded plans to acquire 100 wagons and six locomotives, which are expected to arrive the country before the end of the year, which will also coincide with the coming into operations of the narrow gauge linking the seaport in Apapa.

It was gathered therefore that as soon as the 100 wagons, six locomotives arrive the country and the narrow gauge comes into use, most of the containers going out of the ports will be transported by rail to reduce the pressure on the roads thereby reducing the gridlock.

Investigations also show that the government is also planning to establish a facility at the Papalanto area in Ogun State where containers cleared from the ports would be dropped for the truckers to pick and distribute across the nation to reduce the volume of the trucks that come to Apapa as part of short term measures to address the gridlock on port access roads in Apapa.