The United States Coast Guard has thrown its full weight behind the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency NIMASA over its efforts to improve security and operational efficiency within Nigeria’s maritime domain.

The United States Coast Guard is Nigeria’s peer review partner towards the implementation of the International Ships and Ports Facilities Security ISPS Code implementation compliance. They regularly visit Nigeria to monitor implementation of the ISPS in Nigeria.

The commendation was given in Lagos when a team of the US marine security outfit led by Lt Commander Janna Ott. The delegation was in Nigeria to inspect seaports and related facilities in the country.

The delegation however, urged greater vigilance in terms of access to the ISPS zones at the nation’s seaports.

Ott, a representative of the US Coast Guard on the implementation of International Ports Security Programme, said NIMASA had taken laudable steps to improve Nigeria’s compliance with the International Ship and Port Security ISPS code.

Ott said of NIMASA, “You do have a really great team here. They were very helpful.

“I thank them for their frank and open discussion in allowing us to give them our observations. Hopefully, they can take whatever we have given them to heart and start working on them right away.”

“It’s very important that you know in your port facilities who is gaining access and they are authorised to be there before they go through those gates of the ISPS zone,” Ott stated. “You also need to be consistent with the proficiencies of all the security personnel in holding people accountable that are coming through those port facilities. We already had a very good discussion with NIMASA,” she added.

Director General of NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, who played host to the team, said Nigeria has made significant progress in addressing the issue of access control around the port areas. Dakuku, who spoke through NIMASA’s Executive Director, Finance and Administration, Bashir Jamoh, said, “The issue of access control is one of the paramount areas. The access road, access control, those are very important areas.

“Similarly, on access control, we just introduced stickers to the ports. We started implementing it early this month.”

He said the federal government had taken measures in partnership with the private sector to ensure that all port facilities in Nigeria were easily accessed.

The DG said NIMASA had recorded steady progress in its implementation of the ISPS Code, stressing that Nigeria has moved from implementation to enforcement.

He told the US Coast Guard team: “The issues you mentioned, we are dealing with them. One of the things we have introduced is training. We are aware that some of the facilities have these issues. Right now, most of them are going into biometric access control, which you observed in some of the terminals, like MRS, Five Star Logistics, etc.

“We would do more in training and continuous visit to these facilities and create better awareness for them to implement effective access control strategies. We will be consistent in the things we do because we have our executive management’s buy-in and support to do our job.

“In fact, we have gone from just implementation to enforcement, where after several engagements and if facilities do not comply with those required standards, we start to sanction them and even get them shut down.”