DG NIMASA, Dr Bashir Jamoh

Industry partners under the aegis of the NIMASA Industry Working Group NIWG are currently working with the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency NIMASA towards finalising a new Nigerian National Maritime Reporting Framework.

This framework is designed to support merchant vessels in distress while the NIMASA’s Command, Control, Computer Communication and Information (C4i) Centre has been identified as a national focal point for coordinating the multi-agency response.

Recall that the Federal Government had in May, 2020 formed the Nigerian Government NIWG and theJoint Working Group JWG made up of NIMASA, the Ministry of Transport, Nigerian Navy, Nigerian Ports Authority, Marine Police, Interpol and the oil industry (represented by OCIMF).

Others include shipping industry (represented by ICS, BIMCO, INTERCARGO, INTERTANKO and the Nigerian Shipowners’ Association NISA. The group was established as part of efforts to facilitate coordination between government and industry operators and to align strategies to deter and respond to incidents of piracy and armed robbery on Nigeria’s territorial waters and the Exclusive Economic Zone EEZ. 

Meanwhile, the NIWG is the first coordinated effort between industry and the Nigerian government (represented by NIMASA, Ministry of Transport, Nigerian Navy, Interpol, Marine Police, Customs and Nigerian Ports Authority) to address the issues of maritime security. 

Director General of the agency, Dr. Bashir Jamoh, who appraised the work of the group after four months, noted that these developments are a significant step forward in improving Nigeria’s response capabilities and potentially enhancing security for vessels operating in the nation’s waters.

According to him, the objective of the working group is to accelerate efforts to tackle maritime security threats by facilitating interaction between the stakeholders, pursuing projects through mutual collaboration, and enhancing transparency between government and the industry operators in addressing the shared goal of achieving the permanent prevention of piracy and armed robbery in the region.

He also argued that by extension, this will ensure the safety of seafarers and shipping operations in the region and will enable Nigeria and other coastal states in the Eastern Gulf of Guinea to realise the full potential of their Blue Economies. 

“The NIWG recognises the role of the Maritime Domain Awareness for Trade in the Gulf of Guinea MDAT-GOG, as the single point of communication for merchant ships and is pleased to inform that cooperation between the International Maritime Bureau IMB, MDAT-GoG and NIMASA’s C4I Centre is progressing well.

“It also recognises the fact that there is a considerable way to go, and therefore it is essential that this momentum is maintained in implementing maritime security programmes and initiatives to effect real and lasting change and secure the waters blighted by maritime crime.

“There has also been a welcome escalation in the Nigerian Navy’s maritime security response activities. The conduct of two military exercises; Operation Calm Water and Operation Sanga Sung by NIMASA and the Navy in recent months have been successful in testing and demonstrating response capabilities.

“Importantly, considerable progress has also been made to advance the Integrated National Security and Waterways Protection Infrastructure project, otherwise known as the Deep Blue Project DBP, which aims to comprehensively addressing insecurity and criminality on Nigeria’s territorial waters and the EEZ. While COVID-19 has caused disruptions to this landmark project, delayed training required to deploy DBP assets in the 4th quarter 2020 and the first quarter of 2021 has recommenced”, the DG also said.

 It was further gathered that the NIWG partners agreed that progressing the DBP is a key priority, which will require continued support by industry and sustained resource from the Nigerian government. 

Stakeholders believe that while this positive progress speaks to the benefits of leveraging the collective strength and capabilities of both government and industry in striving towards a shared goal, the reality is that the risk of maritime security incidents on Nigeria’s waters remains high and is likely to increase in the coming months now that the monsoon season has ended. 

But available records show that since the NIWG was established about four months ago, considerable progress has been made to deepen collaboration between agencies and navies, build operational response capabilities, develop more robust reporting frameworks and share best practice between government and industry.

The NIWG therefore believes that the progress made to date demonstrates enthusiasm on both sides to tackle the problem despite considerable challenges posed by the pandemic. It also argued that now that the foundations for more collaborative working are in place, there is considerable momentum behind its efforts to reduce maritime security incidents in the region.

Investigations show that at a regulatory level, NIMASA is now working directly with the International Maritime Organisation IMO in developing a National Maritime Security Strategy, since Nigeria has formally endorsed industry’s Best Management Practices West Africa BMP WA guidance.

It is also believed that following the entry into force of Nigeria’s Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences, SPOMO Act 2019, more prosecutions are underway.