From left: Governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi; President, Muhammadu Buhari; Speaker, House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila; Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency NIMASA, Dr. Bashir Jamoh and Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi during the official launch of the Deep Blue Project in Lagos Thursday.

The Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency NIMASA, Dr. Bashir Jamoh has said that piracy and other forms of maritime crimes constitute the greatest threat to the growth and development of seaborne trade or the shipping economy not only in Nigeria but also across the entire globe.

The DG, who spoke at the official launch of Nigeria’s Integrated National Security and Waterways Protection Infrastructure also called the Deep Blue Project by President Muhammadu Buhari in Lagos, Thursday, said the project in addition to the earlier enactment of the Suppression of Piracy and other Maritime Offences SPOMO Act 2020 is the country’s most viable option towards curtailing insecurity not only on Nigeria’s waters but also across the Gulf of Guinea region.

He disclosed that on assumption of duty as the helms man of the agency in March 2020 in conjunction with the executive management and the governing board came up with a triple S agenda of Maritime Security, Maritime Safety and Shipping Development, under which it devoted most of their energy and focus in the first year to addressing the problem of maritime insecurity.

According to him, the urgent attention placed on this problem emanated from the realisation that without security on the nation’s seas, no meaningful seaborne trading or shipping economic activities can be possible; thus securing the seas became a pressing mandate.

While commending the President for assenting to the SPOMO Bill in June last year, the DG noted that even with the vast security assets acquired under the project, which would aid the arrest of the criminals, it would amount to a wasteful venture if there is no law to prosecute them.

The DG said: “When I took up office with my executive team, we set out on a triple S agenda of Maritime Security, Maritime Safety and Shipping Development.  We devoted most of our energy and focus in our first year to addressing the problem of maritime insecurity. Without security on our seas, no meaningful seaborne trading or shipping economic activities can be possible, so securing our seas became a pressing mandate.

“Today marks the fulfillment of that mandate. March 2020, upon assumption of office as the Director-General of NIMASA, and at the inauguration of the agency’s governing board, we were given a clear mandate to fund and deliver the Deep Blue Project. Mr. President, may I respectfully, with the permission of my supervising Minister of Transport, announce that the mission has been accomplished; the Deep Blue Project 

“The Integrated National Security and Waterways Protection Infrastructure popularly known as the Deep Blue Project is the brainchild of this administration with a clear objective to manage, control and protect Nigeria’s waterways. In line with the mandate given us, we explored various initiatives all geared towards ensuring our waters are safe so that business can thrive to impact positively on the economy of the country and the Gulf of Guinea.

“There is no doubt that the Deep Blue Project is about assets and platforms.  But these Assets and platforms by themselves cannot address the challenges of maritime insecurity. Even if you have assets and arrest the pirates, if you don’t prosecute suspects it is wasteful exercise. That is why, Mr. President, today the maritime industry thanks you for signing the SPOMO Act into law. This is the very first of its kind in the entire Gulf of Guinea that is fast becoming a model for other African maritime nations. Under this law, we have successfully prosecuted and convicted several offenders for the first time”.

He also disclosed that the agency has gone into partnership with various international organisations, which has helped to improve regional approach to solving issues of maritime challenges. This development, it was gathered, has heralded an era of proper coordination, meaningful collaboration and productive cooperation.

This has also made the agency work close collaboration with the International Maritime Organisation IMO, the global maritime regulatory body and an organ of the United Nations, which would help restore sanity to Nigeria’s seas, which has received the encouragement and endorsement of IMO’s Secretary-General’s Kitack Lim.

On the home front, the Jamoh-led management on assumption of duty also established the Maritime Intelligence Unit MIU in order to reset the agency’s paradigm and approach towards understanding and properly profiling the behavioural patterns of the young people who engage in sea crimes and piracy, which has become a more proactive approach to the problem of maritime insecurity.

He noted that the success of the MIU also provided the agency the capacity to intervene, using the carrot and stick approach in a meaningful manner to salvage the young people that have been prone to being recruited into piracy along the coastal states. This scheme was also boosted by the outreach mounted by the littoral states, which provides a new partnership that will deal with potential piracy issues before they occur.

“Realising the enormity of the economic loss from attacks on our shipping activities, we also created a window of opportunity for the industry to engage regularly with the agency as regulator. This gave birth to the NIMASA Joint Industry Working Group. The monthly forum of candid interactions with critical stakeholders such as BIMCO, InterCargo, InterTanko among others provided a sounding board for shaping policies that have impacted on maritime security strategies and protection of our seafarers.

“It is worth noting that a major milestone resulting from this partnership with industry is the new framework for jointly tackling maritime piracy in the Gulf of Guinea signed and co-chaired by the Inter-Regional Coordinating Centre ICC, Yaoundé and the Nigerian Navy / NIMASA known as GoG-SHADE

“We have also recorded progress on the issue of harmonisation of surveillance between NIMASA’s C4i, the Nigerian Ports Authority NPA’s C43, the Navy’s Falcon Eye and the Nigeria Police. All of these will complement the Deep Blue Assets to ensure that it is fully robust.

“Mr. President, the project we have come here to officially launch is the final piece of our strategy for combating the menace of piracy and sea robbery in not just our waters but also the Gulf of Guinea. Deep Blue assets comprise of two Special Mission Vessels, three Special Mission Helicopters, four Unmanned Air Vehicles/ Drones, 16 Fast Moving Interceptor Boats, 17 Armoured Vehicles, over 300 specially trained personnel for the Maritime Security Unit and the C4i Centre. All signed, sealed and delivered.

“Let me conclude by using this auspicious occasion of the official launch of Deep Blue to report that since the deployment of the assets in February, we have experienced continued decline in piracy attacks in our waters on a monthly basis. We therefore invite the international shipping community to rethink the issue of war risk insurance on cargo bound for our ports – Nigeria has demonstrated enough commitment towards tackling maritime insecurity to avert such premium burden.

“Let it be clear that for us at NIMASA, Security is a priority; We are for safer seas and calmer coasts. Seafarers will never have cause to worry when they sail on our waters. Shipping will be safer for trade to boom”, the DG also said.