Patrick Akpobolokemi, DG, NIMASA
The United States Coast Guard has hailed Nigeria’s apex maritime regulatory authority, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) for the steps it has taken to meet the ultimatum on the implementation of the provisions of the International Ships and Ports Facility Security (ISPS) Code in Nigeria.
The ISPS Code is one of the vital instruments of one of the specialised agencies in the United Nations (UN), the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). It is one of the instruments used by the global maritime watchdog to ensure the safety and security of ships calling in the territorial waters of member states.
It is a comprehensive set of measures to enhance the security of ships and port facilities, developed in response to the perceived threats to ships and port facilities in the wake of the terrorist attack in the USA on September 11, 2001. It ensures the security of ships and port facilities besides its critical look at risk management activity, apart from determining what security measures are appropriate.
According to IMO, the purpose of the code is to provide a standardised, consistent framework for evaluating risk, enabling governments to offset changes in threat with changes in vulnerability for ships and port facilities through determination of appropriate security levels and corresponding security measures.
As a key member of the IMO, Nigeria is not only a signatory to the code but also saddled with the responsibility of implementing it in her maritime domain.
It was the alleged failure of Nigeria to implement the provision of the code that prompted an ultimatum from the US Coast Guard. However, the US Coast Guard said NIMASA is on the right path to the successful implementation of the code in Nigeria.
The leader of the US Coast Guard team to Nigeria, Mr. Tivo Romero, made this declaration at a meeting with members of the ISPS Code Implementation Committee in Nigeria in Lagos during a visit to NIMASA, the designated authority (DA) for ISPS Code implementation in Nigeria.
Romero, who disclosed that they visited six port facilities in the country during their two-week visit to Nigeria, said they have noticed tremendous improvement since the last visit to the country. He commended NIMASA for the outreach to facility operators.
His words: “I must commend the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency for its efforts so far. However, the US Coast Guard will provide required technical assistance to ensure that infrastructural and legal instruments needed for effective implementation of the ISPS Code in Nigeria are put in place. I urge you all to see this project as a voyage which we have all embarked on, that must be concluded.”
Romero dismissed media reports that claimed that the US Government would embargo vessels from visiting Nigerian ports, even as he noted that the US is fully behind Nigeria as a strong business partner that requires desired partnership, a reason for which both countries would always continue to work together and to ensure adequate security in the maritime sector.
On his part, the Director General of NIMASA, Mr. Ziakede Akpobolokemi, expressed gratitude for the support so far to ensure compliance in Nigeria.
Akpobolokemi, who was represented by the Executive Director, Cabotage and Shipping Development, Mr. Callistus Obi, noted that the implementation of the ISPS Code in Nigeria requires the support of all stakeholders. He urged port and terminal operators to see NIMASA as partners whose ultimate goal is to make their facilities better and safer places for business.
THISDAY has reported that NIMASA was formally appointed the DA of the ISPS Code implementation with an official letter issued by the Ministry of Transport on May 21, 2013.
The agency immediately set out to institute a fresh implementation program as needed. Since assumption as the DA for the Code implementation, NIMASA has dispatched competent Recognised Security Organisations (RSOs) to conduct security surveys and assessments aimed at identifying and correcting deficiencies and any other observed vulnerabilities.
The ISPS Code involved a continuous year to year inspection of port facilities in order to meet up with the required standard, as against an ad-hoc fire brigade exercise.
The US Coast Guard team that visited the country included technical experts whose report will be submitted to its headquarters for onward formal communication to the Nigerian government through the appropriate channels.