Pirates on high sea
By John Iwori
Stakeholders in the Nigerian maritime sector of the economy have reiterated their commitment to combat piracy in Nigeria’s territorial waters.
They also expressed deep concern over the level of piracy attacks on vessels around the world, especially its upsurge in the West African sub-region, saying that there was need for all hands to be on deck in order to combat the menace.
This was the common agreement among maritime practitioners and other eminent industry captains that converged on Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, for the commemoration of 2011World Maritime Day’ celebrations.
The 2011 edition of the celebration with the theme, ‘Piracy: Orchestrating the Response’, was organised by the Federal Ministry of Transport, in collaboration with the world global watchdog, International Maritime Organisation (IMO).
The celebration, which was celebrated in the Rivers State capital for the first time, also witnessed the presence of security chiefs, ship owners as well as the helmsmen of several government parastatals under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Transport.
These include the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC), Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Nigerian Institute of Transport Technology (NITT), and Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN), Oron, Akwa Ibom State.
Minister of Transport, Senator Idris Umar, in his welcome address, stated that the high turnout of maritime experts at this years’ celebration was a clear testimony of the deep and collective concern of practitioners to the safety and security of ships and their crew members who are being taken hostage daily by sea pirates.
Continuing, Umar who was represented at the occasion by the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Mr. Nebolisa Emodi, said: “This year’s focus on piracy is very apt in view of the fact that over 150 seamen of various nationalities are being held hostage for ransom on board 30 ships under various locations off the extensive Somalia Coastline”.
Also speaking, the Director General of NIMASA, Mr. Ziakede Akpobolokemi, explained that the management of the agency has been making progress recently in addressing the incidences of piracy within the Nigerian coastal waters.
Presenting a paper titled, ‘Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery at Sea in Nigerian Waters- the Efforts of NIMASA so far’, the NIMASA helmsman said the agency’s records indicate that a total of 102 armed sea robbery attacks and other related incidents were reported in 2010 alone.
According to him, these attacks took place mostly on Lagos, Bonny, Calabar, Port Harcourt and Warri pilotage districts. Eight lives were lost and property estimated at about N 443 million was also lost within the period.
He however gave an assurance that NIMASA was addressing the situation because measures have already been taken to reduce piracy in Africa as a whole. He noted that part of the efforts was the recent collaboration by NIMASA and other security agencies, which have since been giving them support to perform.
He stated that the agency has commissioned the draft of a stand-alone bill on piracy, with a view to making adequate provisions for jurisdictional issues, prosecution and penalties that goes with the offence.
Senior Special Adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan on Maritime Matters, Olugbenga Oyewole, said the President was committed to addressing all the security challenges facing operators. He urged them to collaborate and combine resources in order to tackle piracy.
Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi, who was represented by his deputy, Mr. Tele Ikuru, expressed delight that the state was chosen as the venue of this year edition of the world maritime day celebration.
He reiterated the strides his government had made since it came to power, especially in roads construction, education, health, agriculture and power and promised that he would do more in the years ahead.