Navy Deploys 16 Ships to Police Critical Oil Installations in N’Delta, W’Africa

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Chiemelie Ezeobi

The Nigerian Navy (NN) Monday inaugurated 16 newly acquired ships and boats and immediately deployed them to police key oil installations in the oil rich Niger Delta region and the West African maritime domain.

The deployment was to further solidify the presence of the Nigerian Navy around the Gulf of Guinea and to also curb activities of sea robbers and pirates attacks on key installations and merchant vessels disrupting economic activities in the West African maritime domain.

The new acquisitions include two
110 MKII Fast Patrol Craft (FPC) – NNS NGURU and NNS EKULU; four 72MKII Inshore Patrol Craft (IPC)- NNS GONGOLA, NNS OSE, NNS CALABAR, and NNS SHIRORO, and 10 Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats (RHIBS).

These boats, the navy said, would be deployed to protect critical oil installations in the Niger Delta as well as for joint operations, patrols of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Maritime Zone E.

The two 110 MKII FPC, NNS NGURU and NNS EKULU, which were named after towns in Yobe and Rivers States, were put under the command of Commanders Emmanuel Fingesi and Andrew Zidon, respectively.

In his address, the Chief of the Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Admiral Ibok-Ette Ibas, said the latest additions had increased the navy’s platform acquisitions in the last two years to over 200.

Noting that the NN has the challenging task of safeguarding the country’s maritime interests, Ibas said the service, in keeping with the realities, conduct frequent re-invention.

He said: “The acquisition of the six new OCEA FPC and 10 Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats (RHIBS) will narrow the capability gaps in enhancing security of the nation’s maritime expanse.

“Their commissioning and induction respectively into service is therefore another operational milestone for the NN as they will complement existing Maritime Domain Awareness Capability in the face of its inherent need for a potent interdiction capability.

“I must however be quick to observe that, despite this commendable stride, we have barely scratched the outstanding deficit in the NN fleet. Capacity building therefore is a running priority of the NN. The NN continues to apply its double pronged approach of platform sourcing from both foreign shipyards and local manufacturing.

“Domestically, local boat building associates like messrs Epenal Boat Builders and John Holt Plc which have accounted for the delivery of over 200 boats in the past, continue to be patronised. The NN dockyard remains productively engaged as it is on course for the delivery of a third straight Seaward Defence Boat (SDB), now a 42 meter boat.

“Internationally, the construction of the 20 additional RHIBS with Messrs Suncraft has reached an advanced stage, with the recent second milestone inspection reporting their possible delivery on schedule and within the next few months.

“Furthermore, efforts are ongoing towards acquiring more fast patrol vessels for littoral waters up to the EEZ, while the construction of a hydrographic vessel and landing ship would further reinforce the NN’s regional maritime dominance.

“They will help to make life more difficult for the criminals in our maritime space. Their coming is also deemed quite timely as it would widen the nation’s options to make a robust contribution to multinational collaboration of countries of ECOWAS ‘ Multinational Maritime Coordination Zone E, comprising Nigeria, Republic of Benin, Togo and Niger.

“Only last week, these countries signed to a combined operation platform to suppress piracy, hijacking and hostage taking, including IUUF and other abuses of our waters. These boats and others could find for themselves, critical roles in this regard.”

Also at the event were Defence Minister, Mansur Dan-Ali; Minister for Niger Delta Affairs, Usoro Usoro; Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris; Chairman, Senate Committee on Navy, Sen. Isa Misau; Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on the Navy, Hon. Abdulsamad Dasuki; Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala-Usman, and heads of military, paramilitary institutions in Lagos as well as captains of industries.

Inaugurating the platforms, Dan-Ali said the nation was challenged by multi-faceted threats from both continental and maritime fronts with grave manifestations and increasing threats to maritime security.

He said crimes such as piracy, sea robbery and attack on strategic oil installations had complicated the nation’s maritime security environment and threatened with dire consequences, the overall wellbeing of the nation.

He said: “The induction of the platforms is in line with the current administration’s promise to keep our nation safe. This commissioning ceremony is yet another demonstration of this administration’s resolve of protecting the nation’s maritime domain through the provision of appropriate military platforms and operating equipment.

“The procurement of these vessels by the Ministry of Defence again demonstrates this administration’s unwavering commitment and willingness towards strengthening the navy through provision of modern operating equipment and infrastructure.”