James Emejo in Abuja
Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, has counseled members of the West Central Gulf of Guinea (FCWC) to mandate all vessels plying the coastal waters of the region to install the Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) device for proper tracking of the vessels by the maritime security agents as a way of curbing the incessant incidences of piracy in the sub region.
He said all vessels must also be made to install an Automatic Identification System (AIS) and the Transponder device for easy and proper communication.
The minister, who is also currently the President, Fisheries Committee for FCWC, assured stakeholders that this technological equipment would make it easy for the vessels to be under the radar of the maritime security agencies for proper monitoring and tracking of the activities of the vessels.
Lokpobiri spoke when he received the Secretary General of FCWC, Dr. Seraphin Dedi, who paid him a visit at the weekend to brief him about the activities and the proposed ministers’ conference of the Committee billed for Togo in November.
His advice came specifically against the backdrop of complaint by Dedi that a fishing vessel was recently hijacked in the Ghanaian waters by some pirates and taken away to the Nigerian waters, where three Korean nationals were eventually abducted by the pirates.
However, the minister, in a statement by his media aide, Mr. George Oji, said: “The fact that pirates went to Ghana, hijacked a vessel and it could not be recovered, calls for more collective collaboration on how we can strengthen our synergy and to enable us achieve the objectives of the FCWC.”
He added that if the vessel in question had had all the necessary devices in place, it would have been easy for the Nigerian navy to track it and avert the abduction.
He said his ministry currently makes it a precondition for any fishing vessel owner wishing to licence or renew his vessel licence to have all the equipment in place.
According to him, “What we are trying to do is that for any licence, any fishing licence to be issued or renewed, one of the new policies we have developed with the Nigerian navy is that you must install the VMS.
“From the naval headquarters and the regional offices in Calabar, they can see all our ships in the Nigerian waters.
“Any ship that is in distress we would just press the relevant button and the nearest navy base will swing into action.”