Eromosele Abiodun posits that the commendation of NIMASA by the United States Coast Guard for its efforts to improve security and operational efficiency within Nigeria’s maritime domain is a welcomed development
With over 90 per cent of African states’ imports and exports conducted by sea, international trade is critical to many African economies. This is because the population of Sub- Saharan Africa is forecast to double by 2050.
Safe and secure maritime transport is therefore key to successful trade and growth in Africa and fundamental to the sustainable development of African states’ economies.
It is therefore necessary to address the long-time challenge of piracy and armed robbery in the Gulf of Guinea. At the same time, the coastal states of West and Central Africa are facing a range of equally pressing concerns in their maritime domains, all of which, like the challenge of piracy, will benefit from increased capacity to monitor territorial and international waters and to enforce relevant laws both ashore and at sea.
African states’ share in world trade stands at about three per cent on average, while intra-African trade averages around 10 per cent of Africa’s total trade.
The continent’s share of exports to the world has declined over the years -standing at an average of 2.5 per cent, a net decline from 10 per cent in the 1950s. In addition, African States attract only 2-3 per cent of global foreign direct investment (FDI) and contribute another one per cent to world gross domestic products (GDP).
International shipping in itself also presents a substantial employment opportunity. Today, there are approximately 1.5 million seafarers worldwide, and this number is expected to rise in the future. Given that seafarers from African countries are currently under-represented, there is considerable room for growth in this area.
Moreover, ancillary services in ports as well as operational and managerial tasks based on land also provide employment opportunities.
Opportunities also exist in the related industries that supply goods and services to the maritime companies, which together, comprise the entire maritime cluster. However, most of these opportunities have eluded Nigeria over the years as a result of maritime insecurity
If there is a country where the fear of ports and maritime security is very high, that country is Nigeria. This is because of the volatile nature of the Niger Delta as a result of youth restiveness that often lead to kidnappings and wanton killings. However, Nigeria is not alone. Acts of insecurity, lack of safety consciousness and threats of terrorism have dominated the global maritime landscape in recent years.
But dishonesty and fraud-like tendencies, which have bedevilled activities in the maritime industry in Nigeria, have complicated perceived threats of insecurity in our ports. The cases of Somali pirates have also dominated the global maritime industry in the last few years with European and America shipping companies at the receiving end of terrorists kidnapping ship captains and crew members for ransom.
The need to ensure maritime security did not become topical until September 11, 2001 when the world witnessed the bombing of the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in New York by terrorists, resulting in the death of over 3,000 persons.
Consequently, fear were expressed that if the air can be so vulnerable to terrorist attack, engaging the ports and other maritime facilities on land would be a simple job. It was at this juncture that world leaders decided to tinker with the 1974-1988 convention on Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) to create awareness to maritime nations on the need to put in place certain measures that would shield maritime facilities such as ports from terrorist attacks.
This was what gave birth to the International Ships and Ports Facility Security (ISPS) Code to which every port is to comply with in order to ensure safety of international trade, persons transiting the ports and other critical facilities. The ISPS Code outlined preventive measures against the likelihood of terrorist attacks on ships and ports facilities worldwide. The ISPS Code came into force in 2004.
ISPS Code Objectives
Some of the objectives of the ISPS Code are to: establish an international framework involving co-operation between contracting governments, government agencies, local administrations and the shipping and port industries to detect/assess security threats and take preventive measures against security incidents affecting ships or port facilities used in international trade.
Others are: to establish the respective roles and responsibilities of all these parties concerned, at the national and international level, for ensuring maritime security, ensure the early and efficient collation and exchange of security-related information, provide a methodology for security assessments so as to have in place plans and procedures to react to changing security levels and ensure confidence that adequate and proportionate maritime security measures are in place.
According to the terms, the objectives are to be achieved by the designation of appropriate security officers/personnel on each ship, in each port facility and in each shipping company to prepare and to put into effect the security plans that will be approved for each ship and port facility.
However, the code does not specify measures that each port and ship must take to ensure the safety of her facilities against terrorism because of the many different types and sizes of these facilities. Instead it outlined, “a standardised, consistent framework for evaluating risk, enabling governments to offset changes in threat with changes in vulnerability for ships and port facilities.”
For ships, the framework includes requirements for ship security plans, security officers, company security officers and certain onboard equipment.
For port facilities, the requirements include port facility security plans, port facility security officers and security equipment.
In addition, the requirements for ships and for port facilities include monitoring and controlling access, monitoring the activities of people and cargo and ensuring that security communications are readily available. Since 2004 when the ISPS Code came into operation, Nigeria has made unsatisfactory efforts to comply with the security code.
Implementation and Enforcement
Meanwhile, upon being appointed the Designated Authority (DA) for the implementation of the ISPS Code in Nigeria, the Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) stated that the effective implementation of the code in Nigerian ports would involve a continuous year- to- year exercise with committees mandated to periodically inspect Port Facilities (PF), in order to ensure that required standards are achieved and maintained. NIMASA has focused not only on PF listed in the United States Coast Guard (USCG) report but on the generality of PFs in the nation’s maritime domain which were placed on the watch over a period of time.
The appointment of Dr. Dakuku Peterside as the Director General of NIMASA has, in no, small measure reinforced the action to ensure that the ISPS code is fully implemented.
When he assumed duty, he promised to ensure the full implementation and enforcement of the International Ships and Ports Facility Security (ISPS) code in the nation’s ports.
Peterside had stated that skilled, efficient and talented workers are critical to the growth of the maritime sector assuring NIMASA will continually equip its staff with new knowledge, skills and technologies necessary to ensure compliance with the ISPS Code.
“Our people and values are hallmarks of a good and strong organisation. Recognising that our greatest asset is our people, the leadership of the maritime industry in Nigeria, is committed to building a skilled, talented and effective workforce. That is why we take advantage of every training programme to equip our people and prepare them for new challenges that come up daily in the course of carrying out their assignments.”
He also disclosed that in pursuit of its vision to reposition the maritime industry, NIMASA has developed an in-house training initiative to continuously update the skills of its staff and keep them in tune with various developments in the industry.
Peterside said that the agency as the designated authority for the implementation of ISPS Code, will work with local and international stakeholders to develop quality industry specific training for its staff, to enhance their performance and productivity in the line of duty.
U.S. Coast Guard Validation
The collaboration seems to be yielding results if the commendation given to the agency by the United States Coast Guard is anything to go by.
Late last week, the United States Coast Guard commended the NIMASA for its efforts to improve security and operational efficiency within Nigeria’s maritime domain.
The commendation was given by a visiting coast guard team led by Lt Commander Janna Ott. The delegation was in Nigeria to inspect facilities and ports.
Ott, a representative of the US Coast Guard in International Port Security Programme, said NIMASA had taken laudable steps to improve Nigeria’s compliance with the International Ship and Port Security (ISPS) code.
“You do have a really great team here. They were very helpful. I thank them for their frank and open discussion in allowing us to give them our observations. Hopefully, they can take whatever we have given them to heart and start working on them right away,” she said.
She, however, urged greater vigilance in terms of access to the ISPS zones at the ports.
“It’s very important that you know in your port facilities who is gaining access and they are authorised to be there before they go through those gates of the ISPS zone, ”Ott stated.
“You also need to be consistent with the proficiencies of all the security personnel in holding people accountable that are coming through those port facilities. We already had a very good discussion with NIMASA, ”she added.
Responding, the DG of NIMASA, Peterside, said the country had made significant progress in addressing the issue of access control around the port areas.
Peterside, who spoke through NIMASA’s Executive Director, Finance and Administration, Bashir Jamoh, said: “The issue of access control is one of the paramount areas. The access road, access control, those are very important areas. Similarly, on access control, we just introduced stickers to the ports. We started implementing it early this month.”
He said the federal government had taken measures in partnership with the private sector to ensure that all port facilities in Nigeria were easily accessed.
He said NIMASA had recorded steady progress in its implementation of the ISPS Code, stressing that Nigeria has moved from implementation to enforcement.
He told the US Coast Guard team, “The issues you mentioned, we are dealing with them. One of the things we have introduced is training. We are aware that some of the facilities have these issues. Right now, most of them are going into biometric access control, which you observed in some of the terminals, like MRS, Five Star Logistics, etc.
“We would do more in training and continuous visit to these facilities and create better awareness for them to implement effective access control strategies. We will be consistent in the things we do because we have our executive management’s buy-in and support to do our job.
“In fact, we have gone from just implementation to enforcement, where after several engagements and if facilities do not comply with those required standards, we start to sanction them and even get them shut down.”
The United States Coast Guard is Nigeria’s peer review partner towards ISIS Code implementation compliance. They regularly visit Nigeria to monitor implementation of the ISPS in Nigeria.