Stories by Eromosele Abiodun
The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) has inaugurated an Emergency Response Team (ERT) to check criminal activities and other emergency situations at Calabar Port.
This is just as the Nigerian Navy in Lagos, raised the alarm over the impending dangers ship wrecks pose on the Nigerian waters.
Speaking during the ceremony, the Managing Director of NPA, Hadiza Bala-Usman, said the gesture was in compliance with International Maritime Organisation (IMO), which required ports to ensure safety, protection of the marine environment, security and expeditious movement of ships and cargoes in and out of the ports.
Represented by General Manager, Ports Security Unit, Iheanacho Ebubeogu, she said the team was necessary because the port and its environs were surrounded by tank farms and other security threats such as sea robbery.
Bala-Usman said that team was in tandem with best practices because 80 per cent of the vessels that berth at the port were wet cargoes.
While commending the Calabar Port Manager, Mrs. Marie Asein for initiating the project, she said: “As a result, this requires extra safety and security measures from all the stakeholders to ensure the protection of lives and property.”
Speaking earlier, Asein called for synergy with all sister agencies in the maritime sector to achieve efficient security at the port.
On his part, Chairman of NPA Board, Mr Emmanuel Ajibola commended the initiative, saying it would go a long way in curbing criminal activities within the port’s operational areas.
Ajibola said that NPA was working to increase shipping activities at the Calabar Port, adding that the management would soon rid the port of all illegal settlements to complement the effort of the team.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Navy warned of impending dangers that ship wrecks posed on the Nigerian waters.
The Flag Officer Commanding (FOC), Western Naval Command, Rear Adm. Oladele Daji, raised the alarm at a news conference held at the Base in Apapa, Lagos.
According to him, the area that is mostly affected is the Tin Can Island, Kirikiri, Navy Town and bad portion of the Badagry Creek.
“The hazard associated with these wrecks is that most often, especially during high water, they are submerged and hardly visible to mariners and, therefore, pose greatest threats during this period of time. Apart from endangering shipping, most of the wrecks also constitute environmental pollution and hazards. I do not think it portrays us as a country with laws and regulations in good light, especially to the global shipping community,” he said.
He said about 35 of such maritime wrecks had been identified which were submerged along the very busy Lagos channel that provides a vital access into the Tin Can Island port.
“In addition, there are several navigational aids like the oils, markings, and light houses that are not functional or missing or have shifted from their intended original positions.
“The absence of these navigational aids also constitutes risk to shipping, especially at night or during restricted visibilities. You will recall that just a few months ago, one of our vessels, Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) Calabar, while moving harbours for patrols, was involved in mishap and struck a submerged wreck, just in the middle of the channel. You will all agree with me that this can be avoided if those wrecks are promptly removed when they were identified, ”Daji said.
He added that removal of the wrecks would have saved a lot of down time for the availability of the vessel.
“It would as well save us the money and resources that will be put into making that vessel operational which would have been deployed into better and more productive endeavours. Other vessels, apart from NNS Calabar, have also suffered similar fate in the past.
“In particular, when it comes to distress calls from vessels at sea, it becomes difficult for agencies to respond to such emergencies because of the threats posed by the wrecks on our waterways. During the day, we might be able to figure out where they are, but at night and in poor or restricted visibility, it is very difficult to see the exact location of these wrecks,”he said.
He added that the Hydrography office of the Nigerian Navy, in line with its statutory responsibilities as identified, had resurveyed these wrecks and the surveys had been shared to relevant agencies of government.