Eromosele Abiodun wonders if the global maritime security conference to be held in Abuja in October will finally bring to an end the insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea
As stakeholders in the nation’s maritime industry were awaiting the deployment of the $195 million maritime security equipments approved by President Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria was again last month rated number one in pirates attack in the Gulf of Guinea by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB).
The IMB is a specialised department of the International Chamber of Commerce. The IMB’s responsibilities lie in fighting crimes related to maritime trade and transportation, particularly piracy and commercial fraud, and in protecting the crews of ocean-going vessels.
The IMB in its second quarter report released recently said Nigeria led the table of pirate attacks with 21 recorded incidents between January and June, as against 31 for the period of 2018, thereby beating Indonesia which recorded 11 attacks, Venezuela six attacks and Peru with four attacks in six months.
According to the report, Gulf of Guinea saw 73 per cent of all kidnappings at sea, and 92 per cent of hostage takings. Pirates kidnapped 27 crewmembers in the first half of 2019 and 25 in the same period in 2018.
Also, two chemical tankers were hijacked, as well as a tug that was then used in another attack. Of the nine vessels fired upon, eight were off the coast of Nigeria. These attacks took place on average 65 nautical miles off the coast.
According to the report, the four locations contributed 55 per cent to the total 77 attacks reported in the period as against 75 per cent of 106 attacks reported in 2018.
IMB said pirates and sea robbers are often well armed, violent and have attacked, hijacked, robbed ships, kidnapped crew along far from the coasts, rivers, anchorages, ports and surrounding waters.
While six country namely Nigeria, Ghana, Benin, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Venezuela featured on that pirate attack chart in 2018, Nigeria and three other countries with Peru coming in as a new entrant on the chart.
It added that all kind of weapons like guns knives and other dangerous material were deployed to carry out attacks on vessels, a development that led to some seafarers being injured and kidnapped.
The report reads in part, “In the past, incidents reported up to about 170 Nautical Miles from the coast. In many past incidents pirates hijacked the vessels for several days and ransacked the vessels and stole part of the cargo usually gas oil.
“A number of crewmembers were also injured and kidnapped in these incidents. Generally, all waters in and off Nigeria remain risky. Vessels are advised to be vigilant as many incidents may have gone unreported. Incident continues to rise substantially especially kidnapping of crews for ransom. Vessels are advised to take additional measures in the high risk waters.
“Although, there was a reduction in the number of attacks in the African region, Nigeria still led the continent all through 2018 and first half of this year. In first six months of 2018, 39 bulk carriers were attacked as against 20 in 2019. For container vessels 9 vessels were attacked in 2019 while 6 attacks were reported in 2018 as against Crude oil tanker that reported 9 in 2018 and 12 in 2019.
“For Chemical tankers and offshore tug vessels, 30 and 3 vessels were reported in 2019 while 22 and 2 attacks were reported in 2019. Vessels carrying Liquefied Natural Gas, LNG and Liquefied Petroleum Gas, LPG, had no reported cases in 2018 but had one of such vessels attacked in 2019.”
Reacting to the development, an officer in the International Ships and Ports Facility Security, ISPS Code Unit of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Mr Adebayo Olatoke, said that the IMB has a lot of sources of information adding that most time this information are not correct.
Olatoke also said that a lot of wrong information are passed across adding that most of these reports are unverified.
He said: “This is a manipulation of the system; most of these reports are made after these vessels travel out of our waters. If they are attacked, the attacks are carried out on our waters but when the captain of the vessel is reporting, he will say the place of attack is Nigeria. With the signing of the law against pirate attack in Nigeria, the waters will become uncomfortable for pirates in another six months.
Nigeria Hosts the World
Concerned by the situation, the federal government through its several agencies in the maritime sector has concluded plans to hold the Global Maritime Security Conference (GMSC) in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital to fashion out ways to find lasting solution to the problem.
The Global Maritime Security Conference 2019 is a high-level Maritime Security Conference hosted by Nigeria. It aims to facilitate a clearer understanding of the challenges of maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea region and develop tailored solutions as well as coordinate efforts at strengthening regional and international collaborations to extinguish maritime threats in the region.
The Global Maritime Security Conference 2019 is a high-level Maritime Security Conference hosted by Nigeria.
“Maritime insecurity has economic, social, political and environmental implications globally, the conference therefore hopes to achieve the following objectives: Define the precise nature and scope of coordinated regional responses to maritime insecurity vis-à-vis intervention supports from external actors/partners, evaluate the relevance and impacts of the various interventions initiated already to tackle maritime insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea with a view to revising and adapting them to address the current challenges and decisively move towards policy harmonization and effective implementation through regional integration and cooperation as principal method for delivering effective and efficient security in the region, “said Director General of NIMASA, Dakuku Peterside.
In addition to tackling threats to maritime security, he said the gathering will strategize alternative approach to prevent cyber security attack and other forms of emerging maritime security threats.
The gathering, he added, will advocate for deeper global commitment to deployment of resources for ending maritime insecurity within the region.
“In most recent times, maritime security issue features prominently on the agenda of international and national discourse on sustainable development, particularly the use of oceans and seas. Intensive and interactive sessions designed to expand, address and deliver a workable framework that tackles key issues around the safety and of our waterways. The Conference will be held at the prestigious International Conference Centre, Abuja, Nigeria from the 7th – 9th of October 2019, “he said.
On who should attend, he said, “Relevant Government Ministries And Agencies, Navy and Coast Guards, Regulatory bodies, Maritime Lawyers and Professionals, Insurance firms, Banks and Finance Sector, Oil and Gas sector, High Level Industry Practitioners, Ship Owners and Charterers, National Ship Owners / Charterers and Oil Companies, Chief Executives and Trade Executives Classification Societies, Industry stakeholders and professionals, Consultancy and Industry Experts, International Continental And Regional Bodies, Shipping logistics, Ship Brokers, Ship Managers and Agents, Support services, Marine Support Services, Foreign Missions and Diplomats, Policy Makers and Researchers Institutions and Nongovernmental Organisations amongst Others.”
In a move aimed at putting an end to piracy and banditry on Nigeria territorial waters, President Muhammadu Buhari had recently given his assent to the Suppression of Piracy and other Maritime Offences Bill, 2019.
The Presidential assent dated June 24, 2019 followed the passage of the bill by the Senate and House of Representatives on April 9, 2019 and April 30, 2019, respectively.
The bill passed by the Eighth National Assembly gives effect to the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), 1982, and the International Convention on the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Navigation (SUA), 1988, and its Protocols.
NIMASA had facilitated the drafting of the Suppression of Piracy and other Maritime Offences Bill in 2012, in collaboration with the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). It was in a bid to give further credence to the relevant international treaties of the United Nations (UN) and IMO ratified by Nigeria on maritime safety and security and provide a much-needed legal and institutional framework for the country – through its maritime security enforcement agencies: the Nigerian Navy and NIMASA – to ensure safe and secure shipping on Nigerian waters, and prosecute infractions.
Besides addressing maritime insecurity, the new law, very importantly, fulfils the international requirement for standalone legislation on piracy, as against the approach of using the Maritime Operations Coordinating Board Amendment Bill to criminalise piracy.
With the Suppression of Piracy and other Maritime Offences Act, Nigeria has officially become the first country in the West and Central African Sub-Region to promulgate a separate law against piracy, an important international requirement set by the IMO as part of measures to guarantee secure global shipping.
Speaking on the Presidential assent, the Director-General of NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, described the move as a step in the right direction, adding that, “It marks the dawn of a great moment for world maritime.”
Dakuku said, “This is not just a victory for NIMASA, but also for all the stakeholders in the Nigerian maritime community. We are determined to continue to deliver on our promise to investors and the international community to ensure an increasingly safer and more secure environment for profitable maritime business.
“And the new law at this very critical stage of our Blue Economy drive is certainly an elixir that will boost our capacity to harness the rich potential of our seas and oceans.”
He thanked the President for “his commitment and passion for measures that will guarantee safety and security on Nigerian waters.” He also appreciated the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) for their support. Dakuku assured that the Agency will continue to work with relevant partners and organisations to achieve its aim of ridding the country’s waterways and exclusive economic zone of criminal activities.
“No man is an island; hence NIMASA cannot achieve much without the support of other stakeholders. This is the time we all need to work more closely together, so that we don’t give room to criminals to have their way in our maritime domain, ”he added.
“Some of the significant provisions of the Act include a distinct definition of piracy and other maritime offences/unlawful acts; punishment upon conviction for maritime crimes; restitution to owners of violated maritime assets or forfeiture of proceeds of maritime crime to the Federal Government; and establishment of a Piracy and Maritime Offences Fund with prescribed sources of funding that will be utilised in the implementation of the Act.
“The new law also vests exclusive jurisdiction for the determination of matters under the Act on the Federal High Court. It empowers relevant authorities mentioned under the Act to seize vessels or aircraft used for maritime crimes anywhere in Nigeria and in international waters or in the jurisdiction of any country where the ship is reasonably believed to be a pirate-controlled ship or aircraft, “he stated.