By Eromosele Abiodun
The management of Ocean Marine Securities Limited (OMSL) has denied reports in a section of the media that its operation of the Secured Anchorage Area (SAA) in the Lagos anchorage is laced with fraud.
The company said the controversy surrounding the operation of the scheme which was initiated to salvage the damaged image of Nigeria as it concerns the safety of vessels travelling along the nation’s coastal region has been inundated with a lot of falsehood to gain cheap publicity and sympathy in some quarters.
In a statement yesterday, OMSL said a joint committee of the Nigerian Senate and the House of Representatives on the Nigerian Navy, Marine Transport and Finance has investigated claims of illegality of the operations of OMSL at the SAA in Lagos seaport.
The committee, it added, came out with a clean bill of health for OMSL and offered useful suggestions on how to advance the sector.
“The committee’s recommen-ded among others, ‘That Ocean Marine Solution Limited (OMSL) should be commended for its genuine national interests in investing over four hundred million ($400,000,000) dollars into the security at the Secured Anchorage Area (SAA) in particular and the Nigerian waterways in general by providing the needed platforms and logistics for the Nigerian Navy to effectively perform 24/7/365 patrol operations as well as to provide the required protection for vessels waiting to berth at the Lagos ports.’”
OMSL added that its main objective behind the initiative is national interest.
“To this end, the company has modestly offered it services by charging the minimal cost to cover operations and maintenance. Recall, that our chairman, Captain Hosa Okunbo, during his presentation at the National Assembly joint committee that investigated its activities said, ‘The company has always operated on the charges incurred by fund collected from ships operating under the SAA.”
The company revealed that it cost vessels that patronize its operated SAA an average of $11,500, which works out to be $2,500 for the first day and $1,500 for the remaining days in a seven day period which is a maximum period that most vessels berth at SAA for the service provided.
This, it added, is against having three mercenaries costing the shipping company a whopping cost of $225,000 on a one month voyage at a cost of $2,500 per mercenary which works out to at least $7,500 a day over a total one month voyage of 30 days from Europe, “and much higher from farther destinations like Singapore and the United States and the Far East.
To this end, it leads to saving of at least $213,500 as against an initial whopping cost of $225,000 before the SAA was introduced by the Navy and OMSL.”
It added: “It should also be noted that the SAA traffic in a day has not been more than 20 vessels at any particular time. At each vessel paying a stipend of an average $1,650 per day works out to be $33,000 per day as earnings to OMSL and with 8 vessels operating in SAA. To this end, operational cost and that of hiring these vessels average $4,150 per vessel if the vessels were to be hired by NPA or the relevant agency.
“These same vessels are hired to the oil companies for at least $8,500 per day. It will interest stakeholders to understand that NIMASA under the supervision of the federal ministry of transport is hiring similar vessels with a contract running at $10,500 for each vessel per day and they currently have six of such vessels working with NIMASA for enforcement at a total cost of $63,000 which has no security bearings coming at almost double the cost of OMSL in rendering this very critical and security arrangement.
“This brings to fore that indeed OMSL is on a national assignment rather than perceived misconception of profit-making as the cost of $4,150 per vessel earned is to enable OMSL offset their running cost.”
The said amount, it added, can best be seen as a stipend compared to the cost of attacks and import loss that may occur from pirate attacks, which led the shipping companies embracing the idea of the operation.
The company added: “Therefore, while the SAA operations continue to undergo criticism by government agencies, they (the concern agencies) refuse to accept the obvious and clear fact that the operational and maintenance cost must be offset, and such fund has to be included in the charges. Unfortunately, what is more, worrisome in the developing situation is the fact that before the decision to sack OMSL was carried out, stakeholders were not consulted otherwise, it would not be in the interest of any to suggest the later.
“Concerns are constantly brewing to the fact that, Nigeria waters are vast and ports such as Port Harcourt as well as other coastal areas are constantly been ravaged by sea pirates and operators, unavoidably in need of SAA replication to weather the storm which is costing Nigeria not only an economic disadvantage but reputation snares across international mention.
“Operators, however, call for the need to set up similar services in Warri and Port Harcourt axis to reduce the piracy and increase revenues to government as well as decongest the Lagos port which is now a safe haven for ships because of OMSL.”
The company stressed that the benefit of the SAA also reduced the exorbitant price of shipping.