As the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency’s Deep Blue Project, a security structure designed to secure all anchorage areas in the nation’s maritime domain, is gradually coming to fruition, Chiemelie Ezeobi writes on the valuable support expected from the Nigerian Navy in giving covering at sea and manning the special mission vessels
World over, security threats keep evolving from traditional to conventional warfare. In the maritime domain, the same rings true. In the past, the maritime domain was threatened by piracy, sea robbery, illicit trafficking, narcotics and arms smuggling, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUUF) and marine pollution.
Now, emerging security threats within the Nigerian maritime domain stem largely from non-military causes such as socio-economic agitations and unemployed youths within the coastal communities, which are manifested through attacks on shipping, sabotage of hydrocarbon infrastructure and maritime resource theft.
Given that the Gulf of Guinea (GoG) is also the primary conduit of international trade and is central to the economy of the associated regions, it is increasingly looked upon today as resource provider and critical contributor to national growth and prosperity of the several nations lining its coasts and even those landward and with no shared boundaries.
It was in its constant bid to find lasting solutions to the myriad challenges bedeviling the nation’s maritime domain and even the GoG, that the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), partnered the Nigerian Navy (NN) to give covering at sea.
The Deep Blue Project
Known as the Integrated National Security and Waterways Protection Infrastructure or the Deep Blue Project, the security structure which is championed by NIMASA, is designed to comprehensively secure all anchorage areas in the Nigerian maritime domain.
Lauded by stakeholders, the Deep Blue Project will see the federal government take total control of the country’s maritime security, which includes anchorage, where all vessels calling at the various ports across the country berth.
Budgeted to cost $195 million, the Deep Blue Project was last year awarded to HLSI Security Systems and Technologies Limited, an Israeli firm.
According to NIMASA Director-General, Dr. Bashir Jamoh, the Secure Anchorage Area, which has been a subject of contention, would now be covered under the Deep Blue Project, a multi-spectrum security architecture.
Stressing that there is absolutely no need for the nation to have private security in its maritime space, he said it only increases the cost of shipping in the country.
With the Deep Blue Project, it is expected that the maritime space and Exclusive Economic Zone, up to the Gulf of Guinea, will be a whole lot safer. As has been disclosed by both NIMASA and NPA, it would be easier to interlink the C3i technology of the NPA, the C4i of NIMASA and the Falcon Eye of the Nigerian Navy (NN), thus leading to an interchange of information that would speed up the navy’s response to threats at sea.
As laudable as the Deep Blue Project is, it can only work with partnerships, one of which is the navy’s. For the project, most of the assets like the Special Mission Vessels and aircraft, would be manned and commanded by the officers of the Nigerian Navy.
In April this year, NIMASA and the Nigeria Navy began to harmonise a regime of improved information sharing as arrangements to integrate the Command, Control, Computer Communication and Information Centre, otherwise known as the (C4i) Centre of the Deep Blue Project along with the Falcon Eye of the Nigerian Navy are ongoing.
As was disclosed by the Flag Officer Commanding (FOC), Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral Oladele Daji, when he led a team of senior officers from the command on a working visit to NIMASA, there is need for continuous information sharing to aid daily operations towards ensuring a safer and secure maritime sector.
Daji further appealed for cooperation with the NIMASA hydrography unit especially with regards to standard charting of the Nigerian waters as well as mapping out the wrecks. He said this would go a long way in ensuring unhindered navigation.
In his response, NIMASA DG said both agencies have mandates that are interwoven, adding that since NIMASA is not an arm bearing organisation it was important for it to support the navy with necessary platforms for it to be able to optimally safeguard Nigerian Waters.
Also in June this year, the Flag Officer Commanding, FOC, Naval Training Command, NAVTRAC, Rear Admiral Fredrick Ogu, revealed that NIMASA and navy have concluded plans to harmonise the training procedures for the personnel of both institutions.
Thus, towards the successful take-off of the Deep Blue Project in Nigeria, Ministers of Defence and Transportation, Major General Bashir Magashi (Rtd) and Rotimi Amaechi; Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas inspected the state of readiness of the facilities of the project in WNC, Apapa, Lagos.
Some of the equipment inspected include the Antennas for Special Mission Vessel, Drones, Weapon site, CPR kit, C4i Centre, Special Mission vessels, Satellite Communication Centre, among others.
At the inspection, Amaechi disclosed that 85 per cent of equipment and assets for the project take-off had been procured and that by March 2021, all equipment would have been fully acquired.
From Lagos, the entourage moved to Warri, Delta State and then Benin, to assess the level of preparedness of assets for the take-off of the project. The minister of defence said the deep blue project was a maritime security project designed to tackle insecurity and secure maritime assets in the country, adding that all the services are involved in the project, as well as NIMASA and Ports Authority are also involved.