In this write- up, SHOLA FADEYI posits that the three years of Dr Bashir Jamoh , so far , as the Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency(NMASA) have witnessed the improvement of the fortunes of the agency and the Maritime sector in the realms of Shipping Development, Maritime Security and Maritime Safety , nay other key areas.
Against the backdrop of the series of novel measures and reforms, which the Dr Bashir Jamoh- led management has enunciated, since it came on board in the last three years , it is indeed indubitable that it has made positive impact on the development of the Nigerian Maritime Administration(NIMASA) , the maritime sector and the economy.
Consequently , this has paved way for the strings of successes it has recorded in its mandate of Maritime Administration, in the areas of shipping development, Maritime Safety and Maritime Security , which have formed the plank of the administration.
Coincidentally, the triple areas the aforementioned triple areas , happened to be those that have been responsible for the achievement of the Blue Economy initiative of the NIMASA. aimed at making maritime to contribute more positively to the Federal Government’s economic diversification.
The idea is that, it is when the country’s waters are secured and free of all sorts of criminalities that the blue economy, which deals with ‘the totality of all economic activities associated with the oceans, seas, harbors, ports, and coastal zones’ ,can make the desired contributions to the overall development of the nation’s economy.
Thus it is for the need to achieve the three mentioned key areas of Maritime Security, Maritime Safety and Shipping Development that the management has had to base its activities on matters concerning , Search and Rescue , Protection of Marine Environment, Anti- piracy , Clearing of wrecks and derelicts , Deep Blue Project and Strengthening of Memorandum of Understanding(MOU) with relevant agencies.
Others include unification of the functions of the maritime communication architecture i , Capacity Building of Personnel , Anti- Pollution Measures ,Cabotage Implementation, Plan to Disburse the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund (CVFF), Renewal of Collaboration with relevant stakeholders, Review of the National Seafarers Development Programme (NSDP) among others.
In fact, Jamoh’s emphasis on the effectiveness and efficiency of the maritime sector , made the management to put in place a Reform Committee as well as created a Reform Unit in the agency headed by a full fledged Director immediately he assumed office in 2020, and this is believed to have positively influenced the contributions he has made in the past three years.
However, the consensus is that the commendable efforts of the NIMASA has been able to yield result due to the capacity of the Dr Bashir Jamoh experience , borne out of his over 25 years of serving in the maritime sector as well as his academic knowledge of maritime , coupled with the backing of members of his executive management.
Removal of Nigeria’s Name from Red List of Piracy
It was then not a surprise in the maritime sector and the economy , judging by the track record of the current NIMASA management in the area of the anti- piracy war , when the international Maritime Bureau(IMB), removed Nigeria’s name from the red list of countries , which are notorious for piracy attacks , recently.
Lack of Piracy Attacks In Nigeria for over One Year
The NIMASA management has continued to demonstrate the fact that Nigeria’s removal from the Piracy List is never a fluke , as at in June this 2022, the IMO has been able to establish the fact that the country has been free of piracy incidents from February , 2022, and even still counting , since then, due to the efforts of the agency.
The feat had actually begun since 2021.According to Michael Howelett , a Director at IMB, 33 incidents of piracy were reported in the last quater of 2020, but 6 cases were reported in the second quarter of 2021 . The IMB report also noted that the number of kidnapped crew in the region also declined from 50 in the last quater of 2020 to 10 in the second quarter of 2021.
The statistics were contained in the second Quarter (Q2) 2021 report on the global reduction of piracy in 27 years in Nigeria, including the GoG region, where IMB said that the number of kidnapping in the Gulf of Guinea in the second quarter of 2021 is the lowest since Q2 of 2019.
Sustenance of anti- piracy tempo
Despite the feat, Dr Jamoh himself has resolved, that the need to sustain the feat would be the best approach to nip piracy activities and other related crimes in the bud , showing that the Agency is unrelenting in the fight
Little wonder that the IMB , the Inter national Maritime Organisation (IMO ) ,through Kitack Lim, its Secretary General and the European Union E.U, via her Senior Coordinator for the Gulf of Guinea, Amb. Nicolas Martinez have variously lauded NIMASA for the feat , while the Nigerian Government through the Ministry of Transportation has likewise commended the Agency and its Director General, for its achievements in anti- piracy.
. INSWPI/ Deep Blue Project
The need to further ensure lasting security on Nigerian waterways has made Jamoh to further the success of the Integrated National Security and Waterways Protection Infrastructure(INSWP) also called the Deep Blue Project, under which the various assets were imported into the country.
NIMASA has gradually , since early 2020 been deploying the assets that were imported for that purpose to sea ,land and air before the final deployment of the platform , after the last set were received in Nigeria in May this year, and finally commissioned by President Buhari on June 24,2021.
The Deep Blue Project, has three planks , namely, Importation of security equipment, training of personnel to man them and the actual deployment of the platforms to check all forms of crimes and criminalities on waters has been a project that the NIMASA DG has taken very seriously for the fact that it is one of the Agency’s key mandate.
New Set of Anti – piracy Assets
To show that the Presidency has keen interest in the success of the anti- piracy war , it is thus not a surprise that the Federal Government placed order for fresh platform , which NIMASA took delivery of in May 2022 for enhanced maritime security under the Deep Blue Project , .
The new assets include unmanned aircraft system, 9 interceptor patrol boats and 10 armoured vehicles, have been added to the existing ones earlier procured by the Federal Government and commissioned by President Muhammadu Buhari , with the assurance that they will improve on the gains recorded in securing the Gulf of Guinea and Nigerian maritime domain.
Earlier Deep Blue Project Assets
The land assets include the Command, Control, Communication, Computer, and Intelligence Centre (C4i) for intelligence gathering and data collection; 16 armoured vehicles for coastal patrol; and 600 specially trained troops for interdiction, known as Maritime Security Unit.
Before the recently procured platforms , the deep blue project had sea assets including two Special Mission Vessels and 17 Fast Interceptor Boats.
The air assets comprised of two Special Mission Aircraft for surveillance of the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ); three Special Mission Helicopters for search and rescue operations; and four Unmanned Aerial Vehicles amongst others.
Acquisition of High Speed Boat from Japan
To further boost the success of the Deep Blue Project, Nigeria, with the knowledge of NIMASA in June , 2022, signed an Exchange of Note(E/N) with the Japanese Government, for an Economic and Social Development Programme involving the acquisition of an High-Speed Boat, worth $2.78m N 831,200,000 .The agreement on the high speed boat is to reinforce services for coastal security in Nigeria
Checking Illegal Activities
The Project aims to prevent illegal activities in the Nigerian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), enforce maritime regulations, enhance safety of lives at sea, and prevent illegal activities in the inland waterways. In February, 2022 the Federal Government added the Secure Anchorage Area (SAA), off the coast of Lagos, to the areas under the protection of the Deep Blue Project.
Coordination among the C4Is
Dr Jamoh has promoted co-ordination and information sharing between the C4i and the surveillance systems of other maritime agencies, including Nigerian Navy’s Falcon Eye, Nigeria Police’s i247, and the C3i, which belongs to the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA).
The C4i Centre, with the primary aim of providing maritime domain awareness intelligence for informed enforcement operations and maritime safety and security interventions, has been up and running since August 2019. As the nucleus of the scheme, the C4i centre has been integrated with all the air, sea, and land platforms of the Deep Blue Project
.SPOMO ACT 2019
In fact , the faithful implementation of thee “Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences (SPOMO) Act, 2019, referred to as the anti piracy law by the NIMASA management has also assisted in the reduction of the level criminalities on the Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea.
The Act aims to prevent and suppress piracy, armed robbery, and any other unlawful act against a ship, aircraft, and any other maritime craft, including fixed or floating platform, while it provides a legal framework for the prosecution of piracy and other maritime crimes through the country’s Maritime Administration, NIMASA, and the Nigerian Navy.
Prosecution of Pirates
To lend credence to the extent of success which the management has recorded in the implementation of the anti- piracy law , it has secured the prosecution of most of the pirates it had arrested since 2020 , with the support of the Navy and the Marine Police. 10 of them who hijacked a Chinese Vessel , FV Hai Lu Feng II in May 2020 were jailed 12 years each and were asked to pay a sum of N10 million a piece by a Federal High Court in Lagos recently , making them serve as deterrent to other criminals who are engaged in nefarious activities on the Nigerian waters.
Experts have thus explained the prosecution of the pirates as being very remarkable and significant for the fact that ,it is a litmus test for the anti piracy law ,which made Nigeria the first in West and Central Africa to have such a stand- alone legislation for that purpose.
Training of Personnel
Thus it is in a bid to further the implementation of the anti-piracy law that the management of NIMASA within a few months trained over 156 Judiciary officers , namely judges of the High Court,Federal Court of Appeal , officers in the Attorney General’s Office who will be the ones handling cases pertaining to the application and interpretation of the Act.
Those who have also being trained include personnel of NIMASA, NPA among other relevant agencies on the issue of adequate response to distress on the waterways.
Harmonization of Communication Equipment
It is indeed commendable that it is still for the purpose of enhancing security on the waterways that the Director General has in recent times served as a rallying point between NIMASA and other relevant agencies within and outside the maritime sector with a view to unifying and harmonise the functions of the communication equipment under the control of such agencies.
This is why it has taken pains to visit and had various discussions with the Chief of Naval Staff , the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) , the Inspector General of Police (IGP) with a view to linking NIMASA C4I, with the NPA’s C3i , Command, Control and Intelligence centre, Police i247 and the Navy’s Falcon Eye or C41 so that there would be proper synergy to assist the country in response to maritime security threats
Creation of Marine Intelligence Unit & MSECC
It is also for the need to improve intelligence gathering and enhance stakeholders’ communication and to ensure sustainable growth of the country’s maritime industry.
that the management has created the Maritime Intelligence Unit and the NIMASA Maritime Stakeholders Experience Contact Centre (MSECC) .
The Bashir –led management has also excelled in the area of shipping development , which encompasses fleet expansion, shipbuilding and ship repairs. Despite this, it is committed to advancing the frontiers of shipping by ensuring a conducive environment for commercial shipping and encouraging more indigenous participation in the global shipping trade.
Removal of War Risk Insurance Premium from Nigerian Goods
Thus with the strings of achievements , which NIMASA has recorded of late in the anti- piracy war it is hoped that by September this year, the issue of War Risk Insurance will be addressed, when the Lloyd’s of London, coordinators of insurance surcharges on Nigerian bound cargoes, will meet to deliberate on Nigeria’s position paper ,which highlights the short, medium, and long term plans to sustain the achievements in its anti- piracy war.
Due to the importance which the agency attaches to seafarers wlfare , which made it to consider to be almost indispensable to the world during the Covid- 19 period, when it believed they hold the key to humanity’s survival, on a day day basis, it thus rolled out measures to boost their remunerations.
Thus over time , it has adopted measures to improve the quality of training and certificates the agency gives to the seafarers , even as it has started to standardize the curriculum of the country’s training institutions, in line with international standards.
Improvement In Flag and Port State Actvities
As part of its shipping development programme, the Agency has since the past two years continued to improve on its port and flag state functions , which is the core of maritime safety.For instance, in 2021, it succeeded in inspecting a total of 1,164 vessels as against 796 in 2020, while under its Flag State Control function, it inspected 489 vessels during the period, as compared to 276 in 2020
Likewise in the area of Port State Control the agency in 2021, boarded 675 vessels as against 510 in 2020
Automation of COC Verification
Dr Jamoh Has also ensured that the ongoing automation drive in the agency m has led to the integrated use of technology in the Certificate of Occupancy (CoC) verification , which has seen a fall in manual verification by about 40 per centWreck Removal
The agency recently deployed high-resolution magnetometer to validate the on going wreck removal exercise of all identified wrecks listed for removal along the Badagry Creek in Lagos, even as it took into consideration, the impact of the entire operations on the marine environment with a view to ensuring safety of marine lives.
Amongst those removed include a completely submerged Barge which was lying over 10 meters deep along the Badagry channel on coordinates 711006.1 Easting and 535294.9 Northing. The Agency has also successfully removed two other completely submerged barges beneath the water at 530924.9 Northing and 710608.3 Easting and others
Amendment of NIMASA Act 2007, Cabotage Act 2003
As part of measures to boost its shipping development mandate and to improve the regulations in the maritime sector to meet the need of current realities, NIMASA through the Ministry of Transportation has successfully gotten the House of Representatives to begin the Amendment of the NIMASA Act 2007 and the Cabotage Act 2003.
It has also lobbied the House to hold a Public Hearing on the Merchant Shipping Act, Repeal and Enactment Bill 2021, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency Act Repeal & Enactment Bill 2021, and the Coastal & Inland Cabotage Amendment Bill 2020.
National Maritime Policy
In the same vein NIMASA has made significant inputs into the comprehensive National Maritime Policy which is underway and which is bound to increase the level of success in the war against anti- piracy in the maritime sector .
Promotion of Barge Operations
Dr Jamoh has promised that the Agency will promote barge operations as an alternative means of transportation but has enjoined the barge operators to brace up in the aspect of training of their members to meet up with modern day realities and encourage professionalism in the discharge of their duties.
Disbursement of CVFF
It is in the same vein that NIMASA with the approval of the disbursement of the Fund by President Muhammadu Buhari and the authorization of the Federal Ministry of Transportation which is its supervising Ministry ,has already met with the appointed Primary Lending Institutions(PLIs) for them to come out with the guidelines for the disbursement of the Fund. Thus, it is expected that the fund would be disbursed before the end of the litetime of President Buhari’s administration.
Ban on Vessels without Cert
However, before the review , the need to ensure that the Cabotage Act serves the purpose for which it was put in place in the first place has made the NIMASA management to ban vessels without the requisite cabotage certificate from participating in the trade in Nigeria.This is to further check the abuses that have made it impossible for local shipping companies to benefit from the local cabotage trade.
Protection of Marine Environment
The current management has also been able to demonstrate its promptness to tackling issues that threaten the marine environment, particularly going by the way it responded to those ones that have occurred ,even within the very short time it came on stream .
For instance , in 2020, , it was able to quickly liaise with the Institute of Oceanography and Marine Research and NONTRAP on the issue of the dead fish that were discovered off the coast of the Niger Delta , a development which accelerated the conduction of investigation into the matter and thus the discovery of the rationale for the occurrence.
Enhancement of NSDP Programme
The Dr Jamoh-led management has also boosted the Nigerian Seafarers Development Programme (NSDP) , geared towards the training of cadets for the benefits of Nigeria’s maritime sector development. It is increasing for the seafarers , opportunities of sea time training , which would make them employable globally and useful to Nigeria economic development in future through the maritime sector.
While it has ensured that close to 500 beneficiaries of the NSDP project are gainfully employed , it secured the placement of about 400 of the cadets on board ship for the mandatory sea time training to make them globally competitive and employable.
As part of measures to enhance shipping development, through capacity building, apart from the constant training and re-training of its personnel, locally and abroad, the agency has taken the scheme to the younger generation, as it visits schools for purpose of enlightenment as well as donate educational materials to the schools as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility(CSR).
The purpose is to encourage the students, those in the sciences, to show interest in maritime by choosing maritime related careers, especially given the increasing role of maritime in Nigeria’s economic diversification effort.
Creation of Skilled Acquisition Centers
The Agency has also created skill acquisition centres across six geopolitical zones, which all have the capacity of training younger Nigerians on different aspects of professionalism . This has assisted in reducing the rate of criminality on the nation’s territorial waters..
Deployment of Modular Floating Dock
When fully operational, the NIMASA floating dock, which arrived Nigeria in 2018, is expected to conserve foreign exchange, to providing employment and boosting indigenous capacity, developing shipping, and providing training exposure for students of the Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron, which is now a University and the Maritime University, Okerenkoko.
Compliance with IMO Rule on Marine Fuels
The management has likewise taken steps to ensure availability of marine fuels that comply with the regulation by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), limiting the sulphur in the fuel oil used on board ships to 0.50 per cent m/m (mass by mass).
Commendable as the strides of the current NIMASA management has been, in its three years of existence, however, there has always been a very expansive room for improvement no matter , what in any sphere.This is why , Dr Jamoh as the Arrowhead, should continue to walk the talk, on sustaining all the areas of his achievements so far in office , of course as it concerns the Agency’s mandate.