The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has assured stakeholders in the maritime sector of safety on Nigeria’s waterways with the take-off of its 24-hour Satellite Surveillance Centre in Lagos, which will help curb piracy.
Addressing a world press conference on Wednesday, July 23, 2014, the Director General of NIMASA, Ziakede Patrick Akpobolokemi said the satellite system, launched last month would provide a safety net for corporate bodies and individuals who transact businesses within the Nigerian waters.
The Director General, who was represented by the Executive Director, Maritime Safety and Shipping Development, Capt. Ezekiel Bala Agaba said the surveillance system had already recorded a success story as the facility was deployed to the rescue of a Ghanaian flagged vessel, which was hijacked by pirates off the coast of Ghana last month.
According to him, NIMASA surveillance is now three-pronged with the satellite system added to the existing aerial and aquatic powers. “With the NIMASA Satellite Surveillance Centre, it is easy to respond to any distress call on Nigerian waters and even beyond. The new 24-hour Satellite Surveillance equipment has the capability to detect boats, ships and objects of predefined cross-section floating on water. It includes any aircraft that ditches and remains on the surface during satellite over-flight. Its abilities further include but are not limited to setting range rings and restricted areas for which when penetrated by an intruder, the system gives an alarm thereby alerting the operator or watch keeper.”
The Director General said the Agency is concluding the installation of the Global Maritime Distress Safety System (GMDSS) at Takwa Bay in Lagos which, when fully integrated with the satellite system, would provide full domain awareness for Nigeria’s waterways. The facility is equipped with VHF Radio, satellite phones and the IMARSAT, among other security features.
Mr Akpobolokemi also said that NIMASA had further strengthened safety within the Nigerian sea shores through a vigorous compliance with the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code. As at August last year, 22 port facilities in Nigeria were certified compliant with the ISPS Code, a significant increase from only nine port facilities during the previous visit of the United States Coast Guard to Nigerian ports. The figure is expected to rise when the report of the ISPS Code compliance team visit to Nigeria last April is published.
Commenting on the desirability of a National Carrier, Mr. Akpobolokemi said that the law allowed for more than one National Carrier, stating that NIMASA was committed to the establishment of a National Carrier through a Public-Private sector Partnership arrangement. He explained that the initiative would have great impact on “the nation’s flag, Nigerian seafarers and shipping development in the country.”
He however assured that in granting a National Carrier status, the Agency would comply with Section 35 (A-G) of the NIMASA Act 2007. He said: “All applications made to NIMASA will be considered against the requirements stated in the NIMASA Act 2007 and companies that meet these requirements will certainly be recommended to the Hon. Minister of Transport for the granting of National Carrier licences.”
On human capacity development, the Director General assured that academic activities would commence soon at the Nigeria Maritime University (NMU) Okerenkoko, Delta State, following the recent ground-breaking ceremony by President Goodluck Jonathan.
He said the university would produce high level manpower for Nigeria’s maritime and shipping sector on sustainable basis. Mr Akpobolokemi stated: “It is a tertiary institution for the training of seafarers, master mariners, marine engineers, naval architects, nautical scientists and other specialised maritime and shipping trade skills. The NMU is envisaged to become a centre for excellence in innovative research for the maritime sector in the West and Central Africa sub-region when developed.”
The Director General said that through the upcoming NIMASA Shipyard and Dockyard, also in Okerenkoko, NIMASA would transform Nigeria’s maritime industry into an industry that would generate capable local manpower. This way, he further said, the sector would be able to contribute significantly to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product.“The vision behind the shipyard and dockyard project is to have a world-class ship building and repair facility that will be commercially viable to transform the nation’s economy,” he explained.