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Deploying drones for maritime security

By Sulaimon Salau
10 October 2018   |   3:39 am
As the development of drone technology gathers momentum, and gets attention of the global maritime space, Nigeria is expected to join the pace which would help save billions of naira that could have been spent on physical combats. The technology, according to experts in the sector would turn a new leaf in the history of…


As the development of drone technology gathers momentum, and gets attention of the global maritime space, Nigeria is expected to join the pace which would help save billions of naira that could have been spent on physical combats.

The technology, according to experts in the sector would turn a new leaf in the history of Nigerian maritime security if fully adopted.

Drones are quickly becoming a regular tool in the maritime industry, although developed for government and military operations.

Reports showed that over the next half a decade, growth in the commercial and civilian drone industry would surpass defence industry with an estimated value of $127 billion.

In Nigeria, the deployment of drone will help to solve some prevailing challenges like security threats and the seaports and on waterways, unfortunately many stakeholders and operators are not considering this game changer.

Others that have the plan are being limited by regulations.

However, so many impediments are still posing difficulties to deploying drone into Nigerian airspace.

It was gathered that anyone that will operate drone must get the approvals from the office of national security adviser, and this has been a herculean task. It therefore discourages many from adopting the sophisticated technology.

In a chart with the terminal operators, many of them believed that drone is actually a game changer in the security plan, but they identified several hindrances to deployment of such technology in the seaports.

Although, it was highlighted that all the seaport terminals are complied with International Ships and Ports Facilities Security Code (ISPS) Code.

Spokesman, Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN), Bolaji Akinola, said tmonitoring Nigeria’s maritime domain is not the function of terminal operators.

“ Our responsibility is to secure our own terminal as stipulated in our concession agreement.

In this wise, our terminals are all well secured in line with international best practices.

All the concessioned terminals are in compliance with the International Ships and Ports Facilities Security Code (ISPS Code).”

A terminal operator said: “This is a technology that would have perfected our security system.

In fact, issues of attacks and theft would be reduced drastically if we can adopt the technology, but in the other way round it may not work perfectly for us in this port area because we have so many terminals here and firms may deploy it to spy the operations of their neighbours and competitors.

“Besides, the regulations on such technology around the bothers are another area that has to be considered,” he said.

A security operative, Johnson Osifo said he worked with the security in Europe, but when he was transferred to Nigerian, he could not bring his drone into the country due to regulations and attitudes of the overzealous officers.

“I found it disgusting when the Customs officers said I cannot bring it in and they seized my drone. I felt disappointed because we see it as a very critical tool at my former workplace.

They said I should go and get approval for it to be released,” he said, adding that the sector would continue to face security breach until its gives priority to technologies.

Drones can safely go where humans can’t. Improving safety, reducing costs, speeding up processes and making access challenges a breeze, are just a handful of the benefits of using drones in the maritime industry.

Replacing the need for human inspections, routine maintenance can be monitored remotely in real-time by surveyors, providing instant feedback to the vessel or offshore officers.

This, in turn, reduces costs, increases efficiency and significantly reduces the risk to human life during essential maintenance.

Drones can be typically operated by one person without any extensive safety equipment, meaning the costs associated can be significantly reduced.

APM Terminals’ inland services facilities in San Antonio and Santiago, Chile, has adopted the technology and safety supervisors previously monitored activities on the ground.

The latest technology is enabling their work to be done more effectively and safely. APM Terminals is amongst the first to use drones for security and to drive operational efficiency.

In Nigeria, officials of APM Terminals said such a development could be replicated here if the regulations are relaxed.

A top officer of the company, who prefers anonymity said: “We are currently operating some digital security technologies, but we are not considering drone at the moment”.

The source said, government needs to define the best way of using it in Nigeria, so that it is not converted to agent of spy. Besides, the regulations have to be relaxed for more Nigerians to benefit from the technology.

Director for Latin America at APM Terminals’ subsidiary Container Operators S.A. Hector Espinoza, said: “Our safety supervisors are the ones tasked with keeping the people and activities at our facilities safe, but by doing their jobs next to container stacks, trucks and other machinery, they were exposed to the highest risks.

“I knew the mining industry was having success with drones for safety, so we started testing it out,” he said.

Work began in 2016 and since then drones have been used periodically to film the site’s operations, monitor traffic flows and container stack efficiency as well as for observing unsafe behaviour, such as truck drivers leaving their cabins.

Now operations can be documented and analysed from above, a viewpoint that was previously unavailable.” He said.

“All visitors to the terminal are required to agree to the facility’s safety policies, which outline the rules in force as well as the presence of the drone. Earlier versions of the drone were only equipped with a camera but now each unit has sensors for night-time flying as well as a speaker to communicate directly with people on the ground.

“Since the arrival of the drones, visibility of terminal operations has improved considerably and ‘hot spots’, such as traffic flow, container stack efficiency and unsafe behaviour can be identified instantly,” said Espinoza.

President, National Council of Managing Director of Licensed Customs Agents, Lucky Amiwero said drone may be costly to acquire, but it is a good technology device that can be adopted to reduce casualties from security threats.

“It is good because you don’t loose lives all the time, but is rather unfortunate that we have not been able to put our house in order. We have setback on security mechanisms

“Another thing is to be able to regulate it so that people can use it for general interest and not for bad motives. It’s a good idea because it is can get to when human being can not access and it reduces casualties, he said.

The Chief Executive Officer, Ecomarine (ECM) Terminals, Adedayo Balogun, said the deployment of drone in securing the channels is a welcome development, adding that Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Nigerian Navy and National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) should lunch collaboration to deploy the technology because they have the mandate under the law to ensure safety and security on the waterways.

He said: “The type of security infrastructure that you will deploy depends on the level of threats.

In our own facility the port is on level one security which is the highest level.

Besides, we deployed CCTV cameras through the entire stretch of the facility and the port is also illuminated 24 hours to allow for proper monitoring throughout the night.

“The security on the waterways is of paramount importance and the responsibility for securing the waterways is within the purview of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and Nigerian Navy.

“The attack on our waterways contribute to war risk premium that most of the vessels are made to pay for coming to areas that are considered very volatile in terms of security.

We need to fully tackle the challenges of securing our waterways either by way of absence of navigational aids or pirate attacks, hijack of vessels, attack on crew.

We have never had instances were you talk about so much security threat when the vessel is at berth,” Balogun added.

The use of drones, rather than launch boats could help to reduce costs by up to 90 per cent for vessel operations and ship managers.

Research has shown that on average, the cost of a launch boat is $1,500 per hire, however, it can be as much as $4,000 depending on port locations, and it’s been estimated to save the entire industry upwards of $675 million.

Drones are likely to find many more uses in the maritime sector in the years to come, some of which could help prevent or mitigate losses.