NPA shops for vessel tracking service to check crude theft
• Says Nigeria losing billions to vandalisation of navigational aids in eastern ports
The Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority(NPA), Mohammed Bello-Koko has said the agency is in the process of procuring a Vessel Tracking Service (VTS) to enable it to identify, locate and monitor all vessels in the nation’s waters, even when such vessels switch off their Automatic Identification System (AIS).
Koko stated this while briefing State House correspondents yesterday in Abuja, noting that the Authority currently does not have the technology to detect rogue ships when they turn off their AIS.
Speaking against the backdrop of a recent incident where an oil tanker evaded arrest in Nigeria after illegally lifting crude oil, Bello-Koko said rogue vessels that engage in crude oil theft on Nigerian waters go undetected because they turn off their AIS.
According to him, the agency has been trying to acquire the VTS for about 10 years and has just identified a certified consultant, while also working with the Nigeria Liquefied and Natural Gas (NLNG) Company to help with critical detection.
He further assured that the technology would be procured before the end of the current administration.
Recall that the Federal Government in August awarded a multi-billion-naira pipeline surveillance contract to Tantita Security Services, a company led by a former militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo aka Tompolo.
Tompolo’s firm recently made startling revelations on crude oil theft in the Niger Delta area in which he said about 58 illegal oil points have been discovered so far since the operation to end oil theft on the waterways of Delta and Bayelsa states.
Speaking on activities of the eastern ports, Bello-Koko said the Onne Port Complex is the fastest-growing port in Nigeria.
He said the port is now active, not just in terms of importation, but also in exports.
According to him, the ports of Tin Can, Onne, Calabar are now ISO-certified, and because of this, there has been a tremendous increase in cargo traffic in Onne.
Bello-Koko said the Onne port handled 11,800 metric tonnes of cargo in the first half of 2022 while attributing the volume of trade to the ease of doing business at the port.
Bello-Koko, also raised an alarm that the Nigerian economy has been losing billions of naira to miscreants that vandalises navigational aids such as the fairway buoys located along the eastern port’s channels.
He said fairway buoys are those markers along the channel that guide the movement of ships with laden goods.
According to him, some miscreants vandalise the expensive buoys only to sell them as scraps compelling the Authority to invest millions in replacing them.
He said the NPA has lost businesses due to the absence of fairway buoys on the water channel.
“We have been to forums where shipping companies would decline to visit Nigerian ports, especially Warri and Calabar due to lack of buoys on the channels. These ships need the buoys to aid their navigation along the channel, and the absence of which could make a vessel go under,” he said.
The NPA boss however appealed to port communities to avoid such sabotage, which also comes with cost implications on the government and economic implications on the port communities due to loss of business.
He also noted that the deployment of the deep blue project asset in the eastern ports, which will commence in a few weeks, will help tackle insecurity on vessels.
Ha added that the deployment of marine police in the eastern ports has also helped to reduce incidents of piracy and hijacking of vessels.
Speaking on export operations at the port, the NPA boss said there is an export-processing terminal within Onne.
He said the terminal operators created an export-processing terminal, which NPA licensed as they have all the equipment, technology and processes to send it out.
Bello-Koko also said the West Africa Container Terminal (WACT), located in Onne port, spent $100 million on terminal expansion, adding that the development has aided the flow of business at the terminal.
Commenting on partnerships, Bello-Koko disclosed that the authority was working with the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) to support the federal government’s diversification efforts.
In the technical partnership with the NEPC, he said the NPA had licensed 10 export-processing terminals in Lagos and Ogun states “in the first instance with more in the pipeline”.
He said these export-processing terminals, which will be linked with NEPC’s domestic export warehouses (DEWS) in the hinterland, have been programmed to eliminate all the delays that hitherto rendered Nigerian exports uncompetitive in the international marketplace.
Speaking on single window deployment, the NPA boss said one of the issues limiting a central automation system is that the different stakeholders in the maritime industry are working in silos with their various systems.
He said if the stakeholders come together to integrate their automation process into one system, the national single window will come to life in no time.