Ship owners task government on anchorage security
Sequel to the cancellation of the Secure Anchorage Area (SAA), is operated by a private firm, the Nigerian Shipowners’ Association (NISA), has called for increased patrolling of the nation’s anchorage to guarantee pirate-free waters.
President of NISA, Aminu Umar, who spoke during a roundtable meeting with SCAN, admitted to a reduction in the frequency of attacks and sea robbery at the Lagos, Warri, and Calabar anchorage compared to about five years ago, but stressed the need for more patrols.
He insisted that “compared to our other West African neighbours, the frequency of patrol is more in those countries than in Nigeria. I think there is an improvement, but we want to see more of the patrols. In other countries you see it, you don’t just hear.”
According to him, the Bonny anchorage remains the worst, and apart from its inner anchorage inside the piloted district, because it is not safe, especially at night.
Aminu backed the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA’s) position that the Lagos anchorage does not require private security, which receives extra payment from shipowners.
He disclosed that many ship owners, particularly Nigerian ship owners, objected to its approval when it was given, because “it is the primary responsibility of the NPA, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), and the Nigerian Navy to have secure anchorage in any country.
“There is nowhere in the world that the private sector runs secure anchorage. Presently, I don’t think there is any Nigerian shipowner using the secure anchorage but the international shipowners, who do not feel secure in the anchorage under the control of NPA, NIMASA, and the Nigerian Navy.
“So, they prefer a special anchorage that makes them more secure when they see the patrols being done, because of the frequency of attacks outside the Nigerian waters. This is why the SAA has been operating all these years. For us, we want our anchorage secure, it is part of the money we pay always to NIMASA and NPA, and that is what is obtainable across the world,” he said.
A former president of Shipowners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Greg Ogbeifun, also charged the NPA, Navy and NIMASA to ensure the anchorage is free from pirate attacks.
He said Nigerian laws do not support the operation of a secure anchorage, but commended the NPA for stopping the secure anchorage, saying it has done the right thing.
He said: “every country has got its own laws, and as much as possible, we must all operate within the laws of the country. Does the law of Nigeria allow the operation of a Secure Anchorage for vessels by a private firm? The answer is, no. I believe that it is on this premise that the NPA cancelled the Secure Anchorage system,” Ogbeifun said.
He stated further: “From what I see, NPA took that decision on behalf of the ship-owners, who use the Secure Anchorage. Do you know that, every ship that uses the Secure Anchorage pays $2,000 daily? That is a huge cost element that is borne by the shipowner and the ship operator. If stopping that dedicated Secure Anchorage is going to save the shipowners approximately $60,000 a month, I think what NPA has come up with is commendable.”
The NPA has said it is engaging with the Nigerian Navy to improve the safety of the general anchorage.
Managing Director, NPA, Hadiza Bala Usman, said the Authority will acquire patrol vessels to be able to engage the Nigerian Navy much more.
“I will like to believe that there are government platforms already put in place to carry out these functions. Instead of encouraging private sector initiatives as regards safety in our anchorage, let us encourage government platforms and agencies to up their ante to be able to do the job,” she said.
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