By YUSUF BABALOLA, Lagos –
Due to the volatile nature of Nigeria waterways, foreign shipping companies spend over N13.76 billion ($45 million) annually to escort their vessels from one point to another on Nigeria’s waterways, LEADERSHIP has learnt.
About four major international shipping companies operate in the country including Maersk Line, Mediterranean Shipping Company, Grimaldi and CMA/CGM in addition to smaller foreign and local shipping companies operating on the waterways.
This is coming against the backdrop of report by the United States of America (USA), through its maritime administration which published the latest Maritime alert red flagging Nigeria waterways over serial pirate attacks on Nigerian waters and warning ships to be weary when approaching.
Recall that there have been series of attack on vessels in Nigeria waters especially in the Gulf of Guinea. For instance, two incidents have been reported in the Gulf of Guinea in the past six days; the first reportedly occurred south of Port Harcourt, Nigeria at 0600 GMT on October 21, 2017. The second reportedly occurred in the vicinity of 03-35.50N 006-49.20E nautical miles at 1905 GMT on October 25, 2017.
Speaking in Lagos early this week at the celebration of World Maritime Day tagged: “Connecting Ships, Ports and People,” the minister of transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, disclosed that shipping giant, Maersk Line told him they spent between $15 to $18million (at prevailing rate of N365/$) yearly to escort their vessels.
“Currently, Maersk Line told me they spend between $15 million and $18 million annually to those escorting their vessels from one point to another on our waterways.” But, the minister said all attacks on the nation’s waterways will subside as the federal government has contracted an Israeli firm to monitor and secure Nigerian coastal waters against maritime crimes.
Amaechi said, “We should be able to deflate that by next year so that people can do their businesses on our waterways without any fear of being attacked or harassed. One of the burning issues in the maritime sector is security. The federal government has contacted an Israeli firm who is going to train our security men. They will buy equipment and dominate Nigeria’s waterways for the next three years.
“Within that three years, the Israeli firm will train our security operatives for them to take over after the expiration of the contract. They are yet to launch because they are still buying the equipment. When you see the equipment on the waterways, people will know they are safe and secured.
“Mr. President has kindly approved that, and that is being done through the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA). In that three years, they will train our Navy, our Army and our Police so that we can stop spending money escorting boats and vessels on our waterways.”
However, the United States of America has raised red flag over serial pirate attacks on Nigeria waters. According to the US Maritime Administration, the two recent incidences of pirate attacks in the Niger -Delta region of Nigeria was a confirmation of escalating insecurity around and on the waters of Nigeria.
The report made reference to the attacks which occurred on October 21 and October 25, 2017 respectively. “The nature of the first incident was piracy and kidnapping; the nature of the second incident was piracy, ” the report noted.
Quoting the latest quarterly report from the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), the US Maritime Administration stated that “the latest quarterly report from the International Maritime Bureau notes that a total of 20 reports of attacks against all vessel types were received for Nigeria, 16 of which occurred off the coast of Brass, Bonny and Bayelsa, it added.
Recalling more chilling incidences, the report added that “guns were reportedly used in 18 of the incidents and vessels were underway in 17 of 20 reports. Furthermore, 39 of the 49 crew members’ kidnappings globally occurred off Nigerian waters in seven separate incidents.
“Other crew kidnappings in 2017 have been reported 60 nautical miles off the coast of Nigeria In general, all waters in and off Nigeria remain risky, despite intervention in some cases by the Nigerian Navy.
“We advise vessels to be vigilant, it concluded. The US advisory report to ship masters and owners further warned that ship transiting Nigerian waters to be cautious and seek further information, even as it stated that the alert subsists until November 2, 2017.
“Exercise caution when transiting this area. Additional information on threats and maritime security resources in the Gulf of Guinea are available in U.S. Maritime Advisory 2015-2017. This alert will automatically expire on November 2, 2017,” the statement warned.
LEADERSHIP recalls that, in one of the attacks referred to by the US, six crew members, including the captain were kidnapped from a Liberian-flagged container ship named Demeter while the ship was sailing some 50 nautical miles south-west of Bonny, Nigeria.