Frequent attacks on vessels at berth have raised great concerns about security at Nigerian ports amid rising cost of freight. YUSUF BABALOLA writes.
In the last two weeks, Nigerian ports have been under attack from hoodlums who are taking advantage of the insecurity to strike on vessels at berth. Random attacks were reported in the Lagos Port complex, Apapa, Tin-Can island ports and the Port Harcourt port in Rivers State.
Before now, attacks at berth are not reported at the port especially since the successful port reform of 2006 that led to the concession of ports into different terminals.
The successful implementation of the International Ships and Ports Security (ISPS) code, also reinforced the already available security at the port creating an avenue of safety for vessels to call at Nigerian ports.
However, recent report of attacks on vessels at anchorage has sent ripples of fear down the spine of stakeholders in the maritime sector, who believe the attacks could spike freight cost through increase in insurance premiums.
Series Of Attacks
In the last few months, MV Pamyat; MV Asia Ruby, MV Aquata, MT Sichem New York, MV Kiana and MV Dino were randomly attacked at different times and terminals.
MV Pamyat, with International Maritime Organisation (IMO) number 8701040was attacked at berth 14, operated by ENL Consortium of the Lagos Port Complex (LPC), Apapa on March 2, 2018 when some bandits gained access into the ship with ease.
MV Asia Ruby was attacked at 0415hours on April 24, 2018 at ENL, consortium on berth 8 of Lagos Port Complex (LPC) while discharging her cargo. The robbers carried out their nefarious act on the ship without resistance from anyone.
The Tin Can Island Port Complex (TCIPC) also in Lagos is not spared the robbery attacks.
A report from the Port Security Officer (PSO) of TCIPC, indicated that at about 03:20 hours on Friday March 3, 2018, eight persons suspected to be armed sea robbers launched attacks onboard MV Aquata and MT Sichem New York, which were discharging cargoes at berths 2 and 1 operated by Josepdam of the port respectively.
Preliminary findings revealed that a gang of sea robbers came through the waterfront in an outboard engine boat and launched attacks onboard MV Aquata where three of the robbers succeeded in climbing into the vessel while the remaining five were on standby inside their boat by the portside of the vessel. The crew watchmen onboard sighted one of the robbers at the paint stores and raised an alarm immediately.
However, when the terminal security and armed policemen on duty rushed onboard, they discovered that a watchman onboard was injured by one of the robbers before the criminals made an escape by jumping into the water. There was blood stain on the main deck of the vessel,” the PSO stated in the report.
Further findings revealed that in the wee hours of March 18, a group of sea robbers numbering about 20, gained access into Josepdam Terminal through the waterfront and headed to the terminal’s fuel dump. The robbers beat up and tied the security guards at the fuel dump before they connected a hose from their standby boat to evacuate fuel from the terminal’s fuel tank. The robbers, who reportedly operated unchallenged for more than an hour, succeeded in carting away about eight drums of diesel from the terminals.
Four days later and precisely on March 22, 2018, the robbers called at Josepdam again. This time, they launched an attack on a ship named MV Kiana. The ship, which was discharging its cargo of bulk sugar belonging to BUA Sugar Refinery, has Nura Shipping Limited as its agent in Nigeria.
The robbers, as usual, stormed the ship using canoe, which they brought alongside the ship and gained access onboard with the aid of a rope tied to a hook.
At the Rivers Port in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, the sea robbers are also having a field day. It was revealed that a ship, MV Dino, laden with 20,721MT of bulk wheat was attacked about 80 nautical miles to the Fairway Buoy on her way to PTOL terminal at about 5am on Saturday 7th April 2018.
The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) has suspected internal sabotage on the spate of attacks on the various terminals and this was confirmed by the president general of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN), Adewale Adeyanju.
He noted that “if there are no internal armed robbers or informants at the facilities, outside miscreants would find it difficult to come in and attack vessels at berth”
Adeyanju said attacks on Josephdam was masterminded and aided by some workers of the terminal. He confirmed that staff of the terminal were complicit on the attacks successfully carried out on the terminal.
Adeyanju however disclosed that the compromised staff have however being sacked by the management of the Josephdam.
“Some of the staff of Josepdam that were involved in this issue have been sacked. The boys came to me and I told them they are on their own if you are involved they should face their music. No union will encourage that type of things,” Adeyanju said.
Dimissed Security Men, Suspected Factor
Adeyanju also believed that the termination of tally clerks and onboard security men contracts from the respective stevedoring companies could indirectly contribute to the incessant attacks, especially if such dismissals were not accepted lightly by those affected.
The union boss said the security men and tally clerks onboard who were sacked formed integral part of dockworkers.
He said, “The tally clerks and onboard security men formed an integral part of dockworkers. We no longer have gangway men aboard anymore. What we are experiencing now might be the attitude of those who don’t have jobs again.
“The pirates can just sneak in and perpetrate any form of evil and that is the position of things at the moment.”
“You cannot put your house down when you know that the environment is not safe. There must be watchmen to secure your house and that is the job of the gangway men, and this service is by law and they form an integral part of the dockworkers. Before you can ask them to get out of the port, you have to first repeat the law establishing it at the national assembly.”
Reaction Of Stakeholders
A maritime consultant and policy Analyst, Galtima Liman agreed that the spike in attacks on vessels at berth would increase the premium and insurance on vessels to the nation’s ports.
He also wondered why shanties would e allowed close to the Lagos Port saying that would also fuel attack on vessels.
“There is going to be increase in insurance and premium for shipping companies that are coming to berth in the port,” he told LEADERSHIP Sunday correspondent. He continued, “and despite improvement in making Nigeria food dependent, we still substantially rely on import and most of the vessels that ferry these imports are foreign vessels and in the event that we are not fully compliant with the ISPS codes that brought lot of improvement in the security of the ports after the 9/11 attack in the United States.
Speaking on shanties around the Lagos ports, he said, “having shanties around some ports is an eyesore and I think this is a clarion call on administration of NPA and NIMASA to ensure that our ports are rid of these adjoining shanties,” he told LEADERSHIP Yesterday.
Also speaking, the President, Nigerian Shipowners Association (NISA), Alhaji Aminu Umar said attacks on vessels at Nigerian ports and jetties have been on the rise in recent time with little or no action from requisite agencies.
The NISA President said the implication of the attacks on ships at the ports are grave and “it puts our name in the international maritime wall that it is dangerous and a high risk area to do business particularly for ships to call”.
According to him, “If the ports in Nigeria are considered as high risk area, what it means is that any ship owner coming here pays an additional insurance premium for coming into a zone that is called war risk zone. Some pay as high as $100, 000 to $200, 000 dollars for every seven days they are to stay on Nigeria waters.”
He said, “We have seen so much attacks in the evening. The robbers come and take whatever they can in the ships. It is not only the responsibility of NPA to secure the vessels in the harbour, but they should do more for vessels that are alongside at their ports. For private jetties, the Marine Police, Navy and NIMASA should be involved. There is need for them to work together to ensure that the harbours are totally secured.”
Due to the adverse effect the unabated attacks will have on the economy through the increase on freight cost and insurance premiums, the federal government should empower the Marine unit of the Nigeria Police Force to e ale to stop these attacks.
The Marine units of the NPF who are statutorily saddled with the responsibility of providing security on the inland waterways should be provided with platforms to wade off the attacks of the sea robbers who are petty thieves.
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