The Lagos Secure Anchorage Area (SAA) operated by Ocean Marine Solutions Limited (OMSL) is saving foreign shipping companies calling at the Lagos ports N81million ($213,500) each every month, LEADERSHIP checks have revealed.
This is just as stakeholders in maritime industry have said the OMSL Secure Anchorage in Lagos has helped in reduction of freight rate and insurance cost which has led to reduction in the exorbitant price of shipping to the Lagos port.
They said OMSL, a private security outfit in partnership with the Nigerian Navy which oversees the Lagos Secure Anchorage Area, has restored confidence of foreign shipping companies bringing vessels into Nigeria as well as the international maritime community on safety of Nigerian waters.
The SAA is a protected area where ships are kept before they are called in to berth at the seaport.
Before the establishment of the OMSL SAA, maritime crimes were rife and foreign shipping companies spent huge sums of money hiring mercenaries to protect their vessels against pirate attacks.
According to investigation, it costs a shipping company $225,000 to hire three mercenaries from the United State of America or Singapore for a month voyage to Lagos seaports to ward off pirate attacks. But the introduction of the Secure Anchorage Area operated by OMSL has put an end to crimes within the Anchorage.
But at OMSL Anchorage, foreign vessels are charged an average of $11,500 per week, which is broken down into $2,500 for the first day and $1,500 for the remaining days in a seven day period.
To this effect, OMSL operation at Lagos anchorage has helped saved at least $213,500 for foreign shipping as against their initial expenditure of $225,000 for mercenary hires before the SAA was introduced by the Navy and OMSL.
However, due to constant attacks on vessels at anchorage at the Eastern and Southern Secure Anchorage Area, the stakeholders have called on the federal government to replicate the OMSL model in other eastern and southern anchorages.
According to them, the OMSL Secure Anchorage in Lagos has helped in reduction of freight rate and insurance cost which has led to reduction in the exorbitant price of shipping to the Lagos port.
The President, Shipowners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Dr McGeorge Onyung said his association is very concerned about the safety of the nation’s waterways, stating that if nation’s waterways were not safe, Nigeria and indigenous shipowners will lose businesses.
He stressed that Nigeria remained a very important vessel destination in Africa, calling on the parties involved to come to a round table discussion and tackle the grey areas with a view to resolving them in national interest.
Speaking on behalf of SOAN, Onyung said, “Our position has always been that we need a sustainable solution to security in our waters. We are ship owners, we spend huge sums to acquire our ships and we do not want our business disrupted by pirates.
“We would support any action whether it is public or private that ensures that our waters are safe from pirates so that we can conduct our businesses properly.”
Also speaking, the chief executive officer, First Planet Energy, Mr Kennedy Rhima said that if the continuous engagement of Ocean Marine Solution Limited will bring about the safety and security of vessels in the Lagos Pilotage district, then it should be allowed.
He however called for a closer collaboration between the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), the Nigerian Navy and other stakeholders involved in the matter.
Rhima stated that any attempt to stop the security services being provided by Ocean Marine Solution would spell doom for ships calling at the Lagos ports.
On his part, the president of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), an umbrella body of freight forwarders in Nigeria, Mr Increase Uche, said dismantling the SAA might send the wrong signal to shipping companies.
“Removing the SAA may fuel insecurity in our waters. We are not indicting the Nigerian Navy or saying that the NPA has no right to raise alarm if they feel Nigeria’s security is being threatened. If there is intelligence on that, the government should investigate and take action.
“Our position and that of concerned shipping operators is that we want a situation whereby there is decorum, we want to see that our waters are well-secured so that the freight cost payable cannot add to the cost of doing business in our ports,” Uche added.
A maritime analyst, Emeka Ejiofor, who spoke on the renewed efforts to curb OMSL’s involvement in the SAA project, said, “The disruption of the SAA arrangement operated by OMSL might cause the shipping community in the country a huge lost.
“Ships may be compelled to divert goods destined to Nigeria to other countries which will not do the country’s economy any good. Diversion of goods to neighbouring countries will surely have a catastrophic effect on our economy. This is why it is surprising that this is coming from those who should know better”.
Also, a shipowner who craved anonymity said the collaboration between the Ocean Marine Solution Limited and the Nigerian Navy was very important to the nation’s maritime industry in particular and the Gulf of Guinea in general.
“OMSL is working for national interest and has continued to provide security service at the anchorage to the admiration of ship owners and operators that anchor their vessels at the designated area,” he stated.