The increasing incidence of abandonment of vessels on Lagos waters is generating concerns in the maritime industry. This is because; criminals and miscreants have started using some of the vessels as base for their nefarious activities, putting the port terminals under risk.
Terminal operators in the ports in Lagos state are worried about the development, because cargoes being discharged at the terminals as well as other equipments and personnel are not safe. Regulatory agencies and security operatives have not been able to address the threat.
This is coming shortly after the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) donated two boats to the Nigeria Navy, which stakeholders said, should have been given to the Nigeria Port Police to patrol the western waters.
But Western Port Police Commissioner, Mrs Hilda Ibifuro Harrison has promised to meet with the director general of NIMASA, Patrick Akpobolokemi for assistance in addressing the threat posed by the abandoned vessels littering Nigerian water ways. She said the marine police will further strengthen the synergy with other maritime agencies to protect and secure the ports and terminals under her watch, and added that port police will raid the miscreants out of their hide out.
This is coming after operators of terminals ‘C’ and ‘D’ at the Lagos Ports Complex (LPC); ENL Consortium Limited raised alarm over the? threat posed by abandoned vessels which criminals now use as a base to access the terminal and vandalise cargoes.
Health, Security Safety and Environment manager of the terminal; Mr. Oyinloye Raphael said miscreants have made the abandoned vessels their hideout to perpetrate evil, saying that series of attack on cargoes at the terminal have been traced to the bandits who often hibernate in the abandoned ships.
According to him, the miscreants use smaller crafts like canoes to ferry themselves back to the wreck on Lagos waters after unleashing terror at the terminals. He said at night, the abandoned vessels are illuminated by torch lights; which further authenticate the presence of criminals on board the wrecked vessels.
Oyinloye urged the Western ports Police commissioner to draw the attention of the director general of NIMASA to the menace and also seek assistance of the agency in providing platforms for the police to perform better.
“It is the duty of NIMASA as the Designated Authority (DA) to remove all wrecks that serve as a threat to our economy and waters and if they do, it will solve some of our problems”, he stressed.
NIMASA is the Designated Authority (DA) for the International Ships and Ports Facility Security (ISPS) Code and could assist the Western Port Police authority in the area of equipment in ensuring that the port terminals are protected by the Police.
Nigeria’s compliance level in the implementation of the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code has reached 38 percent in 24 months, indicating that out of the 129 port facilities in the country, the compliant ones have increased from nine in 2013 to 49 currently, according to the NIMASA.
The ISPS code is the standard international framework through which contracting governments, government agencies, local authorities, port and ship industries can cooperate and be assessed in the global commitment to detect security threats in the maritime transportation sector. It came into force in Nigeria when the Presidential Implementation Committee on Maritime Safety and Security (PICOMSS) was constituted. But NIMASA was given the full responsibility for implementation as the designated authority (DA) since May 21, 2013.
It would be recalled that after a security audit of Nigerian ports, the United States Coast Guard (USCG) in 2013 issued a 90-day ultimatum to Nigeria, during which the country was expected to have rectified the gaps in her compliance with the ISPS Code. Failure to meet the deadline, the USCG had warned that vessels that have visited Nigerian ports would be barred from the US, while America’s allies would be encouraged to adopt a similar stance against Nigeria.
The huge economic implications of such a move by the USA forced Nigerian government to expedite processes of filling the gaps through NIMASA. The speed with which the federal government formally appointed NIMASA as DA, underscored the severity of possible implications, should Nigeria fail to comply. Considering the volume of international trade in the US, such an action will have dire economic implications for Nigeria.
Fewer vessels will be willing to call at Nigerian ports, creating room for sharp hike in insurance and freight costs. This will transcend to higher cost of goods in the market, Nigeria being an import dependent economy, the consequences will be dire.