* Calls for naval security presence from about 80 nautical miles off Bonny fairway bouy
* Urges Navy to support passage of Anti-piracy Bill into law
The Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Tuesday expressed concerns over the spate of attacks on vessels bringing goods into the country.
The Executive Secretary of the Council, Mr. Hassan Bello, said the security challenges were having negative effect on shipping, adding that vessels bringing goods into the country have become targets of pirates.
Bello who paid a courtesy visit to the Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral, Ibok Ibas in Abuja said that cargo vessels using the nation’s waterways had been attacked by pirates for 88 times in a space of one year.
He called on the Navy to make available a platform that is strategically offshore with “guards transferred to each vessel in and then dropped off out such that there is always armed naval security presence from about 80 nautical miles off Bonny fairway bouy, up to Onne” in Rivers State.
Bello said the security threat on the nation’s waterways was affecting competitiveness of Nigerian ports which in turn impacts negatively on the nation’s Gross Domestic Product. (GDP).
He further disclosed that the shipping companies have been complaining that they have been forced to provide their own security while bringing goods to Nigeria.
The Executive Secretary said this was not the best as such costs incurred by the shipping companies were usually passed on the shippers leading to high costs of goods in the market.
“We have received various complaints from the shipping companies who have been forced to provide their own security to escort their vessels to port (especially at the eastern ports). In spite of their efforts, between 2017 and 2018, there have been 88 attacks in Niger Delta. For instance, 2016 to 2018, there were 10,673 vessels’ calls at the ports with gross registered tonnage of over 329 million. However, one of major challenges in the maritime sector is security”. Bello said
He also disclosed that as a result of high level security issues in the Gulf of Guinea, War Risk surcharge is being imposed on Nigeria, a development which affects the freight charged by shipping companies on goods coming to Nigeria.
He added, “In addition to the various measures being put in place by the Navy and other relevant agencies, there is need for Navy to support the passage of Anti-piracy Bill into law.
“This will replace the security escort service which SAN members and other shipping companies are currently running. There may be need to authorise the shipping lines that trade in Nigeria’s territorial waters to have armed guards on board their vessels to deter attempts on their vessels as suggested by shipping lines”.
The Chief of Naval Staff, Ibok Ibas, in his response said he was happy that the NSC CEO highlighted the challenges being faced by Nigeria and the efforts being made to address them.
He said, “I also want to remind us of the Nigerian Navy mandate to the provision of maritime security which of course compliment the efforts of the Council as a regulator in shipping activities, and therefore, want to re-emphasise the fact that the Nigerian Navy remains committed to improving security in the maritime expanse.
“Of course, as we speak, in 2018, we arrested 40 vessels and have in our custody over 150 persons which have been handed over to the various prosecuting agencies. For last year alone and this year, all together we have over 130 vessels that were seized or arrested for complexity or maritime crimes.
“The Nigerian Navy has a trinity approach in containing maritime security, surveillance, response and enforcement. I want to state here that our surveillance capability is being enhanced daily, with the number of ships and the maritime domain awareness infrastructure that the Navy has acquired in the recent past. It is very easy for the Nigerian Navy to see what is happening in our maritime space.” Bello concluded.