What is the Impact of Deep Blue project on Nigeria’s piracy war?
On 08 March 2022, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) decided to remove Nigeria from its Piracy List in view of the dramatic reduction in the number of reported incidents of piracy in Nigerian waters.
The reduction in the number of incidents reported in the region has been significant, with no attacks recorded in Nigerian territorial waters or Exclusive Economic Zone since November 2021 and just four incidents being reported in the whole of the last 12-month period – one each in April, June, October, and November.
In light of the developments highlighted above, and given that Nigerian waters have not witnessed such low levels of piracy in any 12-month period since 2006, is there credible evidence to suggest that piracy in Nigeria is a thing of the past?
The International Maritime Organisation defines an act in Article 101 of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) as consisting of any of the following acts:
(a) any illegal acts of violence or detention, or any act of depredation, committed for private ends by the crew or the passengers of a private ship or a private aircraft and directed:
(i on the high seas, against another ship or aircraft, or against persons or property on board such ship or aircraft;
(ii) against a ship, aircraft, persons, or property in a place outside the jurisdiction of any State;
(b)any act of voluntary participation in the operation of a ship or of an aircraft with knowledge of facts making it a pirate ship or aircraft;
(c)any act of inciting or of intentionally facilitating an act described in subparagraph (a)
It defines armed robbery as:
(a) any illegal act of violence or detention or any act of depredation, or threat thereof, other than an act of piracy, committed for private ends and directed against a ship or against persons or property on board such a ship, within a State’s internal waters, archipelagic waters and territorial sea;
(b) any act of inciting or of intentionally facilitating an act described above.”
This analysis will consider all acts of maritime criminality that fit these definitions.
The analysis does not take into consideration criminal acts against vessels in ports, anchorages, and on the region navigable rivers unless they involve acts of extreme violence, kidnapping of mariners from internationally registered vessels, or hijacking of internationally registered vessels. The analysis will examine trends and patterns of activity going back to 01 January 2018 in order to provide some context to the reduction in activity witnessed in the last 12 months.
It is acknowledged that a great deal of maritime criminality occurred outside the parameters described above, but a full historical dissection of the region’s security history is beyond the scope of this article.
Historically, we have witnessed a number of evolutions in the maritime security threats that have plagued the Gulf of Guinea for almost two decades. To examine some of the more significant trends and patterns we will consider:
Local wisdom warns us every year to be more security conscious in the Ember Months – November and December. Some people include ‘Octember’ in this warning. It is true that criminality increases in the run into the festive season as people resort to crime to ensure they can take care of their families over the holiday season. This phenomenon can be witnessed in the statistics for maritime and riverine criminality as well as onshore and urban crime patterns. Perhaps the starkest example of this phenomenon in the maritime environment occurred in 2020 when at least 15 acts of piracy occurred in Nigeria’s waters (and that excludes robbery in the ‘brown water’ environments). Previous years have seen an increase in the 4th quarter, but 2020 was demonstrative.
In the years leading up to 2013, there was always a dramatic reduction in incidents in July and August. This was attributable to the fact that sea conditions were unfavourable for small craft operations and the pirate gangs at that stage had not yet moved into the use of motherships. From 2013, we saw a steady increase in the number of incidents in those months as the gangs used large vessels to reach further offshore and support small boat operations in deep water.
Historically, as criminal gangs raise funds for their political patrons’ electoral campaigns, we have witnessed an increase in criminality both onshore and in Nigeria’s waters in the 12 months leading up to an election. These spikes might be very localised, such as off the coast of Bayelsa in 2010, and not particularly evident in the overall statistics for the period.
Changes – mother ships:
As mentioned above, the introduction of the use of motherships by pirate gangs allowed them to extend their reach, and from 2013 we started to see attacks occurring much further from the nearest landfall, and eventually the evolution of extended operational deployments into the waters of other Gulf of Guinea nations – with Nigerian gangs operating as far south as Angola and as far west as Liberia.
Migration to other waters:
The migration to the wider Gulf of Guinea environment also coincided with a more ‘industrial’ approach to kidnap for ransom activities, with pirate action groups (PAGs) deploying for several weeks and accumulating as many as 30 hostages. This behaviour had clear economic benefits for the PAGs, allowing them to collect much larger ransoms in both individual and cumulative terms, and in so doing, dramatically improving their profit margins. The gangs were clearly identified as Nigerian by the testimony of their victims upon release and also the fact that the kidnap victims were frequently held in camps in the Niger Delta.
Last six months – comparison
To illustrate the stark reduction in activity levels, we will compare activity in the last six calendar months (December 2021 through to May 2022) with the same period 12 months previously and also against the five-year rolling monthly average.
This first graph shows very clearly the complete absence of activity in Nigerian waters in the last 6 months. The reality is that no acts of piracy were recorded in Nigerian waters in 8 of the last 12 months. There have only been three other months (August 2018, November 2019, and August 2020) in the period Jan 2018 to Dec 2020 in which there were no incidents recorded in Nigerian waters. However, in August 2018, an incident occurred in Gabonese waters that were attributed to Nigerian pirates, and in November 2019, five incidents occurred in the waters of Togo, Benin, Sao Tome & Principe, and Equatorial Guinea. In August 2020, a single incident occurred in Ghanaian waters.
An absence of reported incidents that matches the current hiatus in activity has not been witnessed for two decades or more. However, the keyword is hiatus. We do not know how long this period of grace will last as the organised crime groups (OCGs) that launch the PAGs likely still exist, still own their motherships and retain the capacity and capability to mount further operations at relatively short notice.
This second comparison shows the monthly activity rates since 01 January 2018 for Nigerian territorial waters and EEZ. It is clear that despite the peaks and troughs in activity levels, the overall trend is downwards towards the current extremely low levels. However, if we look at the next graph, which includes similar incidents in the waters, with the exception of Nigeria’s, between the Ivory Coast in the West and the Congo Republic in the south, the picture is slightly different.
Another comparison shows a trend line with a very gentle upward gradient, which persists through the currently extremely low levels of activity in Nigerian waters. Nevertheless, the graph also shows a significant general reduction in incident rates in ‘foreign’ waters over the last 12 months when compared to the preceding 12-month period. This almost certainly reflects the fact that most of the piracy attacks in the whole of the Gulf of Guinea are carried out by Nigeria-based OCGs/PAGs.
As a more direct comparison, the following graph shows annual totals for the various territorial waters and EEZs of the littoral states of the Gulf of Guinea.
What is interesting is that even after the marked reduction in Nigerian waters, activity persists in the jurisdictions of other Gulf of Guinea states. It also reflects the predominance of activity in the Nigerian EEZ, which is likely a reflection of the density of available targets, the ease of reach from the home bases of the PAGs, and the range of the mother ships being used, and the endurance of their crews.
It is thought that the PAGs operate in the waters of neighbouring nations in the view that the naval threat is lower in some of those states. Of interest is the spike of activity in the waters of the Congo Republic in 2021, which coincides with the reduction in activity in Nigerian waters.
All of the above point to a number of key questions:
How long will the hiatus last?
This depends entirely on what is driving the absence of PAG activity. If the OCG/PAGs have found another more lucrative or less risky revenue stream, then the hiatus is likely to last. Of course, if the OCGs have responded to external pressure from the Federal Government then again, it could last – at least until there is a change of government.
Have the OCGs shifted their operations to another source of income onshore?
It is possible. However, there has not been any noticeable spike in other criminality onshore or indeed the emergence of any new form of organised crime. Oil bunkering is at an all-time high, and it is possible that some of the OCGs are also involved in that activity and have shifted their efforts into that arena. It is possible, as the industrialised theft of oil and condensate no longer attracts the international condemnation and attention that the piracy was attracting.
Have the PAGs retained their capacity and capability to resume operations?
As far as we know, they have not burnt their boats on the beaches. That must mean they have either sold them or retained them. Some of the mothership’s identities were well known and it is likely that had they been sold as they would have required a complete change of identity in order to operate unmolested by indigenous and international security forces in the region. For now, we have no evidence to suggest that the capacity and capability of the PAGs have been removed from the OCGs.
Is this a reflection of a reporting anomaly?
This has been touched on above. Reporting of activity in Nigeria and West Africa has always been incomplete, sometimes misleading, and sometimes mischievously so. However, it is interesting that reporting of activity in anchorages and ports has also fallen away sharply. There are lots of political and commercial factors that could be behind that, including the cancellation of the Secure Anchorage Area contract in early 2020. We cannot rule out that the anchorages and ports are suddenly a lot safer. The data would suggest that is the case. Anecdotal information would suggest otherwise.
What could have forced the change?
The much-vaunted Deep Blue project that married NIMASA operations with those of the Nigerian Navy has been claimed to have changed the security dynamics in quantum leaps. However, it has not been possible to find any substantive evidence that the Deep Blue project now dominates the maritime environment off the coast of Nigeria.
International patrols – Danish naval action:
The presence of international warships in the region was certainly a game-changer in 2021. Several interactions between western and Chinese warships and vessels under attack were reported. The intervention that perhaps had the greatest impact was that of the Danish frigate Esbern Snare, which intercepted a PAG while in the act of attacking a commercial vessel deep off the coast of Nigeria in November 2021. The incident resulted in four pirates being killed and five being taken into custody. There have been no incidents in Nigeria’s EEZ since that event.
International political and commercial pressure:
One very interesting possibility is the international pressure that could have been brought to bear through commercial (mainly insurance) channels and also closed diplomatic channels. The precedent for the latter form of intervention was apparently set when the enduring problem of extended hijacking for cargo theft was brought to an abrupt halt. The cartels involved in that form of criminality simply ceased operating. It cannot be ruled out that a similar intervention might have induced the pirate gangs to ‘seek other work’. The commercial impact that the Lloyds Joint War Risk Committee classification of Nigeria’s waters has had on the Nigerian economy has been significant. In November 2021, NIMASA stated that it was determined to have the War Risk Insurance Surcharges removed from vessels operating in Nigerian waters. It cannot be ruled out that the federal authorities identified the big men behind the OCGs responsible for the piracy and persuaded them to ‘seek other work’.
Have the big men behind the piracy made enough money to ‘retire’?
This is another possibility that cannot be ruled out entirely. The precedent was set when the kingpins behind the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) were effectively bought off by the 2009 Niger Delta Amnesty program payments, and the award to their newly formed companies of huge contracts – mostly to protect the assets they had previously been plundering. So major criminal actors do sometimes “read the tea leaves” and decide to retire while they are ahead. On the other hand, it is strongly suspected that the PAGs operating out of Nigeria belonged to five or six separate OCGs. It is unlikely that the bosses of all the groups decided to shut up shop at the same time.
So, the question “What induced the pirates to stop their operations?” remains unanswered with any certainty at this time.
There remains a huge amount of uncertainty in the security environment in Nigeria. The forthcoming elections in early 2023 will likely shape the future security architecture in the country for the subsequent 8 years, at least. It is known that the Presidency is greatly concerned about the currently held views of the electorate regarding security in the country. This was brought to a head by the attack on the Abuja-Kaduna train attack on 28 March 2022. A significant amount of energy and time has been spent discussing the various security challenges facing the country and the Presidency is determined to make a difference before the end of the year and the run-in to the polls.
It is likely the impact of piracy on the country’s economy has driven the launch of Deep Blue and the Navy’s focus on generating a safer and more secure environment for mariners. The country now rests on a political fulcrum and the security challenges have the potential to tip the elections against the ruling party. Therefore, it is likely that more resources will be introduced into the battle against the pirates being fought by the Nigerian security organisations in the coming months.
Nevertheless, Nigerian security forces have 39,700 sq. km to patrol and secure. That is a huge challenge, and the assets and resources are not yet in place to ensure security for mariners operating in the area.
Shipping companies and offshore operators should be prepared to meet the security challenges of short-notice or no-notice increases in the threats facing them in the Gulf of Guinea. The threat currently is assessed to be dormant and it could emerge again very quickly. Pirates live on the land and their families stay on the land (mostly). They are driven and controlled, by onshore factors – poverty, greed, politics, bribery, corruption, and even adventure. Nigeria is moving into an election process, and like any election in any country, it generates uncertainty and, for some people, fear for their future.
Shipping companies should avoid immediately seeking to cut costs. The situation remains uncertain, and the Joint War Risk Committee still classifies the waters of the region as a listed area – meaning they consider the risk to be high. For now, despite the economic pressures being at an all-time high, shipping companies should avoid being seduced by pronouncements that piracy is a thing of the past.
Jamoh’s three years in office: Achievements, Prospects, Projections
Today marks the third year when Dr Bashir Jamoh was appointed as the Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency(NIMASA).
During these eventful years, Nigeria’s maritime industry has witnessed astronomical growth and quantum development which has earned the country international recognition and goodwill.
In this comprehensive profile of the administration of the Kaduna State-born technocrat in NIMASA, theeyewitnessnews reporter takes a cursory look at the achievements, prospects and projections of the agency to make the industry more robust for efficiency, investments and accelerated growth.
The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) was established by an Act of Parliament (The NIMASA Act 2007) with two cardinal objectives, namely;
- To Regulate and Promote Maritime Safety, Security, Marine Pollution and Maritime Labour.
- To promote the development of Indigenous Commercial Shipping in International and Coastal Shipping Trade
The Agency derives its mandate from four Acts of the National Assembly. These are NIMASA Act, 2007, Cabotage Act, 2003, Merchant Shipping Act, 2007 and SPOMO Act, 2019.
To be the leading maritime administration in Africa advancing Nigeria’s global maritime goals
To achieve and sustain safe, secure shipping, cleaner oceans and enhanced maritime capacity in line with global best practices towards Nigeria’s economic development
OUR CORE VALUES
C – COMMITMENT
A – ACCOUNTABILITY
P – PROFESSIONALISM
I – INTEGRITY
T – TEAMWORK
E – EXCELLENCE
L – LEADERSHIP
D – DISCIPLINE
OUR PERFORMANCE TRIPOD
MARITIME SECURITY S1:
Security of the Maritime Domain is very critical to the day-to-day operation of the sector. Security helps to boost investors’ confidence; hence, the following key accomplishments are under the current dispensation.
- Signing into law of the SPOMO Act by Mr. President
- The launch of the Deep Blue Project
- Significant Reduction in Piracy and Kidnappings
- Arrests and Successful Prosecution of Criminals
- Leadership of Regional Maritime Collaboration Forum to tackle Insecurity
- Nigeria’s Removal from IBM’s Red List
AIM OF THE DEEP BLUE PROJECT
The aim of the project is to establish a sustainable architecture for improved maritime safety and security through increased monitoring and compliance enforcement within Nigeria’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), with a view to effectively tackling the challenges of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.
THE DEEP BLUE PROJECT ASSETS BREAKDOWN
Classified into 3 (three) with over 254 personnel drawn from Military and paramilitary organizations. These are; Marine, Land and Air Assets.
- Marine Assets
Special Mission Vessels – 2 (DB Abuja and DB Lagos)
Fast Intervention Boats – 17
- Air Assets
Special Mission Helicopters 3
Special Mission Aircrafts 2
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)
- Land Assets
Armored Vehicles – 17
Facilities – Command, Control, Computer, Communication and Intelligence (C4i) Centre, Training Facilities (Shooting Range, C4i Training Centre etc.). Training; various training for all personnel in the deep blue project on the assets and facilities.
THE INTER-OPERABILITY OF THE DEEP BLUE ASSETS
- Effective implementation of the Deep Blue Project contributed to the reduction in piracy cases with only one piracy case as of May 2022, 6 cases in 2021 from 35 cases in 2020 and 2019 respectively
OUR PERFORMANCE TRIPOD
MARITIME SAFETY S2:
The Agency observed that shipping is critical to global trade, yet it is the most vulnerable in terms of safety. This explains the reason the IMO (International Maritime Organization) adopted the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) convention to ensure the safety of those involved.
Consequently, empowered by enabling legislations, NIMASA takes this as a critical aspect of its job to ensure safety of ships and those on board, through proper enforcement of maritime safety conventions.
ACHIEVEMENT AND INITIATIVES
OUR PERFORMANCE TRIPOD
SHIPPING DEVELOPMENT S3
The critical aspect of shipping development encompasses fleet expansion, shipbuilding and ship repairs. Shipping is responsible for over 90 percent of international transportation of goods that sustain the global supply chain, which is a significant component of the global economy, enhancing imports and exports of goods and services.
NIMASA is poised to advance shipping by ensuring a conducive environment for commercial shipping and encouraging more indigenous participation in the global shipping trade.
NSDP BREAKDOWN AS AT OCTOBER 2021
WASTE TO WEALTH PROGRAMME / EMPLOYMENT GENERATION – 1,190 MARINE LITTER MARSHALS
The Making of Nigeria’s Blue Economy Strategic Document
- Vice President His Excellency Yemi Osinbajo will Chair the Expanded Committee on the Blue Economy Strategy Development and its Implementation Task Team.
- The Federal Ministry of Transportation under the leadership of the Honourable Minister for Transportation, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi
- Federal Ministry of Transportation as the Secretariat
BLUE ECONOMY AND LITTORAL STATES ENGAGEMENT
CABOTAGE VESSEL FINANCING FUND (CVFF) – STATUS OF DELIVERY
Presidential approval was granted for disbursement.
Primary lending institutions appointed.
Disbursement is likely second quarter of 2023.
The Federal Executive Council, at the end of the last quarter of 2021, approved the wreck removals from the Badagry axis up to the Tincan Island project has gone
Again, in the first quarter of 2022, the Federal Executive Council approved the removal of the entire wrecks also in the other zones of Nigeria, comprising the Western zone with headquarters in Lagos, Eastern zone headquarters in Port Harcourt, and then the central Zone headquarters in Warri. All these projects have achieved major milestones.
We engaged the Nigerian Navy Naval Dockyard in Lagos to repair our operational vessels, Millennia 1 and Millennium 2. Today both vessels and five others are almost ready
for deployment for enforcement purposes. This will also enhance our search and rescue operation, and port and flag state administration amongst others.
In other to attend to the emergencies that may occur after Search and Rescue operations, the Agency has built two brand new Search and Base clinics of international standard at Azare Crescent, Apapa and Kirikiri. We are hopeful to commission it soon. The hospital is not for NIMASA or Nigeria, but for the original Regional States, NIMASA is in charge of nine countries in terms of Search and Rescue. The hospital is of high international standard, we hope to treat all calibers of patients locally, and internationally, with the state-of-the-art equipment the facility will possess, when completed.
In the area of our Flag and Port State Administration, at the inception of the administration, there was no single vessel for enforcement. Today, we have built seven brand new bulletproof boats and we expect them to have completed the building. They are being built in Spain, and we are hoping that before the end of March, we will receive and commission the vessel.
As soon as the vessels are commissioned, there will be enhanced enforcement performance; and we plan to divide the use of the vessels; not only in Lagos but also in other zones of the Agency. All these will cater for the issue of safety.
Before 2019, we do not have law, separate law that tried these offenders and criminals that we arrest those involved in piracy and kidnapping.
Therefore, we are trying to get this formal act Suppression of Piracy and other Maritime Related Offences (SPOMO) Act signed by Mr. President in June 2019. As of today, we have secured convictions under this Act. This has also served as a deterrent to would-be criminals.
To further deter these criminalities on the waterways and make our youths gainfully employed, the Agency engaged the Marine Litter Marshals Usually;
In the area of education, the Agency introduced the Nigerian Seafarers Development Programme (NSDP). The Nigerian NSDP development program is a capacity development programme.
Now in order to ensure that we do not forget our own training institution in Nigeria, we have improved our interface with the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN) Oron. The Agency’s statutory funding of the Maritime Academy of Nigeria in Oron has been on point since 2020.
We have Simulators, among other state-of-the-art facilities, and the funding by NIMASA has been unhindered. This is in addition to other private maritime institutions, the private like Charkins, which are now also coming up with a lot of accreditation of diplomas and other short-term certificates that we are doing it locally, saving foreign exchange that we are having.
In addition to this initiative, the Agency created skill acquisition centres across six geopolitical zones. For the South-West we have Lagos, in the South-East we have Anambra, for South-South we have Bayelsa, in North-East, we have Maiduguri, Borno state; for North-West we have Kaduna State for North Central we have Kwara.
So all these skill acquisition centers have the capacity of training younger Nigerians on different aspects of professionalism under that. This is to help trim the number of this criminality in our own territorial waters. Records, therefore, show that from the third quarter of 2021 until date, we have never recorded one single attack in our own territorial water.
Now That Moghalu Has Lost
George Moghalu, the Managing Director of National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) was among the 14 candidates who contested the All Progressive Party (APC) governorship primary for the November 6th governorship elections in Anambra state.
At the party’s Anambra state primary election held last week, Moghalu came a distant third, losing the APC ticket to Senator Andy Uba.
According to the results announced Sunday, June 27th, 2021 at Golden Tulips Hotel, Agulu Lake, the NIWA boss garnered 18, 596 votes to come a distant third to Senator Uba, who grossed 230, 201 votes, thus putting paid to the ambition of Moghalu to govern Anambra state, at least in the next four years.
We are not by any means celebrating the electoral defeat of the NIWA boss nor gloating over the temporary setback in his electoral fortunes.
But what the Anambra people may have lost in denying Moghalu the APC ticket to vie for the highest position in the state, is now the NIWA gains.
We believe that now that Moghalu has lost in his ambition to run the state, at least at this period, he would now give maximum concentration to the administration of inland waterways in the country.
Chief Moghalu, a core member of the ruling party, was appointed as the Managing Director of NIWA in October 2019 to replace Senator Olorunbe Mamora who was appointed as the Minister of State for Health.
Until his appointment in 2019, Moghalu was the National Auditor of his party.
Stakeholders claimed he was a reluctant NIWA boss as he still had his eyes firmly fixed on politics and how to fulfil his ambition to become the governor of Anambra State at the time he took over in 2019.
The harvest of avoidable mishaps on the waterways, lack of will power by NIWA to enforce standard and regulations on the operators clearly showed management which lacked commitment and focus.
The failed state of some of our River ports, the under-utilisation of Onitsha Rivers Port, which one thought could have engaged his attention for obvious reasons, was also a pointer to leadership with divided interests.
The lifeless nature of NIWA’s leadership got to an alarming proportion when the waterways began to witness almost daily mishaps.
Stakeholders, who were concerned by the apparent lack of commitment and focus of NIWA leadership, began to voice out their trepidation over gradual decay and rot on our waterways.
They blamed lack of will to enforce regulations, safety, standard, and lack of regulation such as overloading, night voyage, rickety and old craft as causes of mishaps on the inland waterways.
The erstwhile President of Nigerian Shipowners Association (NISA), Alhaji Aminu Umar, believed that enforcement of safety and standard on the nation’s inland waterways is weak.
“I think the task of NIWA is to standadise safety conditions and procedures on the nation’s waterway.
“There is no standard applied on the movement of people as all kind of boats are being used. It is important that we standardise because lack of safety and standard will increase accident.”
Umar was also alarmed at the unregulated movement of barges with passengers boats which he said was accidents in waiting, blaming it on the lack of weak regulatory powers of NIWA.
He said it’s a huge risk allowing badges moving containers around the port area to be moving side by side with boats moving passengers and vessels approaching the Lagos Ports.
“Moving people and containers at the same time is a huge risk and a safety concern. NIWA and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), should see to this,”
Another concerned stakeholder, a professor at the Lagos Business School, Dr. Frank Ojadi, was alarmed at the level to which the Nigerian inland waterways has deteriorated.
He said it was shameful that the nation’s Inland waterways are in ruins and left to rot away instead of being a catalyst for development.
” The Inland Waterway Transport was the platform on which the colonial masters built Nigeria before the railway. It is a shame that it has been left to decay. That is how we do things in this country,” he said.
Also speaking, a member of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Kenneth Nwachukwu, asked why it was so difficult for NIWA to enforce the banning of night sailing, use of life jacket and overcrowding of boats?
“That the MD is unable to ban night sailing, use of life jacket and overloading is another testament that a lot still needed to be done to clean-up our inland waterways”.
The alarm raised by these stakeholders was an eloquent testimony to the level of loose control from the leadership of NIWA and this could be the function of lack of commitment and focus.
That is why stakeholders said the loss of Moghalu in the APC primaries, though painful, was a blessing for NIWA.
They believe the loss will now afford Moghalu ample time to focus on how to direct the affairs of NIWA to achieve maximum efficiency.
“Now that he has lost, he should concentrate on the job he is being paid for,” an angry operator on the nation’s inland waterways said.
“We urge him to pay more attention on how to enforce standard and safety on the waterways to forestall further loss of lives and properties on the waters” another stakeholder interjected.
The stakeholders believed the relative calm and safety on the Lagos waterways was largely due to the activities and purposeful leadership of the Lagos State Waterways Authority (LASWA) which has been proactive, focused and committed in its quest to enforce discipline on the waterways.
“If left for NIWA, the Lagos waterways could also have witnessed the similar harvest of mishaps as the case in other parts of the country,” another operator said.
“NIWA has practically gone into a coma under its present management as the activities of the agency are not being felt going by the regular mishaps that happen on our waterways where it is now free for all for all kind of boats and crafts whose operators have no or little regards for standard and safety,” an expert in the industry said.
It is therefore the general wish of all stakeholders that Chief Moghalu, now that he has lost the Anambra state APC primary election, would give his assignment at NIWA the utmost priority, maximum and committed attention it deserves in order to bring order and sanity to the nation’s waterways.
NPA channel management options: dangers of politicising the process
By Dr. Edmund Chilaka
The recently reported pronouncement by the Federal Ministry of Transport (FMOT) on the Nigerian Ports Authority’s (NPA) management of seaport channels deserves the closer attention of port industry operators to ensure that it is in line with the best interest of all stakeholders.
According to the news reports, the FMOT was reported to have directed the NPA to re-consider in-house management of the channels.
In view of the extreme importance of the issues at stake here, it is critical to make this clarificatory comment to ventilate the space and avail the public, all authorities, and especially policymakers, of the unimpeachable facts of the case in hand.
For, as Edmund Burke said, “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
From my long experience in publishing local and international dredging data and comparisons with other successful maritime nations, I can say that the dredging of the channels is at the crux of Nigeria’s current position in both regional and international sea trade, especially as the commander of over 65% of the maritime shipping traffic in West Africa.
The aim of this comment, therefore, is to protect the integrity of Nigeria’s channel management architecture from any adverse groundswell of politics, and the reason is obvious.
The reach of Nigeria’s port industry presently exceeds the boundaries of national politics and any interventions deemed by any stakeholder to have adversely affected their operations brook possible legal actions locally or overseas, with Nigeria’s sovereign assets exposed to judgment claims.
I shall demonstrate this below. So, what are Nigeria’s options for harbour dredging in order to avoid an erroneous backward step?
Is the reported FMOT directive on the matter tenable, practicable, and/or, advisable?
Why Dredge at all?
Unlike countries blessed with natural seaports which have deep channels unblocked by silting sand, many Nigerian seaports are actually built along rivers and dredging their channels to the sea is indispensable to make them functional in the international scheme of shipping and maritime trade, and to keep them to the advertised draughts.
Any port is only as good as its channels and berths. Without a navigable channel, no port will be patronized by ship owners, carriers, or other marine operators, because the essence of a port is as a gateway to safely bring in imports and take out exports, without damage to the vessel.
For example, the Lagos port system came alive only after 1907 when the steam dredger, Egerton, removed the blocking sand shoals to gain a depth of 10½ft needed by big steamers to call at the Customs Wharf in those days.
Previously, most Lagos-bound cargoes were landed at Forcados Port (which had the necessary depth), for transshipment to Lagos.
Thus, from 1907 till 2005, the Lagos port system was dredged continuously using in-house management and infrastructure and the status of its channels and aids to navigation always determined the size and growth of its annual throughput volumes.
NPA’s In-House Dredging Management: Pre-Concession Era
However, although the dredging regimen used during the pre-colonial, colonial, and post-independent periods sufficed for the time, the Authority’s in-house harbour management methods began to fail by the 1980s.
There were ship groundings and lots of complaints from ship owners. Note that the NPA had acquired some equipment for dredging and wreck management, namely: two trailing suction hopper dredgers (TSHDs), Sea Lion and River Challawa; the suction dredger, SD Gumel, the heavy-duty crane, Kakube, the buoy-laying vessel, Bode Thomas, and the hydrographic survey vessel, Argungu, all deployed to the Lagos pilotage district.
For the Eastern ports, the Authority retained the services of Tayasa Dredging Nigeria Ltd and the foreign dredging companies.
This was the state of affairs until the Joint Venture partnerships with Lagos Channel Management (LCM) and Bonny Channel Company (BCC)) were set up in 2005.
Nevertheless, as I write, most of this NPA’s owned fleet of dredgers and equipment in Lagos are completely outdated and non-functional.
In a telling report of this era, the World Bank concluded that the state-owned enterprises (SOEs), including NPA, guzzled Government subventions, returned losses on investments, were incurably bureaucratic, slow, corrupt and mostly irredeemable.
This verdict gave rise to the seaport reforms. However, I daresay that if the present FMOT idea of restoring NPA’s in-house channel management arrangement is adopted, the previous issues which necessitated the reforms would resurface.
The nation would see more of such losses of key equipment caused largely by the typical bureaucracy, lack of maintenance, and ineptitude.
Moreover, new staff would have to be employed. Would they be willing to work the 24/7 rosters being used presently by the JV partners to keep the Lagos and Bonny pilotage districts effectively deep, buoyed, lighted, and wreck-free?
The Origin of the Joint Venture Partnerships
Conversely, let us take a closer look at the JV channel management arrangements which were emplaced during the 2001 seaport reforms.
So far, it remains the most rigorous and concerted effort to lift the Nigerian seaport system to international levels of administration and operation, as attested by current key performance indicators (KPIs).
Various stakeholders and consultants participated to deploy this system, including the National Assembly, the Federal Executive Council, the FMOT, the National Council on Privatisation, the Transport Sector Reform Implementation Committee, the Bureau of Public Enterprises, the World Bank, CPCS Transcom Canada, the ICS, Royal Haskoning, NPA, NIMASA, and several inter-ministerial committees, on the one hand.
On the other hand, there was the coterie of local and foreign shipping lines and port operating companies, which participated in the bids for the port terminals offered by the NPA under the emergent seaport concession programme.
The process lasted from 2001 and culminated in 2006 when successful bidders took over cargo operations in 26 terminals, which were offered for a concession from Lagos to Calabar under the newly-adopted landlord port model.
The joint venture partnership agreements which shared the former in-house channel management functions with the NPA were established with LCM and BCC in August 2005. Coastal and Reclamation Engineers (CARES) were appointed as independent dredging auditors.
The resultant lease agreements and joint venture partnerships relied on the execution of the NPA Act, section 8 sub-sections j, l, x, to protect stakeholders’ investments.
Fifteen years later, one can attest to modest achievements by the JV partnerships, especially the improvement in safer and deeper channels for the concessionaires’ strive for increased throughput volumes.
For example, whereas the cargo throughput in 2005 was 44.9m metric tons, by 2014 it had risen to 84.9m metric tons. Also in 2014, the Maersk Caldiz, the largest container vessel to call in Nigerian ports, began regular calls at Lagos and Onne ports following the depth of -13.5m and 14m achieved by LCM and BCC in Lagos and Bonny, respectively.
Other large vessels drawing deep draughts such as Maersk/West Africa Maxima and the Total FPSO, Egina have also called at Lagos and other ports in recent times.
In addition, the BCC, which handles Bonny/Port Harcourt pilotage district, has made it easier for LNG vessels (which form one of the core revenue-earning sources for NPA) to navigate the channel safely.
These unprecedented achievements, to my mind, are foundations for growth and further improvement and the system that sustains them ought not to be lightly cast away or dismantled without a robust Plan B.
Thus, it is not wise to just ask NPA to resume in-house management of the channels if in the end, the Authority’s corporate bureaucracy jeopardizes or can be claimed to have jeopardized the movement of ships in the pilotage districts or other lawful operations of the concessionaires which, under the lease agreements, are required to remit annual lease fees, royalties and other levies supposedly accrued from successful operations at the terminals.
What if it is proven in court that NPA’s underperformance in channels and berths management led to lowered incomes of the concessionaires, will the Authority still stand well to successfully claim those fees, royalties, and levies unchallenged?
Would the concessionaires not be right to seek variations of their payment obligations if their ships began to run aground or if their shipping schedules were unduly affected because of draught restrictions caused by NPA’s in-house handling of the channels?
These were some of the reasons for emplacing the channel management joint venture partnerships in the first place.
In fact, the recent newspaper publications by NPA (14 November 2016) which invited consultants to bid for the dredging and channel design optimization studies aimed at a comprehensive review plan of the Bonny/Port Harcourt, Calabar and Lagos pilotage districts and seeking to emplace optimal efficiencies signposted the Authority’s proactive desire for the provision of safe, navigable and cost-effective channels.
This underscores the fact that the channels must not be allowed to fall into the hands of untested, unproven, or quack management that lack proper technical proficiency and track record.
In sum, it is concerning that if care is not taken, the fallouts of politics can threaten the port and maritime industry at its nascent stage of development.
Efforts must be made to avoid taking steps that are inconsistent with the internationally attested program of concessions which have proved altruistic, progressive, and yielded substantial gains to Nigeria’s maritime status.
As they say, one step above the sublime is ridiculous. There should be found a way to settle arising disputes in a way that shields from attack the springs of such a well-functioning system as the NPA joint venture partnership arrangements on channel management.
Dr. Chilaka is the publisher of Dredge, Drill & Haul magazine and lectures at the University of Lagos.
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