NIMASA patrol boat at sea for Maritime Law Enforcement. Credit: NIMASA
The director-general of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has said the success of a new programme initiated by the country’s government to crack down on maritime crime will depend on the ability to strengthen ties with the armed forces.
Dakuku Peterside said the core piece of the security jigsaw would be the ability for NIMASA and the 81 Division of the Nigerian Army, covering Lagos and Ogun, to work together to crack down on crime. The division’s importance to the success owes much to the fact that Lagos is the only state in the country that has two international port complexes.
“We cannot talk about merchant shipping without security both onshore and offshore, therefore we have to work with not only the Nigerian Navy but also with all security agencies in order to ensure that criminals have no hiding place on land or at sea because a large percentage of crime committed at sea are planned on land”, he said.
NIMASA has a memorandum of understanding with all branches of the Nigerian armed forces and police service and believes the government’s initiative will provide a catalyst for the various organisations to forge closer ties.
To that end, NIMASA wants to see greater emphasis on security around the country’s imports and backs moves by the International Maritime Organization to try to put pressure on neighbouring countries to adhere to international port security rules. Dakuku added that the implementation of the International Ships and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code was vital if ports were to remain secure and that this would be a significant deterrent to criminals looking to attack maritime interests.
“In recognising the fact that security of our ports and adjoining areas is very important to the safety of goods and services moving in and out of our country, and our commitment to the full implementation of the ISPS Code, we have continually sought collaborative understanding with all security agencies, including the army, with which we have a memorandum of understanding that is in the process of renewal, to effectively nip any security challenge in our maritime domain in the bud,” he said.
[Head] Shipping warned to avoid Sulu and Celebes seas
Image: waves in sulu sea. Caption: The Sulu Sea, between the Philippines and Malaysia, has seen attacks by militant groups Credit: NASA
Seafarers have been warned vessels to avoid the Sulu and Celebes seas if possible, following the execution of three Vietnamese seafarers in July.
The warning was issued by piracy watchdog the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP), which said that since March last year, 59 crew members had been abducted in the Sulu-Celebes Sea and waters off Eastern Sabah. Of these, at least 4 have been killed and 16 are still in captivity.
The organisation’s executive director, Masafumi Kuroki, said the situation remained fluid and, while regional efforts to enhance security were welcome, vessels and their masters had a duty of care.
While piracy attacks have fallen overall in Asian waters, ReCAAP warned against complacency and welcomed Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines launching a trilateral maritime patrol agreement to address the piracy, armed robbery against ships, kidnapping of crew at sea, and other transnational crimes along the shared borders of the three countries.
“In dealing with the increasing threats to ships transiting the Sulu-Celebes Sea, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) has implemented several regulations and guidelines with strict enforcement of security and safety measures to prevent potential abductors from boarding ships.”
ReCAAP said it emphasised “the importance of collective and shared responsibility among all stakeholders, including the littoral states’ enforcement agencies”, and that the shipping industry needed to institutionalise its efforts on land and at sea. It stated that more had to be done to “strengthen regional co-operation and co-ordination among the littoral states in conducting co-ordinated patrols, law enforcement, and apprehension of perpetrators”.
For merchant shipping “we keep our advice to the shipping industry to reroute the ships where possible … or otherwise remain very vigilant,” Kuroki said. “Although there have been no abductions since May, the situation is not yet stable,”
Adding to the concern, in July, militant jihadist group Abu Sayyaf killed a Vietnamese sailor in the Sulu village of Buhanginan. The murder came soon after the bodies of two other Vietnamese seafarers were discovered in Basilan. Both had been beheaded.
Along with the increased patrols, the PCG has established a recommended transit corridor between Moro Gulf and Basilan Strait, in a move that mirrors efforts in the Gulf of Aden when the Somali piracy attacks were at a peak in 2008/09.