……..Feat Attributed To Consistency In Reforms, Availability Of Enforcement Vessels
In The Continued Pursuit Of its mission of staying ahead of the game in maritime administration, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has topped the chart on Port and Flag State Control in the West and Central Africa Sub-Region. NIMASA outranked other maritime regulators in the region in the inspection of vessels calling at Nigeria’s ports, according to the latest report by the Abuja Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Port State Control for West and Central Africa Region, otherwise known as Abuja MoU. Abuja MoU is the apex regional treaty on port control.
Speaking on the feat, the Director-General of NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, said it was part of the fruits of recent reforms initiated by the Agency and deliberate investment in enforcement equipment. “In NIMASA, we are conscious of global best practices and determined to rid our waterways of all substandard vessels, with the ultimate aim of ensuring a safe and robust maritime domain. This will afford us the capacity to be a competitive player in the global maritime space, giving us an edge in the comity of maritime investment destinations, ”Dakuku said.
The Abuja MoU, led by the Secretary-General, Mrs. Mfon Usoro, stated in the report that Nigeria dominated in detailed inspection of vessels, with 13 exercises out of the total 14 carried out in the continent in 2018. The report commended the country’s enforcement drive.
It showed a significant rise in recorded deficiencies across the continent, as 727 vessel deficiencies were recorded in 2018 as against 587 in 2017. This was attributed to increased enforcement exercises across the various regions, with Nigeria in the lead with 339 deficiencies.
Usoro said an analysis of the MoU’s performance between 2010 and 2018 indicated an unbroken incremental improvement by member-nations’ administrations of the MoU in every aspect of Port State Control (PSC). She said this evidenced commitment by member-states to rid their waters of substandard ships, improve the standard of welfare of shipboard officers and crew, and stem the pollution of the region’s waters.
Dakuku pointed out that the excellent record posted by Nigeria was the result of recent transformational initiatives introduced by NIMASA, Abuja MoU’s administrator in Nigeria, and the availability of vessels for officers to carry out their enforcement duties.
While assuring the shipping community of the maximum support of NIMASA, Dakuku stated, “We will remain unwavering in our commitment to safety and innovation in line with global best standards, despite the challenges.
“The Agency has no intention of taking anyone out of business; rather we are here to assist ship operators by creating a conducive environment.”
He emphasised that the Agency will not fail to clamp down on erring operators “to safeguard the country’s maritime environment for the good of all.”
Following the international requirement for countries to inspect at least 15% of foreign vessels entering their domain, NIMASA inspected and surveyed over 600 vessels calling at Nigerian ports, an unprecedented feat showing the country is alive to its port state and flag state responsibilities. The increased inspection and survey has ensured that substandard vessels no longer call at Nigerian ports. It has improved safety on Nigerian waters and led to a reduction of vessels with deficiency from 18.99 % in 2015 to barely 14 % in 2018.
NIMASA has since the last three years engaged in deliberate efforts to protect the country’s maritime assets and environment by building up response capability under the deep blue sea project. The Agency has acquired special mission aircraft, special mission telecommunications gadgets, and 17 interceptor special mission vessels. It has also, in conjunction with the country’s security services, set up a Command and Control Centre, with a complement of armoured vehicles to patrol littoral states, and a standing military force to deal with criminal activities at sea.
The Abuja MoU on State Control was signed at a Ministerial Conference held in Abuja by 16 West and Central African States on October 22, 1999. The meeting was organised by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and hosted by the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Abuja MoU is the legal document under which countries of the region agreed to develop and implement a common mechanism for the respective port state control activities. The main work of the Abuja MoU is the harmonisation of the port state control procedure and practices of all the countries in the region. This is to eliminate the operation of substandard shipping within the region in order to ensure maritime safety, security, protection of the marine environment from pollution, and improvement in the working and living conditions of ship crew, as well as facilitate regional cooperation and exchange of information among member-states.
Signatories to the MoU are Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Congo, Ivory Coast, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Equatorial Guinea, Liberia, Mauritania, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sao Tome and Principe, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea Bissau, The Gambia, and Togo.