In this interview, the Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Dakuku Peterside, gives reasons why Nigeria should return to IMO council, and the agency’s efforts at repositioning the maritime sector.
What was the Maritime sector like before you became DG of NIMASA?
Before I became the DG of NIMASA the maritime sector was dominated by foreigners. To balance this I midwifed the signing of the Nigerian Seafarers Conditions of Service Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). The agreement was signed at the Agency’s headquarters and with the endorsement of the National Joint Industrial Council (NJIC) Collective Bargaining Agreement on minimum standards on conditions of service for Nigerian seafarers in both coastal and offshore sectors.
What has the Agency done in the area of security?
Recently, the agency graduated another 298 surveillance officers in basic training course for the implementation of the Integrated Security and Waterway Protection Infrastructure also known as the Deep Blue Project.
The capacity development component of the Deep Blue project is on course as the Agency prepares to receive the land and maritime infrastructure component of the Project.
Our vision of creating the critical force for intervention which is expected to work closely with the command and control center to effectively police the Nigerian Maritime Domain is becoming a reality as they will bring to bear what they have learnt here.
The present threats posed by insecurity to our maritime economy and the need to support economic renaissance of the nation led to the bi-ministerial collaboration of the Federal Ministries of Defence and Transportation under the supervision of the Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) to the President to develop a robust maritime security architecture comprising all Military and Security Services that would ensure conducive and enduring maritime environment for the nation.
What is this much talked about world class ship registry all about and how will it benefit the nation?
The goal is for Nigeria to have a ship registry that will meet international certification standards that will compete favourably with the best in the global maritime community.
NIMASA is working at giving Nigerians a Ship Registry that will be respected across the globe and that will be attractive to ship-owners, so they can fly the Nigerian Flag. In no distant future, our ship registry will be more effective, more efficient and responsive to change, thus, meeting international standards for certification.
The Agency has commenced the process of automating the Nigerian Ship Registry. From the preliminary report earlier submitted to the Agency, the diligent implementation of the findings of the committee would have a beneficial effect on the Nigerian maritime sector.
We are putting in place the necessary building blocks for Nigeria to be the first African country to achieve a five star International Standards Certification by 2020. International standard certification for ship registration is our goal at NIMASA.
Ship registration and the effectiveness of the established processes in a country’s maritime sector operations are critical in determining the health of a national maritime administration.
What has the Agency done in the area of job creation, having in mind that the sector is foreigners dominated?
The Agency had already keyed into the vision of the President by creating over 7000 jobs in the last six months through the New Cabotage Compliance Strategy and is set to do more, as there are vast opportunities in the maritime sector. The Agency has came up with strategies that ensured a steady rise in the number of jobs created through manning, crewing, stevedoring, and dockworkers engagement. This, has positioned the maritime industry as one of the key sectors that will support the realisation of President Muhammadu Buhari’s pronouncement during his Democracy Day broadcast of bringing 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years, as maritime possesses potentials our economic growth.
The implementation of a five-year plan for the cessation of waiver has encouraged the employment of more Nigerians by vessel owners. The effect of the new Cabotage regime is still yielding positive results, as more Nigerians are set to be engaged in various sub-sectors of the maritime industry due to the discouragement of the dominance of the sector by foreigners.
We have always known that the political will to deal with the issue of waivers in the Cabotage regime had been the challenge in the past. Our pronouncement and implementation of the New Cabotage Compliance Strategy has led to the engagement of over 7000 Nigerians in various sub-sectors within the industry. This has also resulted in 32% increase in vessels operating under the Cabotage regime in the first two quarters of 2019.
The Agency had inspected and surveyed over 600 vessels calling at Nigerian ports, an unprecedented feat; this showed that Nigeria is alive to its port state and flag state responsibilities. The increased inspection and survey ensured that sub-standard vessels no longer call at Nigerian ports, which has also improved safety on Nigerian waters.
This in line with the Ease of Doing Business initiative of the President Buhari administration, it now takes less than 24 hours to issue sailing clearance to vessels that call at Nigerian ports, from about seven days at the time the current management of NIMASA came on board.
The issue of maritime crime has been challenging, not only to us as a nation but also the entire Gulf of Guinea. To achieve the objective of a safe and secure maritime environment that will guarantee the realisation of the President’s pronouncement, commitment is critical and we at NIMASA have decided to take the challenge head-on with the various strategies formulated at the Agency’s level to drive the process.
The world will be coming to Nigeria in October to brainstorm on ways of collectively tackling the menace of maritime insecurity. This is with a view to advance the growth and development of the sector to the benefit of the country and Africa at large, with NIMASA championing the initiative.
Is Nigeria leading the war against maritime crime in Africa and how do we plan to tackle the Gulf of Guinea crisis?
Nigeria has an unwavering commitment to its leadership role in the war on piracy and maritime crimes in the Gulf of Guinea region, an area widely considered the global challenging maritime crime base in Africa. The GoG countries were facing serious security challenges that had affected their economies severely and, therefore, needed global support and cooperation to tackle the problem.
The location of the Gulf of Guinea has enormous advantages, as it holds a significant percentage of the world’s total oil and gas reserves as well as rich deposits of solid minerals, such as diamond, bitumen, copper, uranium, granite, quartz, lead, fluorite, and marble.
Already, Nigeria has committed to the hosting of a Global Maritime Security Conference (GMSC), which comes up in the country’s capital, Abuja, from October 7 to 9. The conference will afford the international community a platform to develop actionable strategies to put an end to piracy and other security threats in the African geological and maritime region.
The region’s waterways are a key navigational route for international commerce, connecting the Far East to countries in the North and South of the Atlantic. “It is the hub of extensive Trans-Atlantic trade linking Africa with Europe and the Americas. These are the factors that made Nigeria strategic in the fight against maritime crimes in the GoG region to include being the country with the highest military contingent and might within the region, and a huge deposit of oil and gas, which makes it a place of interest in international energy dynamics. Others are the geo-strategic location of Nigeria, and the country’s big deltas, which are the largest in the world, with thousands of creeks.
Being the biggest economy and most populous country within the region, accounting for over 65 per cent of cargo generated in the area, Nigeria occupies a vantage position to lead efforts to solve the maritime security challenges in the region.
I want to acknowledge that maritime insecurity has economic, social and environmental implications for the region, but Nigeria will leave no stone unturned in the attempt to overcome the challenges. It is this determination that led to the decision to approach the menace through a total spectrum maritime strategy. The strategy involves law enforcement, regional cooperation, response capability building, and enhanced maritime domain awareness for all organs of government involved in maritime security. With the new initiatives, kidnapping and other violent crimes in the GoG region could become history in a matter of months.
We have no option but to work together, but we cannot have imposed solutions. NIMASA will also be hosting a Global Maritime Security Conference in October to seek tailored short and long term solutions to strengthen regional and international collaborations in the Gulf of Guinea.”
The implementation of an integrated national surveillance and waterways protection solution with command and control infrastructure in the Agency is part of the Nigerian government’s deep blue contract to enhance security in the Gulf of Guinea.
What is the Agency doing to ensure that Nigeria gets a national fleet?
Nigerians will be able to lift its country’s crude oil for export immediately the national fleet comes into operation. The new national fleet will be owned 49 per cent by a technical partner and the balance of 51 per cent by Nigerian investors. According to the plan, the Nigerian investors will hold equity in lots, so there will be no domineering shareholder. The planned national fleet will be private sector led for sustainability and profitability.
The national fleet is part of the country’s new strategic direction on the blue economy, which is designed to tap its maritime potentials. I urge local and foreign investors who are interested in the project to partner with the country.
The opportunity in crude freight and right of first refusal to lift cargo generated by all tiers of government are just some of the many potentials in the sector. The country has also invested in the acquisition of security assets to boost the policing of its waters.