Nigeria acquires Special Mission vessels for Maritime security

Maritime security: Nigeria acquires Special Mission vessels

Determined to rid the waters of criminal activities, the Federal Government has received two Special Mission Vessels (SMV) in Lagos.

The reception at the Naval Dockyard, Victoria Island, was organised by the Nigerian Navy and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), under the Deep Blue Project.

The vessel, DB Lagos and DB Abuja, which arrived the country recently are equipped with sophisticated intelligence gathering capability for timely detection and response to illegal activities in the maritime domain.

“Piracy is an act inimical to the growth of the maritime sector and we are prepared, more than ever before, to give it all it takes to end this nefarious act,” said the Chief Security Officer, Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral Murtala Bashir.

He stated that the officers who would mean the vessels will be given adequate training under the Deep Blue Project so that the special features of the vessels can be adequately utilised for the purpose of combating maritime illegalities.

NIMASA Director-General, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, said pirates and other criminals on the country’s maritime domain up to the Gulf of Guinea would soon meet their waterloo, with the arrival and installation of the critical assets under the Deep Blue Project.

Dakuku, who was represented by the agency’s Executive Director, Operations, Rotimi Fashakin, disclosed that aside these two special mission vessels, 10 Fast Interceptor Boats have also arrived the country and seven more are expected later in the year.

“Today marks a new dawn for a more secure and stable maritime environment in Nigeria. This milestone in asset delivery inches us closer to full operational take-off of the Deep Blue Project, hence it marks a huge victory for the Nigerian maritime sector in the fight against maritime insecurity,” he said.

The DG disclosed that the DB Abuja and DB Lagos, which are built to be intelligently operated, also served as mother vessels to Fast Intervention crafts that are able to respond to distress calls swiftly.

Each of the interceptor boats has a combined engine capacity of 900HP and can do up to 55knots. He also said each of the vessels would be commanded by a Navy captain with full complement of naval personnel.

It would be recalled that the Federal Executive Council (FEC) granted approval for a holistic maritime security architecture, which is a multi-pronged approach towards fighting piracy.

Aside the sea assets, there are also land and air assets, which are still expected in the country before the end of the year.

NIMASA also operates a Command and Control Centre at the Regional Maritime Resource Coordination Centre (RMRCC), which is also part of the Deep Blue Project.

Giving a breakdown of the assets being installed under the Deep Blue Project at a press conference in Lagos recently, the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi revealed that many of the assets had arrived the country.

He hinted that the first special mission aircraft would be in the country before the end of the first quarter of the year, while six armoured personnel carriers were already in, and that the first unmanned aerial vehicle was being expected soon.

Freight forwarding council to earn N5bn from new fees

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The Council for Freight Forwarding in Nigeria has declared that the implementation of the Practitioners Operation Fee will fetch annual revenue of N5bn.

The Registrar and Chief Executive Officer, CRFFN, Nwakohu Samuel, disclosed this on Thursday in Lagos while speaking with journalists, stressing that the payment processes had been fully automated.

He said the processes had also been integrated with the Nigerian Ports Authority, the Nigeria Customs Service and other government agencies.

Samuel said that the proposed N5bn revenue would increase after the initial period of implementation.

Recall that the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, had approved the payment of the PoF by importers and freight forwarders clearing goods from the nation’s seaports.

For every 20-foot container, the PoF is given as N1,000 while every 40-foot container attracts N2,500 PoF.

Clearing agents had kicked against the fee, saying that payments were already being made to the Customs, NPA and shipping firms and that this payment would increase their operational cost.

The matter passed through various court processes with the Federal Government granting its final approval.

The CRFFN registrar specifically said the Ministry of Finance had given the approval making the PoF payment a condition for the exit of goods from the ports and border gates.

He said with the automation, it would be impossible to operate as a freight forwarder without registration and payment of the PoF.

“The freight forwarder will be unable to log in,” he said.

Samuel said 25 per cent of the amount generated from the PoF would go to the federation account; 35 per cent would be set aside for training, capacity building and other issues in the freight forwarding sector; 20 per cent would go to the SW Global, the technical partner to the CRFFN while 20 per cent would go into the CRFFN coffers.

He said, “We are doing an integration that will take about three to four weeks but that will not stop the commencement of the implementation of the PoF.

“You make payment against an invoice generated for you. You have to clear it with them because that is the last port of call for you to take your container out.”

The CRFFN registrar also said, “You must be able to show evidence that you have paid before you can take your container out.

“By the time we integrate fully, all you need do is to give them the reference number to your bill of lading and they will crosscheck in their own system. Before then, whatever we generate from this end, we will give to them; they will tick you off if you have paid.”

He expressed confidence that the system put in place was self-enforcing and would be difficult for people to flout it.

$200m Cabotage Fund: Banks to hold Shipowners accountable

Rotimi Amaechi

As plans for the disbursement of the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF) gathers momentum, the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, has said lending institutions will be empowered to hold any beneficiary shipowner accountable for every kobo collected as facility. The CVFF stands at about $200million.

He spoke at a meeting in Lagos on Thursday organised by by the Federal Ministry of Transportation, in collaboration with the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).

“We have agreed to form a committee that will draw up guidelines for the disbursement of the CVFF. It is the guideline that will be drawn up that will be taken to the National Assembly for ratification. The committee comprising some stakeholders will be headed by the Director-General of NIMASA and they will decide if the interest rate that will be attached to the CVFF will be single digit or not,” Amaechi said.

The minister hinted that essential elements in the expected guideline is that the responsibility of monitoring the funds will be transferred to the lending institutions, that is the commercial banks. This will ensure that the lending institutions are in a position monitor every ship-owners that gets a chunk of the CVFF.

“The commercial banks will first and foremost give criteria to access the funds, so any shipowner that does not meet up with the banks guidelines will not be a beneficiary. So, in this case, the risk will be borne by the lending institutions.

“If we just allow people to take that money without a proper framework to service their loans, then we won’t achieve our aim of developing the maritime economy. People must borrow and return money borrowed so that others can benefit from the CVFF,” Amaechi insisted.

NIMASA Director-General, Dakuku Peterside revealed that the funds stands at about $200million.

He said the committee would come up with draft guidelines, which the Minister would study and pass on to the National Assembly for ratification. He said this would be the preceding step before commercial banks would be authorised to disburse the funds.

“The CVFF is about $200million and the guidelines will determine the manner of disbursement,” Peterside said.

The Federal Ministry of Transportation had last year revealed that President Muhammadu Buhari had okayed the disbursement of the CVFF in the first quarter of this year.

Maritime Can Strengthen Nigeria’s Economy, Says Dangote

Aliko Dangote,

The President of Dangote Group of Companies, and Africa’s richest man, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, has identified the maritime industry as a key element in the efforts to re-stimulate the Nigerian economy. Dangote said this in Lagos while commenting on the country’s economic potentials and the vast opportunities in Nigeria’s waters.

This is coming as the Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs. Pauline Tallen, said the maritime sector had been galvanised into an inclusive community of stakeholders and players working to grow the economy.

Tallen said it was an opportune time to invest in the Nigerian economy.

Speaking ahead of the maritime Corporate Dinner and Merit Awards organised by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), which is geared towards reinvigorating the economy, Dangote said, “The maritime sector is key to the development of the Nigerian economy. As stakeholders, we are committed to supporting the federal government towards achieving a vibrant maritime industry in Nigeria. My support is unflinching.

“I also commend the management of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) for being focused in providing an enabling environment for industry players in the country, while recognising the great job of the team under the leadership of the Director-General, Dr. Dakuku Peterside. It is teamwork that makes it all possible and NIMASA is recognising this by honouring its staff and industry stakeholders. The maritime industry awards is a very good initiative, one necessary to stimulate excellence in the Nigerian maritime industry.”

The agency has done very much to enhance maritime safety and security, and created a viable platform for better indigenous participation and capacity building. It has tried to develop adequate manpower and infrastructure in the sector in line with international best practices.

In her own comments, Tallen commended NIMASA’s new push for gender equality under the current Director-General, saying it has created an environment where actors are comfortable to contribute their talents to the sustainable use of the country’s ocean resources for economic growth. She extolled the virtues of women in the Nigerian maritime industry, and advised them to make the best use of the environment created for them to be their best.

According to the minister, “With last year’s focus on women empowerment by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), and the 2019 theme of the Day of the Seafarer being ‘I am on Board with Gender Equality’, it is only fair and honourable that we commend the efforts of the DG NIMASA for embracing the message and meritoriously allowing and entrusting women staff within the agency with many top positions. This is commendable!”

She commended NIMASA’s support for the federal government’s economic diversification drive through tangible efforts to develop the blue economy. Tallen said, “Not only has the Agency in many ways transformed the maritime industry by advancing it to international specifications and requirements, it recognises the outstanding actors who have facilitated and fostered this change. For this, congrats are in order and I pray that many others take a cue from NIMASA. It takes teamwork and this teamwork is being recognised.”

Nigeria is doing a lot to encourage female participation and equality in the maritime industry. The country has engaged in various capacity development initiatives for the female gender. The Federal Government’s commitment to the promotion of gender equality in the sector was further demonstrated by the First Lady, Dr. Aisha Buhari, who was well represented by the wife of the Vice President, Mrs. Dolapo Osinbajo, during the 2019 Day of the Seafarer ceremony.

Besides, there are many women holding the positions of Director and other high offices in NIMASA and Dakuku has continued “to invite more females to participate in the already male dominated sector, as they have a lot to offer.”

AfCFTA: Port reforms underway, says NPA boss

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A head of the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement in July, the ports are undergoing infrastructure reforms.

This is to allow free movement of business travellers and investments, while creating a continental Customs Union to streamline trade and attract long-term investments.

The Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Ms Hadiza Bala-Usman, who made this known, said the AfCFTA will boost trade in  the country and the reforms will ensure seamless connectivity.

Speaking at the 2019 International Ports and Terminal (NIMPORT) Conference and Expo, the NPA boss said when trade barriers are removed, more opportunities are created hence, the need to ensure that the country is not caught up with the many challenges it faces at the ports.

“Investment in infrastructure will give opportunity to link critical hinterlands with rails, waterways, rehabilitation of roads leading to the ports and deliberate policies put in place to improve the transport sector.

“All the investments in infrastructure with the signing of the AfCFTA are aimed at integrating the economy of the country and removing barriers,” Bala-Usman said, adding that there should be a deliberate policy targeted at improving the transport sector.

She explained that issues, such as dredging of seaports, corruption, and manual processes in the sector, when handled, would ensure the country partakes effectively in the regional trade.

Indeed, experts said Nigeria needs to tackle the myriad challenges, which arise from the state of the ports, especially the access roads to the ports that can hinder the smooth take-off of the agreement.

Also, Deputy Director, Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC), Mr. Ola Adeeyinwo, said the movement of cargo to the hinterlands has challenges due to the state of the rail tracks.

According to him, it is only the Apapa port that is connected by rail and this affects the evacuation of cargo. Besides, after the port concession, most of the rail lines were removed.

On his part, the Chairman, NIMPORT, a port and terminal promotion body, Mr. Fortune Idu, advised that the next level for regional trade development for African countries is for them to come together and form a trading bloc.

He said the signing of AfCFTA by President Muhammadu Buhari was the long-awaited antidote to prepare Africa to compete in the global trade as a unified body.

According to him, trading between countries has not been seamless and the continent has not been fully integrated in form of trade and connectivity.

“The next level for regional trade development should come with accelerated port and logistics infrastructure development, trade integration and seamless facilitation and hinterland rail connectivity.

“This next level will present the region as a global trade contender to Europe, China and America and the rest of the world,” Idu suggested.

He, however, noted that the maritime sea corridors will continue to prove the greatest capacity for volume of trade and movement. He expressed optimism that the rail connectivity to hinterland will help guarantee that this volume is evenly distributed seamlessly.

Idu urged African countries to work hard in creating the links by developing coastal water navigational and shipping capacities and regional pipelines where port cities like Lagos, Port Harcourt, Cotonou, Douala, others, will be connected directly.

The Secretary-General, African Shipowners Association (ASA), Mrs. Funmi Folorunsho, advised the government to invest in ships to trade in line with the AfCFTA.

According to her, since the signing of the agreement, nobody has said anything about the stand of the maritime industry and what the practitioners tend to benefit from it.

Folorunso said there should be policy development and investment in shipowners.

AfCFTA is expected to boost intra-African trade by 52.3 per cent by 2022. It is an opportunity for countries and companies to help each other grow, as they have done in other regions and it is so important to have supportive policies and putting infrastructure on ground.

As at last July, 54 states, including Nigeria, had signed the free trade agreement to establish a single continental market for goods and services. The agreement also seeks to increase intra-African trade by cutting tariffs and harmonising trading rules at the continental level.

Fed Govt to compensate terminal operators over port rails

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The Federal Government is set to compensate terminal operators whose facilities would be affected in the ongoing efforts to return rail tracks to Lagos seaports, it was gathered on Tuesday.

The initiative, it was learnt, is to boost quick evacuation of cargoes from the port, enthrone efficiency and boost government revenue.

The Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Ms Hadiza Bala- Usman who spoke in an interview with The Nation, said the multibillion naira contract for the construction of the rail tracks inside the port, has been awarded by the government.

She said the contractor was engaged by the Federal Ministry of Transportation and the Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC) as part of efforts to end  Apapa perennial traffic gridlock.

She said: “It is evident that as a port, you cannot have all your cargoes evacuated by road. Therefore, what we intend to do this year is to deploy the necessary rail connection to the port. As you can see, there is ongoing work in the Apapa/Tin-Can area by the contractor engaged by the Federal Ministry of Transportation.

“They have demolished some warehouses and they are about to start to lay the tracks for the rail.

“We are keen to have the project concluded and that is why we have identified areas where we would require access to the terminals.

“The Federal Ministry of Transportation has provided the necessary compensation for those locations tthat are going to be used for the rail tracks,” she said.

The move, she said, was part of the new initiative by the government to reduce the perennial gridlock on Apapa roads and boost evaquation of cargoes from the ports.

Assuring the stakeholders that the Apapa/Oshodi/Oworonshoki would soon be completed, she said the NPA is excited because “rail is really a cargo means of transportatio and that is where the revenue is.

A senior NPA official who craved annonimity said  before the concessioning, there were rail lines in the ports.

“Containers were evacuated through rail from Lagos to Kaduna and Kano Inland Container Terminals. Unfortunately after the concessioning there were no traces of the rail lines in the ports any more, they were removed,” the source said.

The official alleged that the presidential taskforce had turned the gridlock in Apapa to a commercial venture.

He said: “A truck that should enter the port within an hour, will take seven to 10 days to enter the port; in fact, you have to pay heavily before entring the ports.

“When you stay at the waterfront within Tin-Can and Apapa ports, you will see naval officers piloting trucks into the ports. The traffic is not inside the port but from outside the port. But the issue of the road is what the government must address.’’

Port congestion worsens as NAFDAC conducts e-certification

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Cargo congestion at the Lagos ports has worsened amidst the ongoing e-certification by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control.

NAFDAC had in September announced that its electronic licences had been incorporated into the Nigeria Single Window for Trade for processing of import transactions.

Consequently, the agency directed importers, Customs licensed agents, port stakeholders, authorised dealer banks, to get their licences in electronic formats from the NSWT portal.

The exercise has however resulted in a huge pile-up of uncleared cargoes at the ports.

The National Secretary of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents, Mr Babatunde Mukaila, who confirmed this, said the e-certification had led to cargo congestion as many importers were stranded at the ports in attempt to facilitate their pre-arrival documentation processes.

An online journal, Daily Trend, quoted Mukaila as saying that the process was causing delays at the ports.

Commenting on the situation, the National Coordinator, Save Nigeria Freight Forwarders, Dr Osita Chukwu, blamed it on agents and importers who failed to do what they were supposed to do.

He told our correspondent that importers and their agents were supposed to conclude all documentation and the NAFDAC certification before the arrival of their cargo, but noted that most of them would leave many things unattended to because they wanted to cut corners.

He blamed some importers who would refuse to pay their clearing fees or pay half of the amount hoping that they would get the Bill of Lading sent to them so they could go back and connive with government officials at the port and take away the goods without paying.

The SNFF coordinator absolved NAFDAC of any blame, arguing that NAFDAC-regulated products were not enough to constitute port congestion.

He said the e-certification would go a long way in checking fraud and activities of agents who forged signatures of NAFDAC officials to avoid paying fees.

He also maintained that the situation was partly caused by the border closure as most people who loved to bring products through the border now had no option but to transport them through the sea.

Global Maritime Essay Competition : Nigeria Wins

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A Nigerian, Iorliam Simon Tersoo has won the Future Maritime Leaders essay competition organised by the Global Maritime Forum.

Tersoo’s article titled, “Emerging Technologies: Autonomous Shipping and Seafarers’ Continuous Professional (Ir) Relevance,” was among top three essays selected from 140 shortlisted entries from 46 countries that participated in the annual competition.

The Maritime Safety Officer at the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and the other two winners made compelling presentations on their essays at the ongoing Global Maritime Forum in Singapore, where the Director-General of NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, is a major participant.

Dakuku is one of three leaders in Africa invited to the exclusive industry forum, which focuses on addressing the burning issues in the maritime industry and proffering viable strategies to meet the challenges of the future.

Tersoo wrote on how to prepare the next generation of seafarers for digitalised ships, which is believed to be the future of shipping.

He anchored his write-up to the bourgeoning technological innovation, Maritime Autonomous Surface Ship (MASS), which the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) defines as a ship which “can operate independently of human interaction.”

His essay painted the picture of a future where ships will be fully digitalised, automated, autonomously piloted and controlled from both onshore and offshore.

He described this as the next phase of disruptive innovation in shipping.

Tersoo acknowledged the immense benefits of the autonomous shipping regime but identified a major challenge of the innovation as the threat posed to the jobs of the over 1.5 seafarers working onboard ships worldwide.

To address this challenge, he said “the committee on Human Element Training and Watch-keeping (HTW) of IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) “will have to re-organise the curriculum of Maritime Training Institutions (MTIs) globally to embrace this new trend, tilting seafarers training more towards maritime information communications technology (ICT) and regulations that can enable them to participate effectively in the technological revolution.”

He also recommended the retraining of existing seafarers to fit into the new digital era.

Tersoo, a product of the Nigerian Seafarers Development Programme (NSDP), had worked on board a vessel and is now fully involved in regulatory duties at NIMASA.

He had the opportunity of seeing both sides of the life of a seafarer.

He attributed his success in the essay competition to the push for a knowledge driven organisation by the current leadership of NIMASA, saying he is challenged daily by leadership and innovation at the Agency.

Two other essays written by Yiqi Zhang, a 30-year-old PhD Student at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, China, and Line Fryd Hofmansen, a 26-year-old Management Consultant at PA Consulting Group, Denmark, were among the winning entries.

According to the Global Maritime Forum, “The competition aims to give students and young professionals aged 18-30 a voice in the debate about how the maritime industry can sustainably address maritime challenges and opportunities – and the industry a chance to listen.”

The winners of the competition won a chance to attend the Global Maritime Forum Annual Summit 2019 in Singapore, all expenses covered, together with 200 leaders from inside and outside the maritime industry, where they will represent the voice of the young generations.

The Future Maritime Leaders essay competition represents an invaluable opportunity for young people aspiring to become the leaders of the future to meet and engage with senior maritime stakeholders.

Nigerian Customs seeks involvement in jetty establishment

The Nigeria Customs Service has stressed the need for the management of the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) to involve customs operatives in the opening of its jetties.

Mr Gbenga Idris, an Assistant Customs Comptroller (CAC) in charge of Enforcement, Onne Command, Rivers, made the appeal in an interview with newsmen.

Idris insisted that the influx of some contraband could be traced to some entry points where customs operatives were not manning.

The officer spoke against the backdrop of the NPA’s announcement on the establishment of private jetties to ease transaction at ports.

Idris said that “it is pertinent for the Nigeria Ports Authority, whose purview is to establish jetties, to get security concerns from security formations before embarking on such venture.

“We cannot sacrifice the security of the country on the basis of ease of doing business.

“Some of these jetties could pose security threats, especially if the security operatives’ angel is not considered before establishing them.

“Our country is currently facing security challenges. It will be a disservice if such is compounded, based on trade facilitation.’

The NPA has 246 jetties operating in the country in different facets of the nation maritime sector.

Mining: Firm challenges govt on port facilities

The Chief Executive Officer, Symbol Mining, Tim Wither, has said port facilities are affecting the mining sector’s development. He advised the government to improve them.

He said the speed with which products could pass through the port had great impact on the economic viability and companies’ ability to develop projects.

He said with the Free Trade Zones (FTZ) and other infrastructure upgrades within the Lagos ports, there was optimism that these improvements would have a great impact in developing the resource industry.

Wither spoke with The Nation on the forthcoming Nigeria Mining Week scheduled to take place in October in Abuja. He said because the industry as in its infancy, a lot of the technical skills are sourced from outside the country, particularly mining engineers and exploration geologists.

He, however, expressed the commitment of the company to grow these capabilities in-house by training and educating people from the local communities. This, he noted, would support the aggressive exploration and growth strategies and help expand the industry.

Symbol mining, he said, is an Australian publicly listed company, which started mining recently at the high-grade zinc and lead Imperial Joint Venture project in Bauchi State. The company, according to him, has been working in Nigeria since 2012, and brings international technical, marketing and financial expertise for the commercialisation of the mining and exploration projects.

The company, he said, has two local joint venture projects, Tawny in Nasarawa State and Imperial in Bauchi State, with total tenements spanning over 500km. According to him, in the last six years, the company has completed over 12,000m of exploration drilling and released a maiden Joint Ore Reserves Committee (JORC) compliant Resource of 132,700t at 18.3per cent Zn (zinc) and 2.1per cent Pb (lead) for the Macy Deposit located at the Imperial project.

‘’Our maiden resource demonstrated a mineralisation zone of high-grade zinc and lead. The subsequent completion of the Macy Deposit scoping study confirmed the economic viability for high-grade direct shipment ore (DSO) to both Chinese and European smelters. The firm’s marketing plan is to develop a high-quality product brand, selling directly to smelters through established offtake partnerships,’’ he assured.

The company’s strategy is to generate early cashflow from open pit mining at the Macy Deposit, which will facilitate further exploration activities at Imperial and Tawny, and potentially expand our resource base to grow the Company. Central to our future success, is the support of the local community and development of a skilled workforce. Our core values include respect and acceptance from the local communities in which we operate, and this is only achieved by open and honest conversations.

‘’We communicate information on the project and listen to any challenges faced by the community. We are also focused on building a skilled local workforce and creating a framework for them to develop and learn a range of skills in a controlled and supportive environment, we would like to be the employer of choice for the mining industry in Nigeria,’’ he added.

In the next five years, we will spend a considerable amount of efforts in training and up-skilling our team, so they can then manage and grow our future projects, this will in turn benefit the mining community.

‘’We want local communities to benefit from the growth of the mining industry. One of the strongest principles within the Nigerian Mining Code is the mandatory Community Development Agreement (CDA), something which other more established mining jurisdictions,‘’ he said