By DAPO OLAWUNI
Weeks after the Nigerian senate okayed the Ocean Marine Services Limited (OMSL) operators of the controversial Secure Anchorage Area (SAA) in Lagos to continue its operations, the Nigerian Association of Masters Mariners (NAMM) has said that the senate were not well informed.
The SAA contract mandates visiting ships to anchor at a marked area around the Lagos harbour and are made to pay a whooping $2,500 dollars per day in order to prevent their ships from being attacked
The OMSL implements the contract in conjunction with the Nigerian Navy. OMSL provides the fast moving boats while the Nigerian Navy supplies the manpower to man the boats.
Even though the contract had continued unchecked for four years, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) Managing Director, Hadiza Bala Usman recently ordered stoppage of the SAA contract, describing as illegal and adding to the cost of doing business in Nigeria.
However, the Senate through a committee had overruled the NPA boss and directed the SAA contract to continue.
While addressing journalist at a press briefing in Lagos yesterday, President of
Nigerian Association of Masters Mariners (NAMM) Capt Tajudeen Alao said the SAA contract is making Nigeria look ridiculous to the rest of the world
He urged foreign shipping companies visiting Nigeria to stop paying the money, while urging the Federal Government through the Nigerian Navy to provide total security for all vessels, including fishing trawlers, local boats on Nigerian waters.
The master mariners questioned the Navy on the whereabouts of three vessels given to them by the NPA for the purpose of securing the waters. The vessels bought by NPA for the Navy are; DOINA, TORIE and AGEDE. The vessels were built in South Africa.
The master mariners association warned the senate from setting dangerous precedents that other companies could spring up and exploit in the future.
“A good administration does not create dangerous precedents, how can we stop it tomorrow if another company springs up and set another dangerous extortion or tariff, if we create these dangerous precedents, we are opening the flood gates for dangerous things to happen”
“For the Senate to say that the SAA contract is not costing the government anything is a wrong notion”
Capt Alao said the master mariners were not invited by the Senate during the public hearing for them to get professional input on the controversial SAA contract.
“Our professional advise is for the federal government to put money into maritime security throughout our waters. It is the duty of the Navy to secure our waters, let the Navy be on ground, and the platform bought for them by NPA should be put to use”
Capt Alao recalled the case of “MV Duden” a Turkish ship that was attacked on Nigerian waters twenty two times.
“It became a serious issue at IMO, the National Security Adviser had to set up an inquiry, unfortunately the ship never made it back to Turkey, it caught fire around Brazil”
Also speaking, Capt Iheanacho Ebubeogu said that Nigeria is only being tolerated by the rest of the world due to its big market size. He said that when it comes to implementation of international conventions, the country is lagging behind.
“Nigeria is being tolerated because of the market, but when it comes to competitiveness and becoming a member of category C of IMO
Section 17 of the UNCLOS says that Coastal States must provide facilities including roadstead (Anchorage)
“Section 9 of NPA Act says that the authority can farm any of its functions to third party except for regulation, and one of the areas we regulate is the anchorage area, this is the function of NPA”
“No shipping company will pay that money and at the end of the day will not factors it into their cost on the consumers” he said
On his part, Rear Admiral Godswill Ombo said it was laughable that the Nigerian Senate could take a decision on maritime security without consulting the professionals.
“What does the senate know about the sea and yet they are not consulting the professionals”
“Nobody should charge any ship at anchorage a penny, it is the prerogative of any captain coming into Nigeria whether he should go into anchorage or continue the passage”
“And when he comes into anchor, the prerogative of its security is the responsibility of Nigerian government, it should not be fan out to anybody, the ship will pay it’s port dues and NIMASA levies, why are we asking the ship to pay for protection when it is our duty to provide the protection” he said