Vessels Switching Off AIS: NIMASA Urged To Track Pirate Activities Using GMDSS
By DAPO OLAWUNI
A former Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Barr. Temisan Omatseye has urged the agency to use it’s rejuvenated Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) in tracking vessel activities on the waterways, rather than relying on the Automatic Identification Systems (AIS)
Speaking at the ongoing 2022 Lagos International Maritime Week (LIMW) organized by Zoe Maritime Resources Limited on Tuesday, Barr Omatseye said that pirates often turn off the AIS of their ships to avoid being tracked, hence the need for GMDSS, which according to him is hardly turned off.
“I do recall that in 2009, when I was Director General of NIMASA, Nigeria signed the Long Range Identification and Tracking (LRIT) system. I believe Nigeria is a party to this and has kept paying her subscriptions.”
“Unlike AIS that could be turned off at will by the ship captain, the GMDSS is hardly turned off. So, the Nigerian Navy could used the LRIT system which is an International Maritime Organization (IMO) instrument that NIMASA is a signatory to. Ships would require approvals from the Flag State administration to switch off their GMDSS and they don’t like to do that. So, we can explore ways to track vessels using GMDSS rather than depending on AIS which is switched off frequently,” Omatseye said.
Speaking in the same vein, the Chief of Naval Staff, Nigerian Navy, Vice Admiral Awaal Gambo observed that some vessels turn off their Automatic Identification Systems (AIS) to evade tracking of their activities.
The Naval Chief, who was represented by Rear Admiral Hamza Kaoje, noted that Nigerian Navy has been utilizing new technologies especially for round-the-clock surveillance of the country’s maritime space using the Regional Maritime Awareness Capability (RMAC) and Falcon Eye facilities, which are anchored on ICT.
“Overtime so many cases of piracy were reported in Nigeria to the extent that the nation was seen as a dreaded area for shipping. With the activities of Nigerian Navy and collaborations with key stakeholders, Nigeria has been delisted from the pirates prone areas. However, the Gulf of Guinea is a very vast area and collaboration among navies is crucial. One country can’t achieve this alone. We need to come together to join resources, share information and partner to protect the resources in the GoG,” he said.
Noting that AIS transponders are designed to be capable of providing position, identification and other information about a ship to other ships and to coastal authorities automatically, he stressed that those who switch off their AIS to be evasive will be penalized legally.
In her welcome address, the Chairperson, Zoe Maritime Resources Limited, Mrs. Oritsematosan Edodo-Emore, said the theme of the conference, “New Technologies for Greener Shipping in Africa” was modeled after IMO’s World Maritime Day.
“The conference shall be relating this theme to various subjects that affect the maritime industry in Africa-such as managing maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea, the marine environment, maritime transportation, logistics and ports and development, maritime training education and law, as well as although the effects on women in maritime.”
She observed that new technology thrive on existing infrastructure and stressed that maritime infrastructure is no exception; however, Edodo-Emore urged participants to maximize the conference for networking and visit the exhibitions.