• Ports users call for secure anchorage area

The Nigerian Navy (NN), Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), and the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), are expected to work vigorously to access the Secured Anchorage Area (SAA), at no cost to shipping firms coming into Nigeria, the Managing Director, NPA, Hadiza Bala Usman, has said.

This is just as some concerned ports users have appealed that the SAA should not be disrupted so as not to expose their cargoes to risk due to the hijacking of ships and kidnapping of crewmembers.

A Secure Anchorage Area (SAA) is an area outside the Lagos port that the Nigerian Navy, with a private company, has defined as a secure place where vessels can anchor safely from the threat of pirate attack.

But Bala Usman, in a text message responding to inquiries, said: “NPA does not intend to have another company to provide the SAA services… We believe that there is no need for the SAA, the Nigerian government through the Nigerian Navy, NIMASA and NPA should secure the waterways at no cost to the ship owners.

“More so, with the ongoing deployment of the maritime security project being implemented by NIMASA costing billions of dollars, why do we need anything called SAA? The NIMASA project is to secure all our waterways, which includes any location vessels choose to anchor.”

However, ports users argued that the SAA is saving ships about $225,000 on each call at Lagos ports.

Speaking for the users, the National President of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Increase Uche, told journalists that contrary to claims that the SAA is leading to increasing in cost of shipping, and security of ships at the SAA by the Nigerian Navy, using platforms provided by Ocean Marine Services (OMS) Limited, is helping multinational shipping lines to save a whopping $225,000 on a journey to Lagos ports.

French frigate Germinal (L) and Nigerian frigate NNS Thunder sails during fleet manoeuver exercise at the five-day joint military exercise between Nigeria and French navy codenamed Grand African NEMO (Navy Exercise Maritime Operations) in Nigerian waters on November 1, 2019. – The Nigerian Navy has participated in a five-day multinational military exercise codenamed Grand African NEMO (Navy Exercise Maritime Operations), and with a joint naval drills with the French counterpart designed to support regional navies and allied nations to check criminal activities and perfect strategies in tackling maritime crimes in the Gulf of Guinea. (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)

He said: “We don’t want to go back to the old order. We are asking the Federal Government to look critically into this issue so that the SAA is not dismantled.

“As freight forwarders, we are major port users of shipping services, moving cargoes across seas to Nigeria. We are comfortable with the service, and we urge the Federal Government to let the SAA be so that multinational shipping lines can continue to patronise our seaports,” he said.

Uche added: “To us the practitioners, what we are advocating is that government should look at the issue critically. If the NPA is agitating that such measures should be terminated, let us look at it holistically and ensure that the government is not being short-changed.”

Concerned by the threat to national security and the cost of doing business at the country’s seaport, the NPA had recently notified the Nigerian Navy of its decision to dismantle the SAA, operated on behalf of the Navy by a private company, OMSL Limited.

NPA insisted that the security of the country’s waterways was the statutory responsibility of NIMASA, Marine Police, and Nigerian Navy, which must all ensure safe and secure Nigerian territorial waters.

This move by NPA has been hailed by stakeholders in the maritime sector, who claimed the initiative was timely to stave off a financial burden that the consulting company had brought on them.

Investigations revealed that vessels are charged $2,500 for the first day at the Anchorage, and $1,500 for subsequent days. Vessels spend between 28 and 30 days before exiting the anchorage.

Worried by this, the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi, had directed the NPA to write a letter to the Chief of Naval Staff to request that the Navy stopped the operation of the facility.

The NPA, in the letter, said the revenue generated from the operation at a charge of $1,500 per vessel per day from 2014 to date, was neither remitted to it nor to the federal government.

NPA argued that the patrol boat, NNS Dorina P101, as mother vessel, and the interceptor vessels, NNS Agede P258, and NNS Torie P259, were all purchased by it for the Nigerian Navy, to patrol the anchorage and not to be designated for use at a facility that has no relationship with it.