President of the Nigerian Ship Owners’ Association (NISA), Aminu Umar has opened up on the security challenges faced by indigenous and foreign shippers navigating along the Nigerian territorial waters especially in Niger Delta region.
In an interview, he decried that “What we are facing as shipowners is very severe and the loss is huge. In our business of shipping, especially ships that sail the Niger Delta waters, we lose about one third of our earnings trying to guard against piracy”.
“I refer to the cost that accrues to engage guards on board our ships and then even the time lost in waiting for the guards to get onboard. What that mean is if I am supposed to earn freight of about $5 billion to $6 billion per annum, one third of that is funnelled into security costs. This also includes the cost of insurance cover for the ship in the event it is attacked by pirates.”
One of the discouraging multiplier effects of the rising piracy attacks according to him, is the hike on insurance premium on vessels coming to Nigeria because the country has been classified as a high risk area.
Umar state that “Piracy is very much alive in the waters of the Niger Delta areas; this includes some sections of Escravos and Calabar. Vessels are being attacked. That means any vessel going there needs security escort. It is not good for our business because it takes days to get a naval escort to come onboard your ship. And those losses are impacting negatively on our business”.
Continuing, NISA boss noted that “The pirates often harm the ship crew; they beat up some of them. There have been incidences where some of the crew are killed. They equally do harm to the vessel; destroy the navigational equipment and the entire bridge of the vessel. On other occasions, the pirates would seize the cargo and then kidnap the crew.
In his views, Umar observed that “Piracy destroys the morale of the people working onboard. When your ship crew is kidnapped, there is the likelihood that you might not be able to get another crew. This is because no crew would like to come onboard a ship where the former crew were kidnapped”.
While maintaining silence on the recent controversy surrounding the award of waterways contract to an Israeli security firm to man the vessel routes,” he argued that time has come for the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to be alive to its responsibilities in safeguarding the waterways.
It was not clear if it was the agency’s inability to provide security on the waterways in partnership the Nigerian Navy that it worked with the Minister of Transportation to seal the Israeli deal without resource with the Navy.
It will be recalled that at one of the public hearing on a petition against the deal that the Nigerian Navy opened up on its noninvolvement which forced the lawmakers to adopt a resolution halting the contract.
However, the Minister went ahead to seal the deal, against overwhelming opposition.
Explaining more during a recent training for media executives in Lagos, the CEO of Ships & Ports, Bolaji Akinola, whose company organised the workshop, said the maritime sector is crucial to the attainment of Nigeria’s economic aspirations.
He said “With the country’s vast coastline measuring about 850 kilometres and an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of well over 300,000 square kilometres with 3,000 kilometres of navigable inland waterways; six major seaports, 11 oil terminals, and over 170 private jetties; rewarding career and business opportunities beckon on discerning minds.