By Maryam Shagaya
The current management of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, has since its inception prioritised the blending of technology and proactive partnership into the strategy for actualising the Agency’s mandate of regulating the maritime industry. And it has succeeded on that score, what with the various laudable cooperation agreements and technological initiatives the Agency has introduced. The marine environment management aspect of NIMASA’s mandate is one area this strategy has been quite evident.
The director-general, Dr Dakuku Peterside, has on many occasions emphasised NIMASA’s commitment to the sustainability of the marine environment.
Protecting the marine environment
The Marine Environment Management, MEM, department of NIMASA, headed by Dr Felicia Mogo, is responsible for enforcing laws to protect the marine environment against pollution, while ensuring that all laws related to conventions adopted by the International Maritime Organisation, IMO, are complied with. Through the department, NIMASA enforces strategies aimed at preventing pollution of the seas and oceans and controlling the actions of ships operating within Nigeria’s maritime jurisdiction.
In the first and early second quarter of 2019 alone, NIMASA signed two memorandums of understanding relating to marine environment management. The first was with the Maritime Technology Cooperation Centre, MTCC, on March 15 in Mombasa, Kenya, and the other with National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency, NOSDRA, on April 24 in Abuja. These are both laudable moves by the Agency to ensure that the Nigerian maritime industry is protected from the vagaries of climate change through the reduction of carbon emission and damages to marine life and the environment caused by oil spills and the maritime.
Coordinated by NIMASA, Nigeria is the MTCC focal point for West Africa, with Dr Oma Ofodile of MEM, NIMASA, as the focal point person overseeing Nigeria and other West African countries, including Ghana, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. Nigeria, being a developing country, stands to gain a lot from strategic partnerships in marine environment protection and marine pollution prevention. This is especially in relation to the challenge posed by the IMO mandate regarding vessels having bunker fuel oil of 0.5 per cent sulphur content by 2020.
NIMASA was recently chosen to lead a programme initiated by MTCC to track fuel consumption and reduce Greenhouse Gas, GHG, emission by ships in an effort to reduce the rate of climate change and its effects on the marine environment.
Track and record emission
The Agency has expressed its determination to achieve the best results for not only Nigeria but also the other countries under its leadership, being the West African focal point.
MTCC is funded by the European Union and implemented by the IMO. It was set up to assist developing countries in five geographical regions of the world, namely, Latin America, the Pacific, Asia, the Caribbean, and Africa.
NIMASA is deploying technology to facilitate the achievement of its mandate. The Agency recently installed the Thorium X tablet, a Fuel Consumption Data Collection gadget, aboard a flag state vessel in a pilot project to track and record emission from vessels during the voyage. A sensitisation breakfast meeting was held in Lagos to bring together stakeholders and inform them of the technology partnerships and the gains for Nigeria, especially in relation to the adoption of technologies and building capacity to mitigate climate change.
In the MoU between NIMASA and NOSDRA, both parties agreed to work together, recognising that their roles and mandates cannot be mutually exclusive on matters of oil spill pollution management in the marine environment as set out in the International Convention for Oil Pollution Preparedness Response and Cooperation, OPRC’90. The MoU was in a bid to curb pollution from the movement of empty maritime oil tankers operated by International Oil Companies, IOCs, and spills that involve stationery oil tankers on the high seas. NIMASA and NOSDRA have reached an agreement with due consideration for the statutory mandate of both agencies.
Pollution from ships
The world over, coastal waters and oceans are deteriorating at an alarming rate due to increasing coastal development, pollution from ships, oil spills, as well as land-based sources of pollution, habitat destruction, and other threats. NIMASA is implementing technological initiatives and entering partnerships to ensure that the Nigerian marine environment is well protected. This is to avoid potential damage from pollution and abuse of the waters and the concomitant catastrophic effect on the country’s economy.
The Agency is also engaged in efforts to sensitise the public, communities, and stakeholders to the dangers of environmental pollution and the benefits of a pollution-free environment. It has tried to discourage the reckless disposal of plastics in the environment, especially in the rivers.
Plastic pollution poses significant risks and economic costs. Not only is the cost of cleaning up plastic debris from seas expensive, but excessive pollution can also negatively impact tourism and, thus, the entire economy. Plastic pollution spread across countries, creating a regional problem with high costs for economically important sectors, such as tourism and fishing.
While the plastic pollution crisis cannot be resolved overnight, it can be controlled if necessary measures are adopted. These include recycling of used plastic containers, rather than their careless disposal into the environment since they are not biodegradable.
NIMASA is applying multifarious approaches to realise a clean marine environment for shipping and other activities.