February 26, 2020

PIRATE ATTACKS: World shipping groups threaten to report Nigeria to UN


Nigeria’s economy is suffering from pirates attack — BIMCO

By Godwin Oritse

A map of Nigeria

TWO International shipping groups, Baltic and International Maritime Council, BIMCO, and International Association of Independent Tanker Owners, Inter-Tanko, have threatened to report Nigeria to the United Nations, UN, and the United States of America, USA, if cogent actions are not taken to stem the recent spike in pirate attacks against their vessels and personnel.

The follow-up measure from the groups, Vanguard Maritime Report gathered, would be a deployment of international war ships to Nigerian territorial waters to secure their vessels and personnel if the situation remains the same three months afterwards.

The groups had complained to Nigerian authorities that they have been losing their investments and personnel to criminals in the Gulf of Guinea, GoG, adding that the planned measures of deploying war ships was to protect their investments and personnel.

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The Inter-Tanko, is a membership association for owners of independent oil vessels throughout the world. The Association was formed to protect the interest of independent tanker owners, made up of non-oil companies and non-state controlled tanker owners, for the safe shipping of oil and related cargoes and to act as a forum for marine policy creation.

BIMCO is the largest of the international shipping associations representing ship-owners as well as shipping managers, brokers and agents. Its membership controls around 65 percent of the world’s tonnage and it has members in more than 120 countries.

The association’s main objective is to protect its global membership through the provision of information and advice, and while promoting fair business practices, facilitate harmonisation and standardization of commercial shipping practices and contracts.

Although a source close to leadership of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA confirmed the threat, he told Vanguard Maritime Report that the time frame given to Nigeria to redress the vulnerability of its waters to piracy and sea robbery was six months and not three months. He also told Vanguard Maritime Report that both groups will be coming to Nigeria soon to ascertain its preparedness to tackle these criminals and put their system and equipment to test.

However, the Chairman of Ports Consultative Council, PCC, Otunba Kunle Folarin, said that BIMCO and Inter-Tanko have no right to send warships to Nigeria adding that the best they can do is to report Nigeria to the UN and USA. Folarin also said that besides reporting Nigeria to the world body, they can also stop their vessels from carrying Nigeria bound cargoes.

Folarin stated: “Inter-Tanko are not ship owners, they are an international body regulating shipping activities. BIMCO is an association of ship owners and it cannot do anything like that, the only thing they can do is to report Nigeria to the United Nations to look at the situation and see what can be done to ameliorate it. They can stop calling at Nigerian ports, that is the worst they can do and other countries can take advantage of the situation, China cannot come because of the Coronavirus currently ravaging the country.

“So you see, you should not take these things that Europeans say to us, sometimes they are blackmail. I agree that Nigeria must do something to checkmate piracy in our territorial waters but the international shipping groups cannot threaten us. The only thing they can do, like they have always done is to hike the cost of freighting Nigerian bound cargoes.”

In his reaction, former presidential aide to former President Goodluck Jonathan on maritime matters, Mr. Leke Oyewole, said that the important issues at stake right now was proper surveillance of both coastal and territorial waters and reporting system so as to know when any vessel comes under attack and how help can reach such vessel.

He warned that Nigeria has recorded low ranking in some areas of the nation’s life adding that the maritime sector should not be allowed to fail international ranking.

He stated: “For the international maritime community to threaten to report Nigeria to the United Nations is an unfortunate situation as this will not in any way compliment the good effort of the present Director General of NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, to tackle the menace of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.

“Be that as it may, what is important in tackling the issue of insecurity in our waters are two major things: One is proper surveillance; knowing what is where at every point in time; the reporting systems, if anybody is attacked, how can the person immediately get help from anybody or anywhere.

“The second one is establishing proper contact at the scene of event and that is mainly military or police affair; Military if the incident is deep in the waters, police if the event is within the nation’s coastal waters. As at today, the surveillance system is not as robust as it should be and that can be improved upon because capability is still available locally.

“NIMASA can add to what they have if they can collaborate with the National Space Research and Development Agency, NASRDA, to improve on its surveillance on vessels that switch off their Automatic Identification System, AIS. I cannot be supporting outsiders to go against Nigeria but must we be arm twisted to do what is right?” In response to the threat, the Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, yesterday, received two Special Mission Intervention vessels among other equipment to tackle the menace of pirate attacks in the Gulf of Guinea.

Speaking to Vanguard Maritime Report on the threat by BIMCO and Inter-Tanko, NIMASA’s Director General, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, said that Nigeria would perfect its plans to fully tackle the issue of piracy in the next few weeks adding that the Government will continue to engage all relevant stakeholders to ensure that vessels operate in safe and secure environment.

In his reaction, Jakob Larsen, Head of Maritime Safety & Security, said the problem with Nigerian based piracy has never been worse adding that Nigerian based pirates attack in Nigerian territorial waters as well as international waters especially in the eastern part of the Gulf of Guinea.

He said: “Some seafarers are losing their lives when subjected to gunfire, kidnapped and held hostage in the Niger Delta under very dangerous conditions. Nigeria’s economy is suffering from the pirate attacks. To the detriment of the average Nigerian, piracy is pushing up marine insurance rates and the general cost of shipping of goods in and out of Nigeria.

“According to international conventions (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea – UNCLOS), all states shall cooperate to the fullest possible extent in the repression of piracy. Because Nigeria is currently not repressing the Nigerian based piracy problem, BIMCO calls for international antipiracy operations in international waters in the eastern part of the Gulf of Guinea.

“Ideally and because they  ought to have shared interests in combating Nigerian based piracy, international navies ought to cooperate with Nigerian maritime law enforcement agencies. Nigeria has taken very positive, preparatory steps that have potential to repress piracy. These steps include investing in antipiracy capabilities and changing laws to criminalise piracy. However, preparations alone are not enough, antipiracy law enforcement action is needed before the Nigerian based pirates can be contained.”