The recent pirate attacks in the Gulf of Guinea (GoG) have raised fresh global concern about the resurgence of the menace that costs the region about $1.9 billion yearly financial loss.
This is just as the Norwegian government has deepened collaboration with the Nigerian government to beef up maritime security in the region to prevent a resurgence of piracy attacks that reached an all-time low in the region.
The international community condemned the recent attacks on two oil tankers and the kidnap of crewmembers in the region while expressing fears of piracy resurgence in the region.
Pirates hijacked a Liberian-flagged oil and chemical motor tanker (MT) Monjasa Reformer, on March 25, 2023, about 144 nautical miles West-South-West (WSW) of the Republic of Congo’s Port Pointe-Noire and abducted six crew members.
Also, on April 10, pirates hijack a Singapore-registered Monjasa tanker, Success 9, about 306 nautical miles South West (SW) of Abidjan Fairway Buoy (FWB), Cote d’Ivoire, abducting 20 crew members, who have now been rescued.
According to the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) latest piracy report released last week, five incidents were reported in the first quarter of 2023.
The Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Anniken Huitfeldt, disclosed that safety and security in the Gulf of Guinea are very dear to her government, noting that this has made Norway give its support to Nigeria in the fight against piracy in the region.
Huitfeldt stated this during her visit to the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) Resource Center in Kirikiri, Lagos on Monday. She commended Nigeria for her role in combating maritime insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea, which she said has curtailed pirate activities in the region. She linked the relative peace and security the shipping community is currently enjoying in the region, to the dedication and commitment of Nigeria and NIMASA to the safety and security of the troubled region.
The minister said Nigeria is one of the respected partners of Norway and therefore her government appreciates its role in the Gulf of Guinea.
“Norway has contributed to maritime development in Nigeria through capacity training and has also rendered economic assistance through the United Nations towards enhancement of maritime safety” she declared
The minister visited the facilities at the NIMASA’S Resources Centre where she and her entourage were shown a practical demonstration of the quality of safety equipment at the C4i centre.
Huitfeldt was accompanied by Norway’s Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Kuit Eiliv Lein and some ship owners, who are expected to look into business and investment opportunities in Nigeria’s vast maritime industry.
Norway is reputed to be the 5th largest shipbuilding nation in the world and has 89 ports. Also speaking, the Executive Director Norwegian Shipowners Association, Audun Halvorsen, said the shipowners see NIMASA as a key partner in Africa. He said they are looking forward to how the Norwegian government and the Nigerian shipowners can partner with their over 1,700 members to take the maritime sector to a greater height.
On his part, the Director General of NIMASA, Dr. Bashir Jamoh, took the team from Norway around the facilities at the centre and lectured them on the functions, duties and responsibilities of the agency as a leading maritime administration in West Africa.
He told the Norwegian minister that the mission of the agency is to ensure and achieve safe and secure shipping, cleaner oceans and enhanced maritime capacity in line with the best global practices towards Nigeria’s economic development.
Jamoh further said owing to the critical nature of shipping to global trade, the agency keyed into the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) convention to ensure the safety of seafarers and others through proper enforcement of maritime safety conventions. He pledged to ensure the safety of vessels and seafarers that ply the nation’s waters and by extension the Gulf of Guinea with its deep blue asset for combating maritime crimes.
Speaking on ship development, Jamoh, said NIMASA is poised to ensure a conducive environment for commercial shipping and encourage more indigenous participation in global trade. He said this is why the Cabotage Vessel Financing Funds (CVFF) would be disbursed to indigenous ship owners in a couple of weeks to help in fleet expansion.
Jamoh also disclosed that Nigeria hosts over 198,000 vessels yearly, but unfortunately, lacks a viable shipbuilding and repairs industry in the country. He said most of the ship owners move their vessels to other neighbouring countries such as Togo, the Republic of Benin and Ghana for drydocking and ship repair, thereby limiting the benefits of the blue economy initiative. Jamoh further disclosed that the agency’s N50 million floating dock, when finally deployed, will generate N1 billion monthly.
The NIMASA boss told the Norwegian team that the agency is desirous of partnering with the European country to exploit the huge market in the ship repairs industry.
“There is a huge demand for ship repairs in the country. NIMASA welcomes partnership with Norway to exploit and develop the shipbuilding and repairs industry,” Jamoh disclosed.
Meanwhile, international bodies have called for continued sustainable support by the regional and international navies to protect seafarers and eliminate disturbing piracy incidents. Secretary General of IMO, Kitack Lim, called for the sustenance of established maritime security frameworks, such as the Gulf of Guinea Maritime Collaboration Forum/ SHADE- GOG, to deliver the operational response.
The IMB Director, Michael Howlett, said the recent attacks highlight the continued need for vigilance, coastal agencies and swift naval responses when incidents are reported.
“We emphasise the need for continued, robust and coordinated regional and international naval presence to act as a deterrent to prevent and respond to piracy – especially considering nearly 85 per cent of international trade is transported via the sea and it is the seafarers who need to be safeguarded,” Howlett said.
On his part, the Secretary General of the Maritime Organisation of West and Central Africa (MOWCA), Dr. Paul Adalikwu, called for more cooperation and information sharing among regional and international navies as well as bodies concerned with securing the Gulf of Guinea. He noted the gains recorded in the coordinated effort to stamp out acts of piracy and maritime crimes in the Gulf of Guinea, to which relative calm was achieved in the last few years.
“Laudable feats by bodies like Gulf of Guinea Maritime Collaboration Forum (SHADE/MCF), G7++ Friends of Gulf of Guinea (FOGG); regional maritime security architectures like the Interregional Coordination Centre (ICC), Maritime Domain Awareness for Trade – Gulf of Guinea (MDAT GoG), Nigeria’s Deep Blue Project / C4i and other critical stakeholders have been very helpful in suppressing maritime crimes in the Gulf of Guinea,” he stated.
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