Established in May 2020, the NIMASA/Industry Working Group (NIWG) aims to facilitate coordination between government and industry and align efforts to deter and respond to incidents of piracy and armed robbery in Nigerian territorial waters and EEZ. This is the first coordinated effort between industry and the Nigerian Government to address the issues of maritime security.
The Joint Working Group comprises the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), the Ministry of Transport, Nigerian Navy, Nigeria Ports Authority, Marine Police Interpol, the oil industry (represented by OCIMF) and shipping industry, represented by ICS, BIMCO, INTERCARGO, INTERTANKO and the Nigerian Shipowners’ Association).
Among the most noteworthy areas of progress so far is at regulatory level: NIMASA is now working directly with the IMO in developing a National Maritime Security Strategy, Nigeria has formally endorsed industry’s Best Management Practices West Africa guidance and, following the entry into force of, Nigeria’s Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences Act, 2019 (SPOMO Act), prosecutions are underway.
Meanwhile, the NIWG industry partners have been working with NIMASA to finalize a new Nigerian National Maritime Reporting Framework which will support merchant vessels in distress, and NIMASA’s Command, Control, Computer Communication and Information (C4i) Centre has been identified as a national focal point for coordinating the multi-agency response.
In addition, there has been a welcome escalation in the Nigerian Navy’s maritime security response activities. Conduct of two military exercises (Operation Calm Water and Operation Sanga Sung) by NIMASA and the Nigerian Navy in recent months have been successful in testing and demonstrating response capabilities.
Importantly, considerable progress has also been made to advance the Deep Blue Project (DBP), which aims to address insecurity and criminality in Nigeria’s territorial waters and exclusive economic zone.
While COVID-19 has caused disruptions to this landmark project, delayed training required to deploy DBP assets Q4 2020/Q1 2021 has recommenced. It is agreed by the NIWG that progressing the DBP is a key priority, which will require continued support by industry and sustained resource from the Nigerian government.
Despite this positive progress, the Group acknowledged that the risk of maritime security incidents in Nigerian waters remains high and is likely to increase in the coming months now that the monsoon season has ended.
The NIWG recognises that there is a considerable way to go, and therefore it is essential that momentum is maintained in implementing maritime security programmes and initiatives to effect real and lasting change and secure the waters blighted by maritime crime.