Over 130 vessels have been seized for maritime infractions by the Navy since 2017, Chief of Naval Staff (CNS) Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas said on Thursday.
He spoke at the inaugural International Maritime Defence Exhibition and Conference (IMDEC) held in Accra, Ghana to mark the Ghanaian Navy’s 60th anniversary.
Delivering a paper titled: “Highlight of the NN operations and projections for advancing information sharing towards overcoming criminality at sea”, Ibas said the Navy conducted round the clock surveillance of Nigeria’s maritime space, using the Regional Maritime Awareness Capability (RMAC) and Falcon Eye (FE) facilities, in addition to surface vessels and helicopters.
Quoting statistics from the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), he said increased information sharing between the Navy and other agencies contributed to 50 per cent reduction of acts of piracy within the Gulf of Guinea (GoG) between the first quarter of 2018 and the first quarter of 2019.
Ibas advocated more sustained presence at sea and increasing exchange of critical information between regional partners and stakeholders for the security of the maritime domain.
He said improved database on arrested and convicted maritime criminals would help the region curb the current practice by criminals to move from one jurisdiction to the other to continue their activities.
The CNS said the Navy had initiated operations and programmes geared towards creating a safe and secure space for maritime commerce to thrive.
“These initiatives are categorised into independent Navy operations as well as collaborative operations with other stakeholders within Nigeria and beyond her borders. Considering the wide expanse of the maritime domain and the frequently mutating and transnational nature of maritime crimes, the Navy has had to exploit available Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) infrastructure to enhance her operational efficiency towards curtailing crimes within the GoG.
“The MDA infrastructure is also critical to our collective efforts, particularly as it relates to information sharing…”
Using “Operations TSARE TEKU and RIVER SWEEP” as examples of the Navy independent engagements to check piracy and oil theft, Ibas said there had been successive decline in reported cases of pirate/sea robbery attacks within Nigeria’s maritime domain; while the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) had attested to the successes of “Op RIVER SWEEP”, confirming huge savings for the nation due to massive reductions in pipeline losses between 2015 and 2018.
“The operation has also contributed to significant improvement in shipping into Nigeria’s maritime environment as attested to by Nigerian Shippers. The anti-COT and illegal refining operations also incorporated the Choke Point Management and Control Regime involving the deployment of armed personnel in houseboats designated at strategic chokepoint within the creeks. Patrol boats attached to the stations serve as counter theft responses to prevent any stolen crude from being taken away in ships or barges.
“Apart from these two specifically designed operations, the Navy continues to conduct policing patrols across the nation’s EEZ and territorial waters, employing the advantage of its MDA infrastructure to coordinate and direct the pattern of patrols. The service is thus able to conduct round the clock surveillance of Nigeria’s maritime space, using the Regional Maritime Awareness Capability (RMAC) and the Falcon Eye (FE) facilities in addition to surface vessels and helicopters.
“These facilities ensure effective electronic tracking of vessels within our maritime environment whether fitted with Automatic Identification System (AIS) or not. The systems also serve as force multipliers, as Navy patrols are more mission oriented with attendant reduction in operational logistic cost. Following the historic tracking and arrest of the hijackers of a tanker MT MAXIMUS by the Navy at the fringes of Sao Tome and Principe in 2016, the service has continued to achieve several successes using the MDA systems.
“For instance, the FE Systems were used to vector NNS UNITY to arrest MV NESO II in October 2018, while NNS NGURU and EKULU were vectored to arrest MV HAWA and AKEMIJOE DEBORAH, as well as several others in 2019. These vessels were arrested on suspicion of committing infractions within Nigerian waters.
“To further enhance Navy surveillance and MDA network, the service recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on white shipping with the Indian Navy and has applied to join the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) in addition to Italy-based Trans-Regional Maritime Network, which she joined in 2015. The Navy also participated in the establishment of a mechanism for sharing maritime information with regional navies and maritime regulatory agencies at the Maritime Trade Information Sharing Centre here in Ghana.
“These strategic partnerships have the potential to further increase Navy domain awareness across the Atlantic and Indian oceans, with positive impact on surveillance capacity to facilitate Navy policing duties. To consolidate the gains of the MDA project, the Navy in collaboration with the US government recently established a Regional MDA Training School for joint training of personnel of the Navy and other navies of the GoG. This is with a view to steadily improve capacity for gathering and sharing of vital information to enhance collective response to security challenges at sea.
“To enhance maritime operations, the Navy engages regularly with stakeholders. In particular, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Customs, Immigration and National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) have been most supportive in this regard.
“These engagements foster a shared vision on the accomplishment of maritime security tasks and information sharing leading to the successful arrest and prosecution of several cases. One positive outcome of such consultation is the launch of the Harmonised Standard Operating Procedures (HSOP) on Arrest, Detention and Prosecution of Vessels and Persons (HSOP AD&P) in Nigeria’s maritime environment in January 2017. Further to the launch, the Navy constantly engages directly with each agency on modalities for implementation, resulting in the arrest of over 130 vessels within the past two years.
“The HSOP was further boosted as a legal instrument for the administration of maritime crimes in Nigeria by the President’s recent assent to the Suppression of Piracy and other Maritime Offences Bill, 2019. Pertinently, the Act will serve as strategic deterrent to the commission of various crimes within the nation’s maritime environment and curtail the excesses of syndicates that continue to profit from sponsoring acts of piracy within the GoG.
“The Act also demonstrates the government’s resolve to enforce maritime law within the region towards changing global negative perception of the GoG as a haven for insecurity. To ensure wide dissemination of such legal and operational instruments, the Navy convenes maritime stakeholders’ forum periodically.
“However, considering the transnational and migratory nature of these maritime crimes there is also the need for even more international collaboration to boost maritime law enforcement. I am glad to mention that the NN has equally shown commitment to strengthening international collaboration towards improving maritime security in the GoG. In line with the intention to collectively address maritime security challenges in the global commons, the Navy has supported regional efforts towards collective maritime security.
“Going forward, the Navy intends to leverage such audience as today’s conference, to strengthen discussions with regional partners regarding a sustainable collaboration in joint operations and information sharing to guaranteeing the security of the maritime environment of the GoG.”