Nigerian government takes over maritime security from private contractor

A Nigerian air force pilot monitors vessels to fight maritime crime in collaboration with NIMASA. Credit: PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP via Getty Images

Nigeria has halted a private secure anchorage contract in favour of its new government maritime security infrastructure, saying that it is the state’s duty to protect the country. 

“I took the decision to stop the Secure Anchorage Area [SAA] because the issue is that an individual cannot protect a country; it shows that there is a failure in the system. Government must protect both persons and investment to ensure orderliness,” said Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, Nigeria’s Minister of Transportation. 

The SAA lies 19 km southwest of the entrance to Lagos port channel. The zone was operated by Ocean Marine Solutions, in conjunction with the Nigerian Navy, and provided protection against piracy to merchant vessels berthing at the port. 

The launch of the government’s Integrated National Security and Waterways Protection Infrastructure, or Deep Blue Project, would “drastically reduce piracy and other crimes within Nigeria’s maritime domain and the Gulf of Guinea” once fully operational, Amaechi said. 

The Deep Blue Project command, control, computer communication, and information (C4i) centre commenced operations on a 24-hour basis in August 2019 at the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) base in Kirikiri, Lagos. 

In addition, six interceptor boats and a special mission vessel have already arrived in Nigeria with a second vessel due in February 2020, said Dakuku Peterside, the director-general of NIMASA. 

“We expect the first helicopter in the first quarter of this year. Almost all the communication gadgets are in the country as well as the personal protective gear,” he said. 

The number of piracy attacks on merchant vessels has risen in West Africa in the last few months of 2019. In the fourth quarter of 2019, 64 seafarers were kidnapped in six different incidents, according to the International Maritime Bureau. Many of the pirate groups are believed to operate out of Nigeria.