Plea for ship owners to pay navigation dues in Gulf region

Navigation aids. Credit: IFAN

Some ship owners are not paying navigation dues needed to help maintain vital navigation systems to ensure ships can travel safely through the congested waters of the Gulf, according to the non-profit organisation Middle East Navigation Aids Services (MENAS).

MENAS provides a service of buoys fitted with automatic identification system (AIS) transponders to not only track the location of the buoy but to monitor passing traffic conditions and carry out risk assessments. There are no space-based augmented navigation satellite systems in the Gulf region, for which vessels rely for accurate global positioning systems (GPS) signals. Vessels transiting the Gulf are reliant on differential global positioning systems (DGPS) for accurate positioning, which MENAS provides.

“If the vessels were not able to accurately fix their position through DGPS they would lose a degree of accuracy on position fixing that allows them to navigate safely, they could revert to just using GPS signals but that is open to hacking, corruption, and social interference,” explained Peter Stanley CEO International Foundation for Aids to Navigation (IFAN parent company of MENAS).

Vessels navigating the Gulf are also reliant on safety information broadcasts, provided by MENAS, to provide hazard updates to be inputted into the ships’ electronic charts and to navigate around these safely. MENAS relies on navigation dues paid by the ship owners either directly to the organisation or through port agents to maintain its service and ensure safe navigation of vessels in the congested waters of the Gulf.

As some of the equipment used is reaching 20 years of age, with declining navigations dues of up to 20%, MENAS is worried it will no longer be able to maintain its service should some ship owners continue to avoid paying its invoices.

“This is a vital service for safety of navigation, and we encourage all parties to continue to provide prompt payment of navigation dues,” said Chris Oliver, nautical director at the International Chamber of Shipping to SAS.

Under the United Nations (UN) charter, the responsibility is placed on states to provide aids to navigation and warn of any hazards or wrecks in their territorial waters. The UN also extended these areas to up to 161 km from shore, under the introduction of economic exclusion zones.

In countries, such as the UK, navigation dues are collected in port and paid directly to the government. The funds are then allocated to an organisation or charity selected by the government to provide the navigation aids.

In the Gulf region, however, the aids to navigation were put in place by the UK and Indian governments under the Persian Lighting Service in 1911 before the Gulf states were established. When the UK government withdrew from the region, MENAS was created to carry on ensuring navigation safety with the aim to pass on the responsibility to the emerging state, this did not come about aside from in Oman.

“The burden falls to us as we have the responsibility to provide the systems and processes so that trade can continue safely, what we ask is for the shipowners to contribute towards this as we are a non-profit organisation,” said Stanley to SAS. “Some shipping companies do not realise they are using our services because we don’t make any charge apart from the Nav dues when the vessel comes into port”.