Shippers, freight forwarders back retaining secure anchorage

  • A NIMASA patrol boat

Nigerian freight forwarders and shippers are rallying against the recent moves by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to dismantle the Secure Anchorage Area (SAA) for ships to the western ports, stating that it saves foreign ship owners about $225,000 per trip in cost of private security provision.

The claim counters the contention that the SAA, being run by a private firm, Ocean Marine Services (OMS) Limited, spikes the cost of shipping to Nigeria.

Addressing newsmen in Lagos on behalf of some shipping and port services users, President of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Mr. Uche Increase, disclosed that the NPA was part of the tripartite committee on maritime security that created the SAA in 2014.

Increase said it was necessary for the shippers and freight forwarders who use the services of the multinational shipping lines to clarify the facts, else “the government may be misled, and the country will be worse off as far as maritime security is concerned.

“We do not want this SAA to be disrupted so as not to expose our cargoes to the risk due to hijacking of ships and kidnapping of crew. If the SAA is disrupted, ships will again begin to go to neighbouring ports of Cotonou, Togo and Ghana. We don’t want to go back to the old order.”

He explained that the SAA was created after a steering committee set up in 2013 by the Nigerian Navy (NN), NPA, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) and other agencies of government that are stakeholders in the maritime environment.

“At that time, we knew that the committee held meetings for more than five months to address the issue of security for ships on the Lagos waters, critical among which included illegal arms importation, piracy and robbery at sea, which made Nigerian waters to be designated ‘High Risk Area’ by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB).”

Compared to pre-SAA era, Increase noted that vessels coming to Lagos would carry mercenaries onboard for security; where “one of such mercenaries would cost $2,500 and a ship would carry three for a period not less than 30 days. That costs as much as $225,000, and even more when they have to be onboard for over a month.

“As freight forwarders, we are major port users of shipping services, moving cargoes across seas from and to Nigeria. We are comfortable with the service and urge the Federal Government to let the SAA be, so that the multinational shipping lines can continue to patronise our seaports.”

He added: “What we see in this issue between OMS and NPA is the need to deepen capacity to see that maritime agencies continue to work in synergy. If the whole parties bringing the SAA have not come to dissolve it, then for one of the agencies to want to dismantle it may be seen as creating undue problems.

“OMS should be allowed to provide its services as it currently does with the navy at the SAA. The NPA should continue its security services too, as there is also a general anchorage for vessels who wish to use it. They all mean well for the nation.

“From our findings, the SAA is situated 10 nautical miles outward into the deep sea from the Lagos Fairway Buoy. The NPA Act gives the authority limit of administration from the Fairway Buoy inward to the ports. The SAA is 10 nautical miles offshore from the Fairway Buoy and that is the area in control of NIMASA.”

According to him, OMS is not using the NN’s resources, rather the company bought the boats, which “are even registered with NIMASA, because you can’t bring in any boat or operate them without NIMASA’s approval and paying their dues and tax.

“We appeal to the NPA to see reasons to rescind its reported decision to dismantle the SAA. We the concerned shipping and ports services users want to advise the Nigerian Government that this arrangement should be retained and all agencies of government in the maritime environment should continue to support the arrangement.

Today, NIMASA, the Navy, and even the DPR and the NPA itself and other maritime stakeholders are comfortable because of the good effects of the SAA on security of ships coming to Lagos ports.

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