Anchorage Security: We take instructions from Navy, not NPA – OMSL

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Hadiza Bala Usman, Managing Director of NPA

…NPA, NIMASA supported Navy on SAA

By Adegboyega Oni

Marine security company, Ocean Marine Solutions Limited (OMSL) has stressed that it works under a contract with the Nigerian Navy and debunked the claim by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) that its security operations at Secure Anchorage Area (SAA) on the nation’s sea have constituted a threat to national security and increase in costs of doing business in Lagos ports.

OMS Limited stated this while reacting to a statement credited to the Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority, Hadiza Bala Usman, in a national daily that its operations were inimical to national security and that it did not recognize OMS Limited.

The Managing Director of NPA, Hadiza Bala Usman, had notified the Nigerian Navy of its decision to dismantle the SAA security arrangement and directed ship lines to stop paying fees of $2000 on the first day and $1500 every other day being charged by OMS onboard their vessels.

She noted that it is the NPA’s responsibility to provide security for vessels at the ports and at the anchorage and that a letter had been written to the Nigerian Navy to stop the operations.

According to Usman, ”It is established that vessels are directed and regulated to this facility by OMSL, who NPA does not have contractual agreement or other with. However, the Navy has a memorandum of understanding with OMSL and is providing security to the anchorage. The continued operation of this facility by a private entity could pose security threat to the nation.

The NPA boss noted that a new framework, nearing conclusion, is being out in place to be managed by NPA in collaboration with Navy and other government agencies. ”The safe anchorage has been removed, and we would work with the Nigerian Navy and NIMASA to secure the anchorage. Any attempt to create any insecurity, to justify the establishment of the safe anchorage area, would not be accepted.”

The SAA is a dedicated anchor port in the sea for ships that are waiting to berth in the Lagos seaports at Apapa and Tin Can Island. It is operated on behalf of the Navy.

Justifying its operations, OMS Limited noted that its collaboration with the Navy has contributed to the improved security and tranquility enjoyed offshore Lagos harbour approaches, through provision of platforms and logistics support that enabled maintenance of the 24/7/365 presence at sea necessary to deter the criminal elements.

Captain of vessels calling at Lagos ports, according to OMS Limited, have praised the impact of the SAA security arrangement on their ships and cargo, maintaining that its operations have never constituted a threat to national security in any form or increase in cost of shipping.

“Our attention has been drawn to some article in ThisDay newspapers of 20 October 2019, quoting statements and opinions on the operations of the SAA purported to have been articulated by MD NPA; and several other publications in recent times casting aspersions on the integrity of Ocean Marine Solutions Limited (OMSL).

According to OMS Limited, ”While we do not intend to join issues with anyone seeking to disparage our company on the pages of newspapers for ulterior motives, we wish to state that OMSL is a responsible and professionally run organisation that has enviable track-record of contributing immensely and positively to the economy of the nation, working closely with the Nigerian Navy. This collaboration has contributed to the improved security and tranquility enjoyed today offshore Lagos harbour approaches, through provision of platforms and logistics support that enabled maintenance of the 24/7/365 presence at sea necessary to deter the criminal elements. This has not only given captains of vessels making port calls to Lagos so much peace and comfort, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) has also downgraded the High Risk Area (HRA) classification for Lagos waters twice recently as a result of the cooperation. All these positive results are achieved at no cost to government.

”Therefore, anybody seeking to give the impression that SAA operations constitute a threat to national security simply lacks understanding of the real situation or is clearly and mischievously spreading falsehood deliberately for personal agenda. It is in the light of these that the pronouncements being credited to NPA in this contest, are seen as insensitive to patriotic contributions of honest Nigerians or malicious to criminalize the efforts in order to justify scrapping of a credible and working security solution.”

”We wish to enjoin the general public to please disregard the innuendos and seek clarification from the rightful authority on the establishment and operations of the Secure Anchorage Area (SAA).”

In an investigation carried out by PortNews, a source at OMSL in confidential told PortNews that NPA and Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) were duly informed and communicated to by the Navy about the whole security arrangement as both maritime agencies had at one time or the other published adverts in the national dailies in support of the SAA and acknowledged the Navy authority over the SAA and wondered why would NPA be disowning the SAA now.

The source added that NPA had written official letters to OMS requesting to know where it got the mandate to provide safety/security service for vessels in the SAA and which, he noted, that OMS replied officially to NPA that it was contracted by the Navy in spite of being duly communicated by the Navy to and its advert in the media indicated NPA supporting the SAA.  

The source noted NPA has no legal right or power to disown or stop the Nigerian Navy from performing its statutory functions of safeguarding the nation’s sea as the custodian, to make the sea peaceful, safe and secure for all ocean-going vessels plying the sea and stopping within the SAA in the overall growth of the nation’s economy and the ship owners have attested to the impact of the security arrangement on their business.

Speaking further, the source maintained that virtually all government organizations including the NPA engage private Nigerian firms to provide other essential services for them so as to meet their statutory obligations. The contentious area, according to the source, is strategically out of the port nautical miles where the Lagos Pilotage Area (LPA) under the control NPA is located and OMS operates within the SAA, not in the Lagos Pilotage District, backing his claim with an advert in The Guardian of Friday, April 4, 2014, by the NPA informing the shipping industry of the designated areas approved as Ship to Ship (STS) and Ship to Rig (STR) operations offshore Lagos Pilotage Area.

The source added that the NIMASA has equally published a similar advert in the daily in support of the Navy SAA security arrangement, wondering why the NPA is set to dismantle a perfect security arrangement without having an alternative. 

”OMS is working under the Nigerian Navy, not NPA; operates the Secure Anchorage Area, a relationship that has been communicated and NPA duly acknowledged the occurrence by publishing the Marine Notice in 2014 in The Guardian, Friday, April 4,” said the source, asking ”why the NPA denying and disowning the SAA?”

”The NPA management is deliberately feigning ignorance of the Navy’s SSA security arrangement but rather set its eyes on the fees of $2000 and $1500,” which the source noted, ”are far below the operational costs of managing and maintaining all the platform – the patrols vessels daily, weekly and monthly- than appreciating the enormity of peace, safety and security the Navy is providing for cargo ships and oil/gas tankers on the sea.

”The $2000 dollar charge per day is simply to cover the cost of procuring the patrol boats, and providing the logistics to operate them to achieve the 24 hours per week and 365 days per year presence required to deter the criminal elements on the nation’s sea,” noted that source who maintained that NPA has no power to proscribe or disown OMS activities as illegal as they were empowered legally by the Nigerian Navy, a government agency and the custodian of the nation’s sea, to provide safety and security services within the area for ocean-going vessels.

The source noted that NPA was just dabbling into an area that is out of its jurisdiction while it has failed to perform its core responsibilities of channel dredging and wreck removal which has become a clog in the wheel of development in the nation’s shipping industry. Providing patrol boats for the Navy as a pledge by the NPA, according to the source, is not enough to service and maintain them as such requires a lot of money as the meager resources of the Navy would not be enough to sustain the boats.   

According to him, the SAA is the creation of the Nigerian Navy designed to provide security solution on the nation’s sea and would be irresponsible for NPA to make efforts at dismantling the platform which has helped to boost safety and security on the nation’s sea.

”Just like the Nigerian Navy cannot proscribe any arrangements NPA has with any company to deliver on its mandate, NPA has no authority to disband an arrangement by the Nigerian Navy that is providing security offshore for members of the shipping community that choose to use the services.

The SAA arrangement is working and has helped to reduced piracy occurrence in the region, and most importantly, at no cost to the government,” noted the source.     

According to the source, it is rather unfortunate that the NPA who should be praising the Navy’s secured security arrangement at the SAA has gone about disowning such and the same NPA has even abandoned its own core responsibilities of port development including wrecks removal and channel dredging of port channels particularly in the eastern part of the country which has stopped bigger vessels patronizing the region.

”The SAA is therefore complementing government efforts rather than opposing them; they should be encouraged as a successful home-grown solution make the nation’s maritime domain safer and more secure,” the source submitted.

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