Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Nigeria approves purchase of six boats for maritime security purposes

Nigeria’s Federal Executive Council has allocated more than 3 billion Naira (US$18 million/R150 million) for the purchase of six security vessels in an ongoing effort to improve security along the nation’s waterways.

On June 27 the Federal Executive Council (FEC), presided over by President Goodluck Jonathan, approved N3.238 billion (US$19.7 million/R161 million) for the purchase of the six vessels, which, according to information minister Labaran Maku, include three Manta ASD littoral interceptors. The origin of the other three boats was not specified.

Minister of Transport, Idris Umar, told reporters that a contract was approved for the acquisition of three boats for the security of vessels and ships, while the other three boats for the patrol of inland waterways would be procured for N233.6 million (US$1.4 million/R11 million).

Maku said three of the vessels would be used to secure ships within ports jurisdiction and would be operated by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) in conjunction with the Nigerian Navy.

The other three boats would be used for the security of inland waterways and would be operated by the Marine Police in conjunction with the National Inland Waterways Authority.

“The purchase of these boats will empower the Navy and the Nigerian Ports Authority to guarantee safety of vessels that come into our waterways, particularly in the Lagos area,” Maku said.

“The ministry also brought proposal to buy additional boats for inner waterways security. Looking at the memorandum that were submitted and the importance of these boats to secure both inner water ways and coastal areas, the Federal Executive Council gave the go ahead to the Ministry of Transport to purchase the boats to reinforce our maritime security.

“We find it very important because piracy has been in the increase and the issue of oil theft and several other criminalities in our waterways has been there for a while. Government is desirous of addressing this by equipping our security forces, particularly to guard our waterways to bring down the level of criminalities and all those who ply our coasts should feel secured,” Maku concluded.

Illegal bunkering and refining and oil theft are other major challenges facing Nigeria, particularly in the delta region. According to the Nigerian Oil Producers Trade Section (OPTS), crude oil theft stands at around three million barrels per month – an improvement over the theft of nine million barrels per month as at January last year. This drop was due to the establishment of a special task force to combat the issue.

Piracy and maritime insecurity are also big issues in the delta region and off the Nigerian coast. The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) in its global piracy report for the first quarter of this year, warned that West Africa remained a worsening piracy hotspot, with Nigeria being a noteworthy flashpoint.

Attacks in the Gulf of Guinea have increased in recent months as the area, spanning a dozen countries, is a growing source of oil, cocoa and metals being shipped to the world's markets. The IMB said there were ten attacks off Nigeria in the first quarter of this year.

"Nigerian piracy is increasing in incidence and extending in range," said IMB director Pottengal Mukundan. "While the number of reported incidents in Nigeria is still less than Somalia, and hijacked vessels are under control of the pirates for days rather than months, the level of violence against crew is dangerously high."

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) recorded a total of 83 piracy and sea robbery attacks, including other unlawful acts at sea, in 2011.

Late last month the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ola Saad Ibrahim said that the vast area of Nigeria’s territorial waters and an inadequate number of ships was challenging the ability of the navy to patrol and secure the country’s maritime domain. “The ships we have are tired old warhorses that are dilapidated beyond economic repairs. This is due to serial negligence of national security institutions over the years. The House Committee on Navy is aware of the state of the Navy. In other climes, the Navy is supposed to take delivery of new ships almost every year.

“For the Nigerian Navy to be efficient, we must talk about recapitalisation. In simple terms, we need to change the face of the Navy by buying new and more vessels for our operations,” he said.

The Nigerian Navy and security forces are, however, re-equipping. On May 3 the Nigerian Marine Police took delivery of two Armacraft Croq 1270 patrol vessels from China while a month ago Kobus Naval Design (KND) received a contract to supply two 24 metre P249 patrol craft to the Nigerian Customs Service, which will use them to combat smuggling and piracy.

Nigeria’s 2012 Defence Budget Proposal makes provision for three Shaldag Mk III fast patrol craft, three 24 metre coastal patrol craft and six 17 metre Manta Mk II ASD littoral interceptors. The FY2011 defence budget approved the acquisition of two offshore patrol vessels, the refurbishment of six coastal patrol craft by TP Marine and the delivery of nine Manta Mk II ASD craft. The Suncraft Group is expected to construct the six Manta Mk II ASD vessels, bringing the total ordered over the last several years to 21. The Manta Mk II first entered service with the Nigerian Navy in 2008.

French shipbuilder OCEA is building the three 24 metre coastal patrol craft and commenced sea trials of the first vessel on March 13.

Nigeria’s Navy is seeking government approval to acquire up to 49 ships and 42 helicopters over the next ten years to police the nation’s territorial waterways and Gulf of Guinea.

Some of these vessels will be built locally. Jonathan on June 1 commissioned the NNS Andoni, Nigeria’s first locally built warship, and laid the keel for a second Seaward Defence Boat, which will be commissioned next year.

Jonathan recently approved the purchase of two new 1 800 t Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) for the Nigerian Navy, which will use them mainly for maritime surveillance, patrol and response tasks. The contract for the two OPVs was signed on April 18 this year, with China Shipbuilding and Offshore International Limited, the trade arm of China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC). They will be delivered in around three years time and will be partly built in Nigeria.

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