By Modupe Gbadeyanka
To fight oil thieves and pirates on our territorial waters, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) is partnering the Nigerian Navy and Nigeria Airforce.
It has acquired some surveillance equipment to monitor the waterways and secure the ports.
In furtherance of the engagement, NIMASA now operates a 24-hour surveillance regime, capturing vessels in the nation’s maritime domain irrespective of weather conditions.
More than 5,000 ships ply the territorial waters yearly. Some vessels, sources said, violate international laws by engaging in illegal activities, including stealing of crude oil and other criminal activities.
Its Director-General, Dr Dakuku Peterside, said the agency achieves profile analyses, which include the flag, registered owner, operator, beneficial owner and movement of ships over a specified period.
He said: “The system enables us to take very swift decision in real time, on any targeted ship. Currently, all offshore areas of interest have been electronically cordoned off with a guard zone via our surveillance system and we can at once link activities in the oil fields and on crude oil platforms.
“The system has not only greatly increased our capacity to block revenue leaks but has increased our revenue as all vessels coming into Nigeria are now captured and analysed for billing.
“Our administration has been able to integrate surveillance data with billing control information, thereby driving our desire for the agency’s billing system to be fully operational by two-thirds, from 72-hour down to 24 hours while keeping our eyes the target timeline of six hour billing,” Peterside said.
A senior official of the Federal Ministry of Transport (FMoT), who craved anonymity, said the nation loses 200,000 barrels of crude oil to theft.
“They are collaborating to curb oil theft, piracy and other criminalities, The Nation has learnt. More than 5,000 international ships ply the territorial waters yearly. Some of the vessels violate international laws by engaging in illegal activities.
“The Air Force has acquired three maritime 128-6, F27 and ATR-42-500 jets and other planes to monitor the activities of oil thieves and other criminals.
“The high-tech plane ATR-42-500 jet is being operated by the Air Force. The plane is fitted with sensors, radar and Electro-Optic Surveillance and Tracking (EOST) equipment, which houses three cameras to monitor ships in Nigerian waters.
“The 20-seat plane can fly as low as 200 feet (60 metres) above the sea and passes on information about maritime traffic to the navy, who can intervene with fast-attack craft if necessary.
“The collaboration is aimed at fighting all manner of maritime crimes in the country. With this aircraft, we can spot any vessel hundreds of kilometres (miles) away,” said Group Captain Enobong Eneh Effiom.
“The aircraft is inscribed with the words: ‘Vigilance over the ocean’. The cameras installed in the planes function well at night based on their high powered lights.
“For any sustainable and meaningful growth in the maritime sector, a robust maritime domain awareness system is inevitable. NIMASA has, therefore, entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Nigerian Navy and the Nigerian Air Force to enhance water patrol and aerial surveillance of Nigeria’s maritime domain.
“The collaboration with the Air force will assist NIMASA in tackling the challenges of large and unrestricted navigational areas, small and non-cooperative objects taking advantage of the dense maritime activity to conceal their actions and it would also protect the ports and ships against attacks,” Effiom said.
He said the agency was striving to ensure that the government and security agencies had access to accurate, comprehensive and up-to-the-minute situation data of the vessel traffic at sea.
The jets, it was learnt, were built in France and equipped in Italy with radars, cameras and other security gadgets.
It was gathered that the Navy has also acquired an equipment called Regional Maritime Awareness Capability Centre (RMAC) to aid the fight.
The equipment, findings showed, was imported from Japan for about N2 billion. It has high-frequency radio and long-range cameras, capable of spotting ships up to 48 kilometres away on the waters.
“From the domain awareness centre, we can see ships from anywhere in the world coming or leaving our maritime space. It also gives us the ability to ascertain the actual threat the vessel poses,” the official said.
The idea for the tripartite collaboration, a source said, started a few years ago
It was learnt that NIMASA sought the help of the Air Force when it discovered that the war against pirates was complicated.
“With the equipment in the planes, NIMASA can monitor even the unusual movement of vessels at sea and keep their records,” the official said.
The jets, it was learnt, draw on the latest technology to provide a reliable, round-the-clock monitoring.
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