Confusion swamps Nigerian waters … As security service providers battle for supremacy off Lagos

The multi-million-dollar contract the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) signed with Global West Vessel Specialist Nigeria Limited (GWVSL), which granted the private concern an initial 10-year concession to manage the security of the Nigerian maritime domain may not have ceased to generate controversy, according to MARITIME MATTERS findings.

It was learnt that a partnership arrangement the Nigerian Navy (NN) has with two private maritime security companies – one based in West Africa and other based in the United Kingdom (UK) –  to secure the waters off Lagos, South-West Nigeria, could just be a potent rival to the GWVSL, renewing persisting doubts on the competence of the latter to deliver on its brief as a concessionaire appointed by Nigeria’s apex maritime regulatory organ, NIMASA, to secure the nation’s maritime domain.
It would be recalled that the Federal Ministry of Transport had, on January 5, 2012,  submitted a memorandum to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) titled, AWARD OF CONTRACT FOR THE STRATEGIC CONCESSIONING PARTNERSHIP WITH NIMASA TO PROVIDE PLATFORM FOR TRACKING SHIPS AND CARGOES, ENFORCE REGULATORY COMPLIANCE AND SURVEILLANCE OF THE ENTIRE NIGERIAN MARITIME DOMAIN.
Notably, paragraph 14 of the memo summarised it, stating that “Council is, accordingly, invited to:
§   Note that the principal objective of NIMASA’s activities is to ensure that safety and security of shipping/maritime trade in a protected marine environment but resource constraint has made it difficult for NIMASA to acquire the requisite operational platforms which are needed to effectively patrol and carry out surveillance of Nigeria’s entire coastline.
§  Note that the Surveillance Operations will be carried out in collaboration with the Nigerian Navy in line with the existing Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between NIMASA and the Nigerian Navy under the Maritime (Guard) Command and structure;
§  Note that the project is aimed at addressing the challenges in the maritime industry;
§  Note that the scope of works covers monitoring, patrol, enforcement of conventions and improvement of revenue;
§  note that the platform upon completion will enhance effective patrol and surveillance of Nigeria’s entire coastline to achieve total maritime domain awareness;
§  Note that due (to the) national security nature of the project, direct procurement was adopted to this procurement under the Public Procurement Act. Section 42 (1) f;
§  Note that due process guidelines, were followed and the ICRC (Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission) has approved the PPP (public private partnership) arrangement on a ‘no cure no pay’ basis in favour of Messrs Global West Vessel Specialist Nigeria Limited (GWVSL) with an initial investment in the sum of USD103,400,000.00 only. Inclusive of all taxes on a contractor-financed supply, operate and transfer (SOT) concession for a period of 10 years based on performance;
§  Note that the BPP (Bureau of Public Procurement) reviewed the procurement process and issued a Certificate of ‘No Objection’ for the Provision of Platforms for Tracking Ships and Cargoes, Enforcement of Regulatory Compliance and Surveillance of the Entire Nigerian maritime domain for Ministry of Transport/Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, in favour of Messrs Global West Vessel Specialist Nigeria Limited (GWVSL), with an initial investment in the sum of USD103,400,000.00 only, on a contractor-financed supply, (operate) and transfer (SOT) concession for a period of 10 years and renewable for further two terms of five years each based on performance as recommended by ICRC and no more to avoid undue monopoly of the service by concessionaire;
§  Note that the projected amount accruable to government over the concession period will not be less than N124 billion;
§  Note that the President vide letter Ref. No. PRES/99/MT/61, 9th November, 2011 had granted anticipatory approval for the project;
§  Note that the Attorney-General of the Federation/Minister of Justice has reviewed and approved the Draft Agreement;
§  Note that this project is contractor-financed and does not require any government appropriation;
§  Note that this project will create 1375 job opportunities to Nigerian professionals and non-professionals directly and 1620 jobs indirectly; and
§  Ratify the President’s anticipatory approval for the concession of the Provision of Security, Monitoring and Enforcement Operational Platforms on Nigerian Waters to Ministry of Transport/Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA). In favour of Messrs Global West Vessel Specialist Nigeria Limited (GWVSL), with an initial Investment of the sum of USD103,400,000.00. Inclusive of all taxes on a Contractor-financed Supply Operate and Transfer (SOT) Concession over 10 years concession period and renewable for further two terms of five years based on performance.”
The project has since kicked-in into the initial 10-year tenure, in spite of strident opposition from well-informed stakeholders, who queried the pedigree of the GWVSL and its capacity and the ability to execute a concession of such magnitude.
According to these stakeholders, the contract awarded to the GWVSL was sensitive and in the realm of national security.
Opponents of the contract had argued then, and are still doing so, that it was a usurpation of the statutory roles of the Nigerian Navy and the Marine Police by the GWVSL.
Industry analysts have expressed doubts about the efficacy of the contract, noting that, thus far, neither the contractor nor its principal(s) rendered data or other proofs of the contractor’s performance outlook vis-a- vis the intended objectives of the contract.
However, the murky security atmosphere of the Nigerian maritime domain is not helped by a partnership project between the Nigerian Navy, the West Africa-based Ocean Marine Security Limited (OMS), and the UK-based PGS Group that is purportedly working to raise awareness on the availability of legalised security options for ships operating in Nigerian waters.
This partnership reportedly established the Secure Anchorage Area (SAA) and Secure Ship-To-Ship (STS) zone off the coast of Lagos, South-West Nigeria, in 2013 to service vessels requiring what the promoters describe as a dedicated and compliant maritime security solution.
Located 10 nautical miles (NM) southwest of the Lagos water channel, the SAA is protected round-the-clock by multiple armed patrol boats that enforce a maritime exclusion zone (MEZ) around vessels anchored there, deterring potential threats.
The SAA is being marketed as a zone where vessels can anchor safely without fear of pirate attacks,
The zone’s promoters are claiming that it has so far recorded a 100 per cent success rate since operations commenced.
The SAA Managing Director, Nick Dixon, has been quoted as having said that that the SAA zone, which spans a diameter of five nautical miles just south of the Lagos Port Complex (LPC), Apapa, has a further diametrical two nautical miles of exclusive “no sail” zone designed to deter potential seaborne threats and protected by SAA-owned patrol boats.
Currently, the SAA reportedly operates a fleet of 46 armed patrol boats.
The organisation is said to be planning to five more units to the existing fleet soon.
“Each patrol boat has 15 personnel of which eight are from the Nigerian Navy to take up the duties of keeping watch and operating the onboard weapons, ” Dixon was quoted as having said recently at the residence of the British High Commissioner in Singapore.
The SAA boss said: “In the event of an attack, the engagement by the pirates is with the Navy, hence all Nigerian naval assets will be mobilised to assist at no extra cost to the client.
The SAA is also the solution recognised by NIMASA, according to him.
Clarifying what was legal and not legal on the issue of hiring private armed guards in Nigeria, Dixon reportedly pointed out that there is only one version of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that private maritime security companies need to obtain if they wish to offer their services in Nigeria.
The MoU, according to Dixon, needs to be signed by the Chief of the Naval Staff, Nigerian Navy.
“People feel that the Nigerian Navy has privatised themselves and there is a certain element of truth in it. In order to operate in Nigeria, the private maritime security companies must own patrol boats approved by the Navy,” the SAA boss said.
He added: “Breaches of the MoU include patrol boats not owned by the private maritime security companies and patrol boats with no mounted weapons.”
Quoted rates on engaging the services of the SAA are $3,000 per vessel for day one and day two, followed by $1,500 from day three onwards, while additional escort services attract rates ranging from $4,500 for basic services to $64,000 for lengthier voyage services, inclusive of bunkers.
Speaking at the SAA’s launch in Lagos, the Operations Director, SAA West Africa, Sven Hanson, said that security was very crucial to Nigeria’s economic growth.
Noting that West Africa currently has limited effective and legally endorsed protection that will not risk compromising vessel and cargo insurance cover, Hanson said: “This is because offshore Lagos, the Nigerian Navy does not allow the use of guards onboard commercial vessels and the Marine Police have no jurisdiction outside the inland waterways, ports and harbours.”
The SAA project, according to him, was conceptualised to help provide ships within Nigeria’s anchorage area effective maritime solution to boost security within the maritime exclusive zone.
Highlighting the importance of the SAA to the West African region, Hanson quoted figures from the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), which reported that the region recorded 58 piracy, armed robbery and kidnapping-related incidents in 2012, and additional 31 incidents by July 2013, while, on the other hand, it was a decrease from 237 attacks in 2011 to 75 in 2012.
Other partners in the SAA launch include the Nigerian Navy and the British High Commission, and also speaking at the event, SAA West Africa Managing Director said that the launch was a dream comes true for vessels and their crews.
This, according to him, was especially so for vessels laden with highly-inflammable cargoes.
Explaining the modus operandi, Dixon said that patrol boats of the Nigerian Navy ensures that all the potential threats are neutralised at a significant distance away from the secure anchorage of the SAA’s clients.