Why key stakeholders support OMS Secure Anchorage Area services


…Arguments show firm not using govt vessels for its business
 
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Some concerned stakeholders in the shipping sub-sector have spoken in support of the Secure Anchorage Area (SAA) services being provided for vessels, which they said guarantees protection for foreign vessels at no cost to the government or any of its agencies.
Worthy of note, investigations have revealed that the platforms being used in the said SAA do not belong to the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA).

It has also been established that the designated place for the SAA operation, a 10 nautical miles, outwards the Fairway Buoy, is an area totally outside the NPA jurisdictional purview, which arguably begins from the Fairway Buoy, inwards.

Specifically, it was also observed that the controversy might have developed more or less as a result of nomenclature misunderstanding, particularly the use of the term ‘Anchorage” instead of ‘Zone’, as the area should have been better designated a ‘Zone of Vessel Refuge’, rather than a Secured ‘Anchorage’ Area (SAA).

Speaking on the controversy, a maritime stakeholder said that he did not understand why an issue, which was generally agreed to by both the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and NPA, to enable the nation evolve a more credible structure of ‘security’, in order to guarantee formidable protection for foreign vessels at no cost to the Government or any of its agencies suddenly became a controversial matter.

The stakeholder, who did not want to be mentioned, recalled that there was a time around 2007 when piracy in the country peaked, crude production seriously fell, and the IOCs were on the verge of pulling out of the country.

“The idea of a Secure Anchorage Area (SAA) was a strategic decision by the IOCs, the Nigerian Navy and other stakeholders which included the NPA and NIMASA to tackle the menace and provide a life line for Nigeria. We all hailed them. It was clearly an idea out of the box.

“The IOCs could not fund the Nigerian Navy. The IOCs were sufficiently threatened to consider fleeing. The Navy did not have adequate platforms or logistics to tackle the dangerous criminals. Kidnapping was soaring.

“Demand for ransom was getting out of hand. The nation’s image was in tatters. Relevant stakeholders were begging the IOCs not to depart Nigeria. And then, suddenly, out of the blue, the IOCs came up with the idea of a SAA!

“The only problem was where to find the private investors, who would be willing or adventurous enough to procure relevant vessels costing about $3m each, to hand them over to the Nigerian Navy, without any Insurance Cover?

“But, one company called OMS opted to take the risk. It was a stupid risk. To invest about US $3million in each vessel and leave it to operate uninsured. It looked stupid. But, I guess it is now paying off. And that explains why Nigerians, in our characteristic greedy nature, want to either kill it now, or put sand-sand into it,” he stated further.

“Individually, we hailed them and the idea of Secure Anchorage Area. But, I think it was the NIMASA that first hailed the idea as a corporate breakthrough.”

He explained that NIMASA also endorsed the emergence of the OMS –Navy accord, via an advert, highlighting that the SAA would be a ‘spherical shaped ‘ off-shore Lagos 5nm, located with a centre-point  at Longitude 06* 17’ 30’’; and Latitude 003* 12’ 00, located about 10 nautical miles southwest, before entering Nigeria, through the Fairway Buoy; the agency also in the advert, emphatically acknowledged that the SAA exists to “serve as an additional security service for provision of dedicated 24/7 watch, to vessels seeking extra protection while at anchorage offshore Lagos.”

Speaking on what the NPA’s position on the issue was, he said that the NPA lacked direct jurisdiction over the matter, because the area in question was totally an offshore, 10nm, outward Fairway Buoy, hence, out of the NPA’s purview, since the NPA’s jurisdiction begins from after the Fairway Buoy.

He disclosed that the supposed three vessels acquired by the NPA and handed over to the Nigerian Navy, never operated in the SAA zones.

Further investigation confirmed also that even the NPA on Friday, April 4, 2014 similarly endorsed the evolution of SAA, in an advert the Authority placed in the Guardian newspaper, designating certain areas as:
* Lagos Ship to Ship Coordinates
* NPA designated Lagos Anchorage
* Secure Anchorage Area and
* No Anchorage Area.
Speaking in the same vein, an industry watcher, Samuel Egbewole described the present controversy as majorly arising from pure ignorance of the facts involved.

“I was equally interested in the issue when they said one OMS was busy fetching money from the Nigerian waters using Government platforms. But, on closer look, I realized it was a lie. The platforms belonged to the OMS, not the Navy, NPA or NIMASA or Government. And it is not in any way costing the Government anything!

“Whenever I come to the Airport, I enjoy the privilege of either parking my car by the road side where any idiot can break into it and steal my valuable items. But to prevent that, I always go to a Secure Parking Area (SPA) where I pay a little stipend and comfortably leave my car, until I come back for it. The OMS arrangement is strictly like that.

He said that but for the creation of the OMS- Navy accord, the insurance premium on vessels coming to Nigeria by now would have shot through the roof.

“Nigeria was already being treated like a war zone. Insurance was already roof bound. So, the creation of the accord finally became a solution towards breaking the notion of seeing the country as ‘a high risk area.’

“But, you know our people, if your neighbor invests in something, and the venture turns sour, it is an investment, until it begins to yield. Once it begins to yield, it becomes ‘Corruption’. Sometimes, it like the black man’s soul harbours envy,” Egbewole added.

Appreciating the effort and service as a worthy, evolved by the International Oil Companies (IOCs) and the Nigerian Navy, Egbewole said it was created to meet the challenges of a logistic gap, designed to ensure a 24/7 security presence, for the protection of foreign vessels within Nigerian waters round the year, considering how the wave of piracy had culminated in serious drop in crude production and its attendant bad image sometime around 2007.

When contacted, the OMS General Manager, Business Development and Government Relations, Commodore Chuma Adogu (rtd.), who initially declined to talk to the media, on grounds of not wanting to further complicate the issues on ground, rather gave explanations when asked why the OMS was using NPA’s three vessels to make money for itself.

He said: “That is not true. It’s a misinformation. I am sorry to use that word; because NPA provided vessels for the Nigerian Navy, three is in all, according to the papers, but none of those vessels is in the secure anchorage area.

“All the vessels that are used in the secure anchorage are owned by the OMS, donated to the Navy to man. Like I told you, the relationship we started in 2007 made us to acquire vessels that are domiciled with the Navy, painted in Navy colours; an outsider may not know the difference, but we know, the Navy knows. It is not true that we are using government asset to make money and the money is being directed to private pocket. It is very untrue. It is because people do not know this arrangement.

“Our relationship is for security service, which NPA does not have mandate for. Who has mandate for security? Nigerian Navy, not even NIMASA because NIMASA still refers to Nigerian Navy, and the Nigerian Navy deems it fit to collaborate with us, because they have approval from the government to do that. It is a collaboration that didn’t just start at the Secure Anchorage Area.

“NPA has authority over the trading area of the shipping, but this matter is a question of security. If our waters have been fairly safe, nobody would need this security. People would just come, anchor, when they are ready, they will come in, NPA is supposed to provide berthing space for these vessels, but for some reasons, they are not able to. So these vessels have to wait for berth allocation.

“Before now, either of these three things happen: the vessels stay outside our territorial waters, where pirates can’t reach them 200 miles away, and wait for allocation of berth; others who don’t want to stay that far, come in with mercenaries and thereby breech our security. Even that option can be costly too.

Others who don’t want to get involved about that simply divert to neighboring ports; which encourages a huge loss to the economy of Nigeria; the idea of a Secure Anchorage Area stopped all the three via payment of a small fee; and they are happy about it.

“Maybe the argument is in the name, perhaps, if we remove the ‘Anchorage’ there, the NPA will stop laying claims to it. May be, that’s where the misunderstanding is coming from,”Adogu explained.