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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

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

“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

“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

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.

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