Aftermath SAA, Navy issues verbal armed security arrangement for ships

•As Deep Blue deployment lingers

T NHE Nigerian Navy is currently issuing verbal armed security arrangement for vessels in the Lagos anchorage following the disbandment of the Secure Anchorage Area (SAA) and the delay in the deployment of the Deep Blue project. This is even as findings revealed that such verbal agreement could be terminated at any point without warning.

In a report published by Risk Intelligence A/S, a Denmark based risk assessment and planning company, specialising in threat analysis at sea, ports and land; the firm revealed that the decision to continue the embarkation of armed guards on vessels at the Lagos anchorage was taken at a meeting held on February 26, 2021, at the naval base in Lagos to discuss the situation related to SAA, which is no longer supported by the Nigerian Navy.

“When the SAA was disbanded, there were security vessels contracted to protect individual vessels or clusters of vessels. The Nigerian Navy did not approve of this as it is essentially a re-creation of an unofficial SAA.

“Security or escort vessels are therefore required to disengage upon arrival at the anchorage or the Nigerian Navy should be informed of their engagement at least five hours prior to arrival to obtain approval for any extended stay at/around the anchorage (up to a maximum of 24 hours).

“The Nigerian Navy also stated that they will continue the embarkation of armed guards on vessels at the Lagos anchorage, but this is regularly re-evaluated. Hence, shipowners contracting naval personnel as armed guards must rely only on verbal confirmation from the Nigerian Navy that the request has been approved – no written confirmation will be provided. This essentially means that such arrangements could be terminated at any point without warning.

“Naval personnel that are provided as armed guards will be tested for Covid-19 by the Nigerian Navy. The personnel will only be released after having tested negative. However, it is unlikely that information about tests or other health-related records will be released by the Nigerian Navy, meaning that shipowners and operators may have to rely on verbal confirmation in this context as well,” Risk Intelligence A/S stated in the report.

The Risk Intelligence report also highlighted the following: “That the Nigerian Navy and NIMASA are the only organisations in Nigeria that are empowered to maintain safety and security in territorial waters and the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ); that the Nigerian Marine Police’s jurisdiction is limited to protecting ports and waterways (inland of the fairway buoys); that the NIMASA Act empowers the agency to contract private companies or make other arrangements with them to provide specific services related to the safety and security in Nigeria’s maritime domain, i.e. territorial waters and the EEZ.

“Unless related to the Nigerian Navy’s own arrangements with private security companies under the MoU, NIMASA considers it an offence for a vessel sailing in Nigeria’s territorial waters to have any person (Nigerian citizen or foreigner) described as a security guard and/or performing functions of a security expert or bridge advisor (armed or unarmed) on board.”

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