Maritime insecurity: Cost of armed guards crippling shipping business —Operators

•Says agencies flouting joint inspection directive

Operators in the eastern ports have raised the alarm that government agencies are flouting the Federal Government Executive Order on joint inspection of vessels. This is even as they lamented that many indigenous shipping companies have closed down due to inability to afford the huge cost of private armed guards, which fluctuates between $30,000 and $50,000; following the spate of insecurity plaguing the eastern flanks of the nation’s waterways.

Speaking to the Nigerian Tribune during a quarterly stakeholders meeting in Port Harcourt recently, a cross section of the shipowners and brokers revealed that about 90 percent of vessels that call at the Port Harcourt port or Onne port come with armed guards.

According to Mr. Pius Amam, a representative of Interserve Nigeria Limited, one of the indigenous shipping firms operating at the Rivers port, “We need the Nigerian Navy and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to be up and running as regards ensuring security around the eastern port channels.

“What is disturbing us today is that the eastern port channels are not secured. Pirates are hijacking vessels and abducting captains at will. That is why many of the foreign vessels that call here come with private armed guards, which is very expensive for indigenous shipping companies.

“Many of the indigenous shipping companies have collapsed because they cannot afford private security. It’s very expensive to hire private armed guards to escort your vessel along the eastern waters of the country. Some charge as much as $50,000 per trip. The least you can get, at times is $30,0000. Only the foreign shipping firms can afford it and maybe few indigenous shipping firms who get’s juicy contracts.”

Also speaking, another operator who identified himself as Njoku Emmanuel, explained that government agencies are flouting the Federal Government directive on joint inspection of vessels at the Rivers port. In his words: “We don’t really understand the function of each government agencies at the ports anymore, because every agencies that comes onboard a vessel dabbles into the functions of other agencies of government.

“For example, NIMASA has three sections that will inspect a vessel, and all of the sections do the same job. Port Health will come onboard to inspect, and after leaving, Plant Quarantine will come onboard to inspect the provision store that Port Health has already inspected.

“Immigration Service will come onboard and spend four hours scrutinizing International passports and Seamen’s Books, even when they knew that the vessel came from Lagos to Port Harcourt. All these have affected the turnaround time of vessels at the Rivers port and also exhaust Captains onboard vessels.”

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