The war risk surcharge slammed on Nigerian importers by foreign shipping companies due to maritime insecurity on the nation’s coastal water and the Gulf of Guinea (GoG), would abate as President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday commissioned the $195million deep blue project to fight piracy, kidnapping for ransom in the region.
NATIONAL ECONOMY recalls that Nigerian importers have been paying a whopping $2.74billion in last three years over categorisation of Nigeria’s waters as a war risk nation due to maritime insecurity on the coastal water and GoG.
The surcharge is levied to recover potential extra costs, such as re-routing or additional security and this according to maritime experts had led to spike in insurance premiums slammed on vessels and cargoes destined for Nigeria.
Speaking at the official commissioning of the project at the Apapa port Lagos, PMB said the deep blue project would also help Nigeria to harness the enormous potentials in the blue economy.
The president who described the Deep Blue Project as the benchmark for maritime security among nations in the West and Central African region said the project would facilitate a condusive environment for the maritime sector to strive and contribute to the diversification of the Nigerian economy.
PMB, who noted that the project is a strong statement of intent to tackle piracy in the Gulf of Guinea (GoG) also disclosed that the Deep Blue Project was initiated to foster Nigerian security architecture within the nation’s waters and beyond.
“Deep Blue Project is coming at a time the globe has become concerned about piracy and maritime crime in the Gulf of Guinea. This project displays the concerted efforts to guarantee security and it is a demonstration of the government’s resolve to diversify the nation’s economy and harness Blue economy potentials,” the president said.
He continued, “Therefore the flag off of the Deep Blue project marks an important milestone in this regard and our collective efforts to tackle the security challenges in the form of piracy and militants crimes in Nigeria and the Gulf of Guinea,” he said.
He pointed out that this would serve as a bench mark for member states in the Gulf of Guinea and other relevant stakeholders to further develop innovative strategies and allign efforts with the subsistent framework to improve mediterranean security in the region.
He commended the initiative and used the opportunity to call on member states and other stakeholders to join and work collectively in pursuit of this common objectives and most importantly keep our seafarers safe.
He noted that as the operational phase of the project begin, he assured of government commitment to the projects sustainability and invite critical stakeholders to work collectively in this direction.
“I am confident that the project which provides a robust security architecture will enhance maritime domain awareness capability and improve law enforcement action particularly in the prosecution of suspects and suppression of piracy and other maritime Offences act which I signed into law in June 2019,” he said.
While commending the Ministry of Transportation and the Ministry of Defense for making the project a reality all, Buhari encouraged all maritime stakeholders to collaborate with the ultimate goal being security of the marine domain and safety of seafarers in the country.
He also noted that the Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences (SPOMO) Act, Nigeria has prosecuted ten pirates using the Act.
Earlier in his address, the minister of transportation, Hon. Rotimi Ameachi noted that financial and maintenance sustainability of the project would be developed by a committee saddled with that responsibility.
Amaechi, however, expressed delight that the assets of the project have already been deployed to guarantee safety at Lagos Secure Anchorage Area (SAA) after the private security outfits for such operations were banned.
The transport minister commended the Ministry of Defence and the armed forces service chiefs for their contributions throughout the preliminary stages of the project and encouraged them to maintain the support.
Also speaking, the director-general, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Bashir Jamoh described the deep blue project as “mission accomplished.”
He said the project was aimed at ensuring safer waterways so that businesses can thrive and ultimate boost the national economy.
He applauded President Buhari for signing the Anti-Piracy bill into law, adding that it has convicted about 10 offenders for the first time, under the law.
According to him, NIMASA is working closely with international community to curtail criminality in the nation’s exclusive economic zone.
He said pirate attacks have reduced from mid-February this year, urging the shipping firms to review the war risk insurance to Nigeria.
Secretary-general, IMO, Kitack Lim, appreciated Nigeria’s active engagement to ensure safety of shipping in the Gulf of Guinea.
He assured of IMO’s cooperation to ensure safety on the waters.
The development, he said reflects Nigeria’s commitment to lead the fight against insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea and inland waters.
On his part, the Minister of Defence, Major General (rtd) Bashir Magashi, stated that with the Deep Blue Project, safety is guaranteed in the maritime sector and this would attract Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) in maritime.
He described the C4i intelligence centre as the heart of the project, adding that with the operation of C4i and the entire project, piracy in the nation’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and the entire maritime space will be addressed.
Magashi stressed the need to make judicious use of the Deep Blue Project assets and advised that proper maintenance be provided to ensure the benefits of the project are fully optimised.