By David Oladimeji, Lagos
The United States government has declared that only 22 port facilities in Nigeria are so far compliant with the prescribed letters of the International Ships and Ports Facility Security, ISPS, code.
The US government also said its declaration was based on the United States Coast Guard, USCG, reports on the several visits and assessments carried out within the last six years, because the USCG did not find a worthwhile or effective anti-terrorism measures in place, especially in many of the ports, with the exception of some notable port facilities.
Consequently, the United States has placed Nigeria on the Port Security Advisory list, even as it imposes Conditions of Entry, COE, on vessels originating or calling from non-compliant ports in Nigeria, wishing to enter any US ports thereafter.
It explained that the COE being imposed on vessels originating or calling from non-compliant ports in Nigeria would simply imply that such vessels would be subjected to further security checks before being allowed into the United States of America.
“The COE are not trade sanctions and do not ban Nigerian ships from entering US Ports. It does require ships however, to take certain additional security related measures while at non-exempt Nigerian ports facilities…The COE has no impact on shipping traffic entering Nigerian waters and/or berthing at its ports; it deals only with shipping traffic departing Nigerian ports that is destined for the United States,” the Diplomatic Note explained further.
The US authorities, however, acknowledged the effort of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, in raising the security levels of ships and port facilities in Nigeria and assured of its commitment to continue to partner with Nigeria to improve security measures; especially as it was also aware of NIMASA’s effort to improve its oversight of the Nigerian port facilities.
The Note earlier issued by the US embassy to the Nigerian government equally acknowledged that although Nigeria may be facing significant difficulty in instituting the needed security measures, the progress Nigeria has made so far, especially through the NIMASA was well noted and the clear delineation of NIMASA as the Designated Authority was a positive step.
Meanwhile, the NIMASA image-maker, Isichei Osamgbi has confirmed that 13 more port facilities in Nigeria are now fully compliant with the code, bringing the total number of compliant port facilities in the country to 22, up from nine since the last visit of the United States Coast Guard.
“It must be noted that the report of the United States Embassy is based on assessments carried out by the USCG over the last six years and before the last official assessment of August 2013, barely two months after NIMASA took over ISPS Code implementation in Nigeria as the Designated Authority in May 2013,″ he explained, adding that a lot had since been further achieved since then.
“However, a lot of progress has been achieved since the last official assessment visit of the USCG (about nine months ago) which should show that the compliant ports are actually more than the 22 reported.
“Before its formal notification as the designated authority for the implementation of the ISPS code on May 21, 2013, there were less than 10 port facilities that had effective anti-terrorism measures in place which number has more than doubled one year after.
“The Agency is currently carrying out a Verification Inspection Exercise, VIE, across all Nigerian port facilities and security threat levels at non-compliant port facilities will be heightened until identified improvement opportunities are addressed while Statement of Compliances, SoCs, will only be issued to compliant port facilities,” he posited further.
He highlighted that the director general of NIMASA, Ziakede Patrick Akpobolokemi had assured all stakeholders that “the agency will continue to work tirelessly on all identified improvement opportunities while strengthening our consultation with the USCG with the goal of achieving full ISPS Code compliance, and the removal of the Conditions of Entry, COE, as we crave the cooperation and support of everyone to ensure an ISPS Code compliant nation.”