By Kenneth Jukpor
The much anticipated Deep Blue Project which is Nigeria’s holistic security apparatus to tackle piracy, has taken a massive step towards completion as two Special Mission Vessels (SMV) for the project were received in Lagos, today.
The Nigerian Navy and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency NIMASA, took delivery of the Special Mission Vessels named; DB Lagos and DB Abuja.
The vessels are equipped with sophisticated intelligence gathering capability for timely detection and response to illegal activities in the Nigerian maritime domain, geared towards ridding the Country’s waters of criminal activities.
Speaking at the event, the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice-Admiral Ibok Ekwe Ibas said; “Piracy is an act inimical to the growth of the Nigerian maritime sector and we are prepared, more than ever before, to give it all it takes to end this nefarious act”
Ibas, who was represented by the Chief Security Officer, Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral M. M. Bashir, stated that the officers who would man the vessels will be given adequate training under the Deep Blue Project so that the special features of the vessels can be adequately utilised for the purpose of combating maritime illegalities.
On his part, the Director General of NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Peterside posited that pirates and other criminals on the country’s maritime domain and the entireGulf of Guinea, would soon meet their waterloo, with the arrival and installation of the critical assets under the Deep Blue Project.
Dakuku, who was represented by the Executive Director, Operations, NIMASA, Engr. Rotimi Fashakin, disclosed that aside of special mission vessels, 10 Fast Interceptor Boats have also arrived the country and seven more are expected later in the year.
“Today marks a new dawn for a more secure and stable maritime environment in Nigeria. This milestone in asset delivery inches us closer to full operational take-off of the Deep Blue Project, hence it marks a huge victory for the Nigerian maritime sector in the fight against maritime insecurity,” he said.
The Director General disclosed that the DB Abuja and DB Lagos, which are built to be intelligently operated, also served as mother vessels to Fast Intervention crafts that are able to respond to distress calls swiftly. Each of the interceptor boats has a combined engine capacity of 900HP and can do up to 55knots. He also said that each of the vessels would be commanded by a Navy captain with full complement of naval personnel.
Recall that the Federal Executive Council (FEC) granted approval for a holistic maritime security architecture, which is a multi-pronged approach towards fighting piracy. Aside the sea assets, there are also land and air assets, which are still expected in the country before the end of the year.
NIMASA also operates a Command and Control Centre at the Regional Maritime Resource Coordination Centre (RMRCC), which is also part of the Deep Blue Project.
Giving a breakdown of the assets being installed under the Deep Blue Project at a press conference in Lagos recently, the Minister of Transportation, Hon. Rotimi Amaechi revealed that a good number of the assets had arrived the country.
He also hinted that the first special mission aircraft will be in the country before the end of the first quarter of the year, while six armoured personnel carriers were already in the country, and the first unmanned aerial vehicle is expected soon.