IMO Seat: Nigeria’s 2021 Chances And Technical Lessons From Australia

IMO Seat: Nigeria's 2021 Chances And Technical Lessons From AustraliaBy Kenneth Jukpor & Yusuf Odejobi

Nigeria’s chances of getting into the Category C of the International Maritime Organization’s Governing Council were brought to the frontburner via our Lead story last week titled, “How Foreign Affairs Ministry Can Earn Nigeria IMO Council Seat”.

While the report elicited hairsplitting reactions, the motive was just to draw the attention of the nation to some critical developments that could earn Nigeria a place on the IMO Council.

This week, our correspondent engaged more industry stakeholders while appraising the technical evaluation of Nigeria’s maritime domain with an analogy between Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and the Australian Maritime Safety Agency (AMSA).

Speaking with MMS Plus, a former Director, Shipping Development, NIMASA, Capt. Warredi Enisuoh stressed that Nigeria should be more interested in securing its place as a highly rated maritime nation based on merit rather than lobbying.

According to him, such public positions on lobbying could be counterproductive and may indict Nigeria among the other IMO member states.

“I’m deeply surprised that instead of towing the line of meritocracy. We are encouraging lobbying,” Warredi said. He added that this lobbying approach has kept the nation’s maritime sector in the unenviable state it currently occupies.

“IMO is about maritime safety and the environment. Lobbying is like seeking for compromise. Other IMO member states reading the public support of lobbying will keep giving us ‘thumbs down,” he argued.

While he agreed that lobbying was one of the strategies utilized not only at IMO but also other United Nation’s engagements, Warredi opined that marketing Nigeria’s achieved technical milestones is a better approach via the media.

“Even if such a thing is happening, we should not proudly be talking about it in the media. We should be talking about our technical achievements in line with the IMO Conventions and Standards,” he asserted.

Meanwhile, an IMO Source said; “The truth is that every contestant to the IMO Council, be that in Category A, B or C, lobby. The lobbying is in various forms. It is a common practice in the UN system. Absolutely, there is nothing wrong with it. Lobbying includes reciprocity on bilateral or multilateral levels: it could be technical or diplomatic”

The technical aspects seek to explain what a country is bringing to the table, what the country is offering in terms of safety, security, marine environment protection, human element in shipping such as seafarers and their welfare.

Diplomatic efforts, however, could be via a forum or platform to discuss the technical parts. The platform or forum could be receptions, visits to embassies and high commissions; and there is nothing wrong with this approach.

The problem as posited by various shipping experts is that Nigeria organizes these diplomatic receptions without adequate technical components to support or validate the lobbying.

Meanwhile, Capt. Warredi’s position on lobbying may stem from the Nigerian political parlance where the word ‘lobby’ has become akin to getting political favours without recourse to due process or merit.

The dictionary meaning of lobby means, “to seek to influence (a legislator) on an issue.

“Timing is very crucial in lobbying, but Nigeria always starts late. Nigeria should start early and take a leadership role in the region. The nation could organize programmes and invite regional states to discuss key issues in the sector. Lobbying in this context can be substituted with marketing. Nigeria should create forums to market itself and show its strides in the maritime sector,” the IMO source said.

Noting the importance of having a holistic assessment of the subject matter, we can study a leading maritime nation and Catergory B member of the IMO Governing Council. We should be able to unearth some aspects of maritime considered less important, yet, very relevant.

 As an island nation, Australia has a strong connection to the coast. Australia’s coastline spans across 60,000km where the citizens work, play and trade. There is an Australian government agency ensuring shipping is safe, seas are clean and lives are saved by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA).

 AMSA, which is the equivalent of Nigeria’s NIMASA, employs over 100,000 people. Across the nation, thousands of workers work around the water and their vessels more than 40,000 of them form a single maritime workload that contribute to the vitality of Australia’s economy. They perform many roles, each supporting local communities and industries.

The nation is recognized globally for its role in providing sea food as Australia is the world’s third largest fishing zone. In terms of volume, Australian ports manage 10% of world sea trade, whilst ferrying passengers or supporting the energy or tourism industries.

Having numerous vessels operate to the same safety standards is no easy task and AMSA works with the maritime industry to set the national safety standards which include; vessel construction, operations, crewing and equipment for commercial vessels to make sure the boats are safe and they operate safely. AMSA preaches that safety starts with people, so it works with the training providers to see that the people working on these boats are operating on the same high standards all over Australia and around the world. AMSA also ensures seafarers undertake approved training courses at colleges that train them for work on the world’s biggest ships.

To obtain a maritime qualification, seafarers must have carried out the appropriate safe services, completed and approved course of study, passed an examination and medically fit. AMSA issues marine qualifications for all crew members on Australian ships operating under the navigation act ensuring the Australian and international standards. AMSA issues more than 5000 certificates each year. When qualified, many of these seafarers would join maritime workforce in Australia or work internationally on container ships or bulk carriers. These gigantic vessels are regularly inspected by AMSA to ensure they’re operating safely. Inspectors ensure the readiness of equipment on board and make sure crews are qualified and know how to operate a vessel safely. Ships transport 99% of Australian exports by volume.

The inspector’s job is to check the vessel’s safety to environmental standards from high of the ridge to the depths of the engine rooms and from the bell to the stow. Teams of inspectors operate at the 16 major ports around Australia. Every year, Australian ports receive over 25,000 ships. Together, they conduct seven and half thousands ships inspections each year. Shipping is an international business, so AMSA is doing it’s part to enforce international safety standards.

Australia is actively involved internationally in improving the safety of shipping all over the globe. It was a founding member of IMO (IMO member for over 50 years) where it works with other member states to continue to improve the safety of shipping, minimize environmental impact and improve navigation systems. AMSA uses its expertise in several programmes that assist in building the maritime capability of the nation’s neighbours.

Many indigenous communities in Northern Australia live and work on islands and in coastal locations, they use small boats for everything from trading goods and catching sea foods to attending sporting events. It is important that these communities know how to stay safe and AMSA is helping them to do that in partnership with local authority and state governments. AMSA conducts maritime safety programmes in regional centres and on very remote islands besides the safety benefit, it improves participants’ professional development and creates career opportunities.

The program is working, since 2017 there has been a 55% reduction in marine incidents involving distress perkins. It is a way of improving the maritime safety of all Australians.

There are more than 25,000 vessels visiting Australian ports each year in coastal and international trade. These vessels are guided on voyages by an extensive network of light houses and other navigational aid throughout Australian waters. Australian ports handle over 1billion tonnes of cargo each year. 500 of these navigational aids are maintained by AMSA to keep ships safe and our seas clean. This is especially true in Australia’s iconic great barrier rift where vessels deliver goods and carry queen’s land coal and natural gas to overseas markets.

Like cars driving along the highways, ships travel along designated safe shipping lanes as they travel along the coast. The refits vessel tracking service monitors these vessels 24 hours per day all year long and assists them to stay in a safe shipping line. While answer vessels inspection and navigation services are very effective in safety ships on waters (Reefvts receives 5 million position reports per day) even the best prevention program can’t guarantee why accidents occur (monitoring 2000 km coastline). In a situation where a ship finds itself in distress or poses a threat to the marine environment, AMSA can respond immediately. It can respond to any shipping distress that poses a threat to Australian marine environment.

In collaboration with the state government and industry partners, the agency controls Australian national plan for maritime environmental emergencies. This means AMSA can respond to oil spills using equipment and supplies from any of its nine pollution response stockpiles located around Australian coastline. It can also draw on a national network of emergency toll vessels to aid vessels in distress. AMSA has an emergency toil vessel based in Kein, North Queen’s land. It patrols the Great Barrier Reef all year round ready to respond if a vessel gets into trouble.

The vessel is equipped to conduct emergency toil if needed as well as acting as a platform for the maintenance of aids to navigation in the reef. AMSA has to be ready to respond to any situation, anywhere, anytime. It’s a great challenge but its ready. When emergencies happen at sea, a ready to perform search and rescue operation is sometimes needed to assist those on board. AMSA operates the rescue coordination center in Australia. It is no small job. The RCC coordinates search and rescue operations in over 53 million sqkm on land and sea. This means it responds to seafarers, lost bush walkers, in fact, anyone that makes a distress call in the search and rescue region. (Donier 328-120, range 2,500 km, speed 600km/hhr, response time 30 mins; visual an electronic search , development of emergency supply) AMA has dedicated search and rescue aircraft located around the country. But when the search and rescue region covers one tenth of the world surface, it often coordinates other organizations ships, planes and land vehicles in the search depending on what is required.

AMSA coordinates about 700 missions per year from Australia’s tropical north to the freeze southern ocean (Australia’s search and rescue region ranges 2 degrees and 90 degrees). It is all about saving life and AMSA has a great track record.

Whether it’s ensuring vessels are safe, managing the network of navigation that guard the way, combating marine pollution or rescuing those in distress, this Australian government agency is committed to improving the safety of ships, seafarers and Australia’s precious marine environment.

The technical contributions by Australia to the global maritime industry can validate any lobby for any position on the IMO Council. Little wonder the nation with a population of 25million similar to Lagos, is safely seated on the Category B of IMO Governing Council.

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