The Senate had said the secure anchorage area operated by a private security outfit, Ocean Marine Solutions Limited, was in order since it did not cost the government anything.
But the master mariners said such reasoning was wrong, adding that it was impossible for a shipping company to spend $2,000 every day for 10 or 15 days without factoring the cost into its overall cost and transferring it to customers.
The President of the association, Captain Tajudeen Alao, said ceding maritime security to a private company was an abnormal incident and would make Nigeria look like an unserious country before the international community.
He insisted that maritime security was the responsibility of the government and a function that was statutorily performed by the Nigerian Navy.
He pointed out that the shipping companies coming into Nigeria were already paying port dues and fees to the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, stressing that to impose a special fee on them was not proper.
He said, “The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea specifies that coastal states must provide safety and succour for ships coming into their ports.
“A ship cannot proceed to the Lagos anchorage unless permitted by the Nigerian Ports Authority and the anchorage to ensure the safe passage of the ship should be at no cost to the ship.”
Also speaking, a former naval captain, Godwill Ombo, said Nigeria was setting a dangerous precedence having two anchorage points operating side by side, one belonging to the government which was seen as insecure, and the other belonging to a private company, which was viewed as secure.
He said if this was allowed to continue, in future, private firms would set up maritime security outfits and charge expensive fees after the government must have spent taxpayers’ money procuring security infrastructure for the sector.
Another master mariner, Captain Iheanacho Ebubeogu, said it was the responsibility of the government to provide security for every vessel and everybody in Nigeria.
He said a situation where a private security outfit was encouraged to provide security for few people who could pay for it was not healthy for the country.
“If you provide security in Lagos anchorage for people who can pay $2,000, what happens to other ports in the country? What happens to other ships, fishing boats and operators in the sector who cannot afford the $2,000?
“What it implies is that the rest of Nigerians are not entitled to security. This is not healthy,” he stated.
On his part, Captain Adewale Ishola, said setting up a secure anchorage by an agency that was not a government agency was illegal.