Nigeria’s apex maritime regulatory authority Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has asked Nigerian shipping firms to merge so that they can be in a better position to compete with their foreign counterparts.
The Director-General of the agency, Mr. Ziakede Patrick Akpobolokemi, told newsmen that the merger of Nigerian shipping firms will place them in a position to develop capacity and excel in international shipping business.
Akpobolokemi who spoke on the heels of the dwindling fortunes of Nigerian ship owners in recent years said it was imperative they do so since an enabling environment has been provided for them to excel.
He spoke at the sidelines of a media briefing organised by the agency to intimate the world about its activities.
He argued that the indigenous ship owners could not take part in shipping activities because they do not own a vessel that meets the standard of operations of the modern days.
His words: “The main issue is that if you do not own a vessel, you cannot take part in shipping business. Nigeria is about 850 kilometres of coast line land we have a lot of oil and gas operations, which use specialised vessels, PSVs, tractor handling, crew boat. So, these are specialised vessels and if the indigenous ship owners don’t have those types of boats, what are they going to do?”
He enjoined Nigerian ship owners to pool resources together to acquire a standard vessel so that they can start growing from there.
He used the occasion to reveal that the agency had developed a satellite centre to effectively cover the eight countries under the Regional Maritime Search and Rescue Centre.
The 24-hour satellite is to provide a safety net for all those doing business within Nigeria territorial waters and it is meant to respond to any distress call.
The satellite surveillance equipment has the capability to detect boats, ships and objects of predefined cross-section floating on water including any aircraft that ditches and remains on the surface during satellite over-flight.
According to him, its abilities include but not limited to setting range rings in restricted areas which when penetrated by an intruder, triggers an alarm thereby alerting the operator or watch keeper.
Some of the functions of the satellite include seeing beyond the territorial waters of Nigeria, identifying ship positions in real time which can greatly enhance search and rescue, plotting search and rescue patterns, detecting vessels that switch off their Automatic Identification System (AIS), and interrogating the satellite image for more information among others.
He added that NIMASA has embarked on another verification inspection exercise (VIE) of port facilities to enforce compliance with the code.