In bid to halt piracy, criminality in Nigeria’s territorial waters and the annual loss of about $2.3 billion to maritime crime, the Nigerian Navy and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) have taken delivery of two Special Mission Vessels (SMV), an effort they believe will put an end to the menace.
The vessel, DB Lagos and DB Abuja are equipped with sophisticated intelligence gathering capability for timely detection and response to illegal activities in the Nigerian maritime domain.
The launch of the federal government’s Integrated National Security and Waterways Protection Infrastructure, or Deep Blue Project, the agency said, would drastically reduce piracy and other crimes within Nigeria’s maritime domain and the Gulf of Guinea once fully operational.
The Deep Blue Project command, control, computer communication, and information (C4i) centre commenced operations on a 24-hour basis in August 2019 at the NIMASA base in Kirikiri, Lagos.
The number of piracy attacks on merchant vessels has rose in West Africa in 2019. In the fourth quarter of 2019, 64 seafarers were kidnapped in six different incidents, according to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB). Many of the pirate groups are believed to operate out of Nigeria. Also, in this year, two pirate attacks have occurred, fuelling speculations that the federal government was losing the battle to end criminality in Nigeria’s territorial waters.
Speaking during the arrival of the vessel, the Chief of Naval Staff, Ibok Ekwe Ibas decried the impact of piracy on the nation’s economy adding that the two SMVs will aid in the effort to stamp out piracy.
“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, ” said Ibas, who was represented by the Chief Security Officer, Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral M. M. Bashir.
He stated that the officers who would be in charge of 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.
Also speaking, the Director General of NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Peterside said pirates and other criminals on the country’s maritime domain up to the Gulf of Guinea, would soon meet their waterloo, with the arrival and installation of the critical assets under the Deep Blue Project.
Peterside, who was represented by the agency’s Executive Director, Operations, Rotimi Fashakin, disclosed that aside of these two 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.
He 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. Each of the vessels would be commanded by a Navy captain with full complement of naval personnel,”he said.
Giving a breakdown of the assets being installed under the Deep Blue Project at a press conference in Lagos recently, the Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi revealed that a good number of the assets had arrived the country.
He explains and hinted that the first special mission aircraft will be in the country before the end of the first quarter of the year, while six armored personnel carriers were already in the country, and the first unmanned aerial vehicle is expected soon.