9th September, 2011
Even as the nation awaits the Senateâ€™s final word on the controversial Maritime Security Agency (MASECA) bill, there are strong indications that the nationâ€™s coastal areas are in the process of being totally covered by newly-acquired surveillance equipment, courtesy of the Presidential Implementation Committee on Maritime Safety and Security (PICOMSS).
The highly- sensitive equipment which include: a Radar, Close CircuitÂ Camera (CCC) and Automatic Identification System (AIS) are mounted on a 50-metre mast, one of whichÂ has already being installed around the Bar Beach inÂ Lagos. The system has the capacity to work round-the- clock, courtesy of solar and wind powered devices.
Investigations revealed that the radar can capture ships and other water craft as far as 99 nautical miles, while the AIS can capture all images from as far as about 75 nautical miles.
Similarly, the highly- sensitiveÂ camera can pick images from about 10 nautical miles in the day and about three nautical miles at night.
Four of such equipment are currently being installed in other parts of the country.
The discovery coincided with an appeal from a maritime industry non-governmental organisation, the Maritime Industry Advocacy Initiative (MAIN), to the Federal Government to ensure that Nigerian waters are more secured that they are at the moment.
The group, in a statement made available to media men in Lagos last week that the resurgence of attacks on ship in Rivers and Bayelsa calls for a stronger measures to curb sea robbery. The statement was signed by a member of the groupâ€™s board of trustees, Mr Kayode Solaru.
â€œThe highseas between Onne and Bonny are still very volatile; there was a recent case of attack on a marine police boat leading to the death of two officers and injuries to many others. About two weeks ago also, a Cameroun-bound ship was attacked around Nembe along the Calabar watersâ€, the group recalled, even as it called for the passage of the much-expected MASECA bill.
According to MAIN, â€œwe are optimistic that by the time MASECA comes on stream, these attacks on ships and crew will effectively be addressed, this is apart from the heavy presence of crude oil thieves in the Niger Delta who continue to plunder the nationâ€™s wealth, as a result of the obvious failureÂ of some apparatuses of governmentâ€.
Meanwhile, the surveillance equipment is said to be in the process of being replicated in Escravos, Bonny, Brass and Calabar, for total and effective coverage of the nationâ€™s coastline from Lagos as the hub.
A maritime security expert told our correspondent that it is expected that with the type of surveillance equipment that PICOMSS is putting up in Lagos and the coastal areas, it is possible to effectively monitor and nip all illegal activities in the bud.
The expert, Mr Bidemi Akinoso, who also confirmed having some ideas about the work of some of the equipment which are currently on ground at the old NITEL building on Victoria Island stressed that â€œif PICOMSS is expected to have a situation room where all relevant agencies should meet as at when necessary to review any development as they come up, this will erase the usual practice where agencies have different account of issues when they happenâ€.
Corroborating the NGO, Mr Akinoso commended the National Security Adviser (NSA) for having the will to see these things happen, saying:Â â€œif government through him is not serious about tightening security along the nationâ€™s waterways, I bet you there is nothing PICOMSS can achieveâ€.
The total surveillance coverage, apart from providing security for ships, crew and cargo, and blocking illegal maritime activities, will also boos the revenue accruable to government agencies whose responsibilities are marine- based or marine â€“ related.
For example, it will become easier for Nigerian Ports Authourity (NPA) to ensure that the number of days that a vessel stays in the anchorage and the harbours are adequately accounted for.
MAIN IMAGE CAPTION:Â
MARITIME SECURITY(L): One of The PICOMSS Masts Hoisting The Hi-tech Surveillance Equipment That Was Sighted In Lagos Last Week, (R) : One of the five boats that were said to have been donated to NIMASA In February By Messrs Global West Vessel Specialist Limited, Now The Subject of Allegation At The Agency.