Nigeria is now having an International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code Implementation Committee (ICIC), the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has said.

ISPS Code is one of the key instruments the global maritime watchdog, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) which has its headquarters in London, United Kingdom uses to ensure safety of vessels and port facilities across the globe.

Chaired by NIMASA since it is the Designated Authority (DA) for the ISPS Code initiative in Nigeria, the committee comprises various government agencies, including the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), and the Nigeria Police Force (NPF).

Others are the Department of State Services (DSS), Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), among others.

Besides other roles and responsibilities, the ICIC is expected to ensure the strict implementations of the provisions of the ISPS Code in Nigeria.

While inaugurating the ICIC, the Director General of NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Peterside charged its members to deliver on its mandate by ensuring there was a remarkable difference in the next one year through their actions.

According to the NIMASA helmsman, they can also achieve this through the rules and regulation set, as well as collaboration with other stakeholders in the maritime industry.

The committee was also charged with the responsibility of working out modalities for the implementation of the ISPS Code in Nigeria.

Head, Corporate Communications, NIMASA, Mr. Isichei Osamgbi in a statement made available to Journalists in Lagos, quoted Peterside, saying this when a delegation of the International Maritime Security Operations Team (IMSOT), United Kingdom paid a working visit to the agency.

His words: “I trust that you will give your best to this assignment; it is about the reputation of our country, our sector, our ports, the shipping companies, those who do business with us and our stand in the face of the international community”.

Peterside also used the occasion to bemoan the distortion of facts in the coverage of Nigeria by the bureau, saying such distortions can do reputational damage to the country within the international community.

He has called on the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) to ensure fairness and balance in its reportage of piracy issues on Nigeria’s territorial waters, just as he regretted what he called the exaggeration of reports on incidents on the country’s waterways by the IMB, a specialised department of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) dedicated to fighting maritime crime and malpractice.

He observed that even the slightest crimes in the creeks and habours of Nigeria were often reported as piracy by the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre.

“Let me use this opportunity to call on the IMB to, please, report Nigeria appropriately and appreciate the efforts we are making to curtail security incidences within our maritime space. Is it in our laws that we are strengthening, is it investment in intelligence, maritime security and safety and also the regional collaboration we have engaged in, among other efforts being made?

“We have made tremendous progress because we are putting a lot of effort and we are willing and determined to work with anybody who can assist us to ensure that the maritime space in Nigeria is safe and secure for everybody”, he said.

He noted that the agency had put mechanisms in place to reduce piracy to the barest minimum. These, he said, include investing in the satellite surveillance system, which has the capacity to view all vessels on the country’s waterways; supporting the security agencies to acquire assets that will enable them fight piracy and other maritime crimes; and proposing an anti-piracy bill that, when it becomes law, will give the agency the authority to prosecute maritime related crimes, among others.

Continuing, he said: “Maritime security is multi-sectoral and the need for collaboration cannot be overstated; hence the reason the Agency has continuously embraced collaboration with relevant government agencies and stakeholders with the intent of realising a robust maritime sector in line with best global practices.

“We will continue to accord high priority to the issues of maritime crimes so that we can maximally benefit from the Blue Economy initiative, which is now the focus in the global maritime space.”

He assured the IMSOT delegate that the agency was willing to collaborate with them and share ideas where necessary, all on purpose to grow Nigeria’s maritime sector.

The IMSOT team leader, Leigh Smith in his remarks commended NIMASA for its efforts to maintain security on the country’s territorial waters and high sea. He urged continuous collaboration in the areas of technology and information sharing.

“We will work together with NIMASA and also share knowledge together; all with the intent of ensuring security in the global maritime space,” he said.

NIMASA was in May, 2013 appointed the DA in charge of the implementation of the ISPS code after the dissolution of the Presidential Implementation Committee on Maritime Safety and Security (PICOMSS).

The Agency recently received commendations from the US Coast Guard for its drive in the implementation of the code having surpassed the 70% Benchmark in National compliance level.

The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) is the government Agency solely responsible for shipping regulations, maritime safety and security and maritime labour regulation amongst others as enshrined in the Act establishing the Agency.