ISPS: PORT FACILITY INSPECTION WILL BE A CONTINUOS EXERCISE §  Electronic Access Systems To Be Installed At All Port Facilities

The Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has stated that the effective implementation of the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code will involve a continuous year to year inspection of Port Facilities in order to meet up with the required standard, as against an ad-hoc fire brigade exercise.  

This was made public at a World Press Conference addressed by the Director General (DG) of the Agency, Mr. Ziakede Akpobolokemi alongside the Executive Director in charge of Maritime Safety and Shipping Development, Capt. Bala Agaba on the progress made so far as the new Designated Authority (DA) for ISPS Code implementation.

According to the DG, “since receiving the DA mandate formally with an official letter issued by the Ministry of Transport on May 21, 2013, NIMASA immediately set out to institute a fresh implementation program as needed. The supposed 90-day ultimatum issued by the US Government to Nigeria requiring compliance with the ISPS Code was actually issued in April and was prior to NIMASA being appointed the DA”.

“Therefore, it is important to note that the implementation is not being fast tracked for the deadline but has always been an International Maritime Organisation (IMO) requirement, which NIMASA has been working towards attaining but coincidentally falls within the window period issued by the United States Coast Guard (USCG).”

Since assumption as the DA for the Code implementation, NIMASA has had a General Stakeholders Conference, which was convened to announce the new arrangement and to sound off the public on the imminent activities and program to accompany this new ISPS implementation. An action plan was developed and activated to close reported gaps and this included dispatching competent Recognized Security Organizations (RSOs) to conduct security surveys and assessments aimed at identifying and correcting these deficiencies and any other observed vulnerabilities.

NIMASA has focused not only on Port Facilities (PFs) listed in the United States Coast Guard report but on the generality of PFs in the nation’s maritime domain. This action plan has been given a nod by the USCG and it has pledged to support the efforts of the DA in ensuring the issues raised are remedied. The DA has outlined its implementation framework in the form of a handbook to enable the public understand its agenda with respect to this new implementation regime.

The Agency has also inaugurated a Committee to help oversee the mandate. This committee has members from NIMASA, the Nigerian Navy, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Nigerian Police, State Security Service (SSS), Customs and Immigrations among others.

The committee is also taking a stock of the nation’s coastal maritime assets in order to establish the number, location and nature of operations of all PFs and jetties in the country. This audit will help the DA capture and catalogue all port/berthing facilities as well as verify their ISPS Code compliance status. NIMASA also recently concluded Verification Inspection Exercises (VIE) on all shore-based PFs in the country. The report of this VIE will form the basis for re-certification of these PFs in line with ISPS code requirements. PFs deemed non-compliant will not be recertified and in extreme cases, attract added punitive action. The DG said talks were at an advanced stage with the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) for the strict monitoring of entry and exit into Nigeria’s Port Facilities with the aid of Electronic Access Systems (EAS).

The Agency said one of its observations after taking over as the DA was the lack of understanding of the ISPS Code, its relevance and application by various stakeholders. This was also captured in the US diplomatic note as security personnel were found to be ignorant of the code. To address this, policies and measures are being put in place to ensure more training and capacity building among not just security personnel but all personnel in the maritime sector.

Security companies that provide guard force personnel to companies operating in the maritime domain are now required to provide ISPS training for their personnel seeing that they are functionally the primary custodians of the ISPS protocol. These security companies as well as vendors and infrastructure service providers in the maritime sector are undergoing registration with the DA in order to ensure better regulation and to streamline their activities in maritime security.

In accordance with the ISPS Code, it is the responsibility of the DA to set or change security levels for PFs in its domain. The DA will continue to work closely with the Office of the National Security Adviser and other security agencies in determining operating security levels based on the evaluation of risks and trends as well as intelligence in the various Maritime Security Zones (MSZ).

The DG concluded that a critical success factor is the capacity and the will to enforce this implementation mandate by a regime of incentives and sanctions. “In the past, compliance was a huge issue as the previous DA lacked capacity to strictly enforce its mandate having lacked constitutional powers to do so. However, with NIMASA duly established by law and possessing enforcement powers, the DA hopes to leverage this in ensuring stakeholders and particularly the PF owners/operators remain compliant”.

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