By Godwin Oritse
WITH growing security concerns across Nigeria, some maritime experts have revealed the malpractices and neglect that are currently undermining government revenue and security services in the maritime sector.
Against this backdrop and fuel by the incessant and violent damages done to vessels as a result of frequent sea swells (violent waves), the inability of the country to have accurate weather forecast, the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, is collaborating with the Nigeria Meteorological Agency, NIMET, to provide accurate weather forecasts for safe navigation.
Confirming the collaboration, Captain Ihenacho Ebubeogu, a former general manager, marine and operations at the NPA, now in charge of security said the partnership started in 2017.
Ebubeogu, however, said he could not give an update on the collaboration but referred Vanguard Maritime Report to the Marine department of the NPA.
A source close to the office of the Managing Director of the NPA, Ms Hadiza Bala Usman, said that a Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, has been signed by both agencies, adding that the MoU, was already work in progress.
Vanguard Maritime Report also gathered that the collaboration between NPA and NIMET will see to the establishment of some coastal meteorological stations across the country.
It was also gathered that both agencies have been meeting towards enhancing Nigeria’s weather forecasts to users of meteorological information.
Accurate weather forecast
Recently due to inaccurate meteorological data, some vessels such as the M. T Nwobisa was washed ashore in the Niger Delta region.
Speaking on the development, Engr. Akin Olaniyan, managing director of International Naval Survey Bureau, INSB, a vessel classification and survey firm in Lagos, said that Nigeria ought to have mastered the art of accurate weather forecast has been a maritime nation for more than 70 years.
According to him, the sourcing of meteorological data from abroad is a failure of the nation’s maritime authorities.
He said: “By now, we should have mastered the sea more than we are doing. Our safety departments should have taken advantage of emerging technologies to predict weather conditions so as to warn all vessels within her territories and particularly Nigerian flagged vessels.
“Meteorological services can be deployed via water buoys to predict weather conditions. This is not rocket science. It is the duty of the flag administration to protect her vessels from such natural disasters or at the least warn of an impending situation. This is the hallmark of a developed administration and not its representation at the IMO.”
However, speaking on the development, Dr. Felix Ale, spokesman of the National Airspace Research Development Agency, NASRDA, told Vanguard Maritime Report that the agency has the capability to provide accurate weather forecast for use by any agency in Nigeria.
Ale said that weather reports are sent to relevant government agencies as frequently as possible adding that there was no need for officials of government to go abroad for this purpose.
He alleged that some officials of government who claimed the inability of Nigeria to give accurate meteorological data frequently travelled abroad with fat estacodes.
According to him, most times, officials of government engage foreign companies to source meteorological information for Nigeria and these foreign firms get these information from NASRDA and sell to these officials of government.
Ale stated: “Officials of government agencies go abroad to engage foreign companies to source meteorological reports on Nigeria. These foreign firms, in turn, come to NASRDA to source this information and sell to these officials. Some of these officials do this because of the estacodes they get when they travel abroad. They should stop this idea of running abroad for satellite data information when these data are available in Nigeria.”
Already, NARSDA has entered into a joint venture agreement with Atlantic Factorial to provide a high-resolution image of activities on the waters.
Confirming the joint venture agreement, managing director of Atlantic Factorial, Mr. Leke Oyewole, said that massive leakages have been observed in the maritime sector occasioned by inadequate surveillance of the maritime domain, adding that NPA and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, were not being paid revenues due to them because of these trade infractions.
Oyewole said that most of the International Oil Companies, IOCs, sourced meteorological data from abroad and deducted the cost of sourcing this information from their operating costs before declaring profit to the Federal Government.
He said: “We currently boast of the largest constellation of satellites (240 +), belonging to our partners and over 100 ground stations globally. Our capability cuts across sub-meter resolution imagery of any location on the planet (72cm, not surpassed by any other company worldwide), maritime, aviation, meteorology and radio frequency analytics.
“In recent years, the need to monitor our highways, bushes, remote communities, towns and cities has come to the fore. We can provide for the government, daily surveillance reports detailed by radio frequency communications and high-resolution imagery with short videos of suspected locations within the entire expanse of Nigeria for security action.
“Similarly, we have observed massive leakages in the maritime sector occasioned by inadequate surveillance of the maritime domain. Mother ships that import petroleum products to Nigeria with official foreign exchange, either import through neighbouring countries or when they come to Nigeria, NPA/NIMASA are not paid revenues due to them because these ships don’t get to the ports by reason of their size.
“We have unreported exports of petroleum products by ship-to-ship transfer offshore, products that never got to the ports are taken directly to bunker rigs offshore, quantity under-declarations, crude oil theft, and so on, are some of the anomalies in the coast. Our technology can track all ships globally per second/24 hours. Superior to the existing technology in Nigeria is the fact that we also unveil dark ships and we can point all ships evading payments to NPA, NIMASA, NNPC and the Customs.
“Automation and integration procedures and processes of all maritime agencies on a platform will enable Nigerians to clear their cargo from homes and offices without going to the ports. This will minimize corruption and decongest the ports. In the aviation sector, we not only provide complete and total coverage of Nigeria with all aviation weather requirements, but we also track all aircraft for the number of hours in the air since the last maintenance to keep track of next due maintenance and for NAMA to act.
“Our meteorological services will surely reduce operational costs of NIMET by 50 per cent and increase its Internally Generated Revenue, IGR by 200 per cent. We cover maritime meteorology, aviation from 70km vertically (adjudged to be the best globally) and provide agricultural services at global best. We provide a seven-day advance forecast to allow enough time to prepare for severe weather conditions.”
Oyewole added that the partnership his organisation enjoyed with HawkEye 360 (presently the only commercial company worldwide in the business of satellite radio frequency analytics) affords it the ability to detect and independently geo-locate sources of radiofrequency with an accuracy of less than one-kilometre world over.
He also said that the apparent lack of capacity by NIMET, which is the official meteorological agency, and the inability of NIMASA to outsource the service was costing the country colossal losses in the shipping sector.
Efforts to get comments from the NIMET was futile as calls and text messages to the phone of Engr. Tokunbo Okulaja, an official of the agency were not answered.
Commenting on the development, the former hydrographer of the NPA, Mr Gbenga Omotosho, said that meteorology and hydrography cannot work without each other adding that vessels need both hydrographical and meteorological information for safe navigation.
Omotosho explained that hydrographers also train as meteorologists, noting: “The strength of water is greater than the one on the land, the vessels need this information for safe navigation.”