Friday, June 20, 2014

Skuld warns of Nigerian problems

Insurance and P&I service provider Skuld has warned of a disagreement between the Nigerian army and the Nigerian marine police over the placing of armed guards on board vessels.
The Nigerian army has started to detain/arrest vessels with armed guards on board even if they have been provided by the Nigerian marine police.
The Nigerian army considers that it has jurisdiction over the territorial sea and EEZ (exclusive economic zone), Skuld said.
It is not allowing armed guards on board vessels, even from the Nigerian marine police, whereas the Nigerian army is only providing patrol boats/escorts.
The International Group of P&I Clubs is aware of the problem and has been informed that the IMO is in contact with the Nigerian Maritime Authority to have the situation clarified.
In another alert, the latest security advisory for Nigeria issued by BIMCO effectively renders the use of armed guards commercially placed on vessels illegal.
This is highly likely to have major repercussions for a shipowner and the charterer should they be caught with unauthorised armed police, or marine police on board warned maritime security company GoAGT.

According to BIMCO, there have been a number of ‘blue on blue’ incidents in the last six months and the industry as a whole is concerned about the safety of crew transiting the region.
This warning comes exactly a month after a vessel was boarded near Port Harcourt and had her cargo stolen while the crew were held hostage, despite a Nigerian Naval vessel being in the vicinity.

Nick Davis, GoAGT CEO, said: "BIMCO have taken a strong, proactive stance on this issue. The incident a month ago was entirely preventable with the use of an unarmed advisor and a good radar lookout. The crew were very lucky not to have suffered injury, had they been able to react quicker and retreated to the citadel the situation would have diffused quickly.
“The primary concern should be the safety of the personnel, theft in the Gulf of Guinea is unfortunately something shipowners and managers have to deal with, with an advisor on board vessels can avoid a hostage situation during a boarding.

"Merchant vessels approaching Nigeria from within the Gulf of Guinea must understand that the Nigerian Navy are the only authorised body to offer protection via escort vessels only and not with armed guards on client vessels. The option for Joint Task Force, or police protection is only available within the riverine deltas and not on the high seas. There is a clear and present danger to the safety of the crew with the only effective solution being to employ an advisor who can safely get the crew to the citadel, which must be well-equipped with communications equipment.

"Currently, the use of armed guards in the region falls into a legal grey area. Shipowners and managers being offered so-called 'authorised' armed protection within the Gulf of Guinea by private maritime security companies are well advised to seek advice from BIMCO, their flag state and the local Nigerian embassy, or consulate for the latest advice and protocol prior to parting with money for a service that could have severe operational interruption to normal trading.

"There is no satisfactory way for managers and owners to perform due diligence on locally sourced guards. It has been reported in the past that incidents of product theft, or kidnap, have been targeted against vessels carrying guards. Due to the high risk of operating in this area, shipowners and managers must do all that is in their power to ensure the crew remain safe with thorough training, enhanced watch keeping and a well prepared plan of action in case of an incident," Davis concluded. 

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