President Muhammadu Buhari on June 2 flagged off the Integrated National Security and Waterways Protection Infrastructure project in Nigeria, called the Deep Blue Project.
The contract for the project was signed on July 27, 2015, while the implementation commenced in 2018.
The project is a collaboration between the Ministry of Transportation and the Ministry of Defence.
The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) represents the Ministry of Transportation, while the Ministry of Defence is represented by the Navy, Army, Airforce, the Police and the Department of State Services (DSS).
All agencies will see to the running of the project, but it is the responsibility of NIMASA to fund it.
This consolidated maritime security strategy in West and Central Africa is established to curb piracy and robbery.
The basic aim of the Deep Blue Project is to protect Nigerian waters up to the Gulf of Guinea.
The countries in the Gulf of Guinea are Liberia, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Cameroon (Ambazonia), Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, São Tomé and Príncipe, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Angola.
For this project to function, Nigeria will deploy 16 armoured vehicles for coastal patrol, two special mission vessels, 17 fast interceptor boats, two special mission aircraft for surveillance of the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), three special mission helicopters for search and rescue operations, and four unmanned aerial vehicles.
The two special mission vessels are equipped to remain at sea for up to 35 days.
They check vessels that come into the country’s waters, capture evidence and monitor all illegal activities that go on in the waterways, such as dumping of toxic wastes, illegal fishing, smuggling and oil bunkering.
The Maritime Security Unit is made up of 600 specially trained troops.
The effect of the Deep Blue project will cut across Nigeria and the entire Gulf of Guinea, which will increase Nigeria’s mutual benefits with other marine nations.
With this project functioning, NIMASA will have capacity and capability to enforce and regulate activities in Nigeria’s maritime domain.
Prior to this project, a report by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and International Maritime Bureau (IMB) ranked the Gulf of Guinea the world’s piracy hotspot.
The Gulf of Guinea accounted for 43 per cent of all piracy incidents in the first three months of 2021.
The report said this marine space is dangerous for seafarers, after accounting for all 40 kidnap crew incidents, including the sole crew fatality.
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