The Central Naval Command, on Wednesday, flagged off its Sea Exercise code-named “Exercise Akere”, to compliment Operations CALM WATERS II and SWIFT RESPONSE.
The Navy said the operation is aimed at enforcing the use of Automatic Identification System (AIS) by vessels operating in the CNC AOR.
In his address, the Flag Officer Commanding, FOC, Rear Admiral Saidu Suleiman Garba, said the exercise will take place in Central Naval Command Area of Responsibility (AOR) from 23 to 25 September 2020.
He said “The Command’s AOR covers one of the major coastal regions of the country with bulk of the nation’s economic assets including oil exploration infrastructure.”
It is, therefore, part of the CNC’s responsibility to protect these assets and ensure that the nation’s maritime economic activities are not disrupted. There are internationally accepted rules guiding vessels operating in the maritime environment to ensure that they are positively identified. Such rules include flying visible flags and switching on of the AIS amongst others.
He added that “However, it has been observed in recent times that some vessels operating within the Command’s maritime environment are in the habit of switching off their AIS which impedes their identification and interferes with the nation’s maritime awareness infrastructure from monitoring or tracking such vessels’ activities.
“This non-observance could be adduced to criminal intent so as to avoid their nefarious activities from being detected. Furthermore, the act of inappropriately switching off AIS could prevent the Nigerian Navy from determining vessels that are genuinely in distress probably due to piracy/sea robbery attack and deserve rescue. This act is considered to be a grave infraction of maritime security as it contravenes the rules governing the use and purpose of AIS and the general safety of other seafarers.
“The act of deliberately switching off AIS for illegal activities have led to economic losses and sabotage to the nation’s economic growth and prosperity. Consequently, with the approval of the Chief of the Naval Staff (CNS) Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas, the Fleet would fine-tune its process of enforcing the use of AIS and reduce infractions to the lowest possible level.
It is, therefore, the directive of the CNS to use this enforcement processes to help minimise economic sabotage in the nation’s maritime environment through enhanced patrol and operations.
“It is, however, worrisome that notwithstanding the efforts made by the Nigerian Navy and other security agencies at tackling the numerous security challenges prevalent in Nigeria, palpable threats still persist particularly in Nigeria’s maritime domain with threats to attack on critical maritime infrastructure, both ashore and offshore. Presently, Operations CALM WATERS II and SWIFT RESPONSE are still on-going with other security agencies within the Command’s maritime boundary to rid the country of numerous security challenges being encountered.
“Despite the increased presence of the Navy in the country’s maritime domain which had led to numerous arrests of culprits, the violation of switching off AIS has persisted and is considered a leading cause of the increase in maritime crimes such as illegal fishing, poaching, sea pirates/robbery, kidnapping, arms smuggling and trafficking, illegal oil bunkering and anti-economic activities.
“Accordingly, in order to complement and consolidate on the achievements recorded so far by the on-going operations, EXERCISE AKERE will be flagged off this morning.
“Today, we are deploying 8 ships and a Helicopter to carry out intensive patrols of the waterways and sea lanes in order to ensure strict compliance to the use of AIS by vessels in our maritime environment and prevent other maritime crimes for sustainable economic activities to thrive. The ships will conduct Vessels’ Board Search and Seizure (VBSS) on all suspected vessels as well as arrest defaulters. The exercise will also afford the fleet the opportunity to practice other evolutions such as ship manoeuvres, emergency drills, communication exercises and gunnery firing among others.”