Ensuring a cleaner, safer maritime environment

The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) considers marine environment management as one of the major aspects of maritime that will engender sustainable shipping. Indeed the United Nations its specialized organ, IMO recognizes the fact that shipping is a major mode of transportation of goods and services from different parts of the globe but with an unfortunate caveat of coming along with a huge burden to the environment largely due to distortion and disturbances that may occur during the course of conveyance of goods and services through the waters.

In order to ensure that a proactive stance is taken to protect and safeguard the interests of the marine environment and the ecosystem, the IMO established the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) to deal with issues regarding the environment and proffer solutions that will be adopted by member states to ensure environmental friendly shipping.

Observers and key players in the maritime industry would not forget in a hurry that NIMASA in her bid to ensure a cleaner and safer marine environment created a specialized Marine Environment Management Department in 2008 to perform the functions of MEPC in Nigeria. This Department was charged with the responsibility of ensuring the protection of the marine environment in line with the global best practices. However over the years there has been lack of political will, clear cut strategies and a strong missing link which is the buy-in of the past headship of the agency on issues relating to protection of the environment.


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As if someone had whispered these issues in the ears of President Muhammadu Buhari; 2 years ago he appointed Dr. Dakuku Peterside to lead the Executive Management Team of the Agency to reform and reposition not only NIMASA but also the entire Nigerian Maritime Sector.

Immediately, and not minding the apprehensions in the sector that came along with his appointment, Dr. Dakuku set out to work and came up with 5 strategic pillars in which his administration’s agenda would be driven. And up there with others was the strategic Environment, Security, Search and Rescue Transformation Programme.  

Interestingly, the man whose appointment did not come without the normal hullaballoo knew that for the Nigerian Maritime sector to be effectively revamped, there was the need to put issues of the Nigerian Marine environment in the front burner because there was no way we would not consider the sustainability of our environment while trying to realize the shipping potentials of Africa’s most populous Nation.

For instance, the issue of marine litters has always been a challenge of the sector, a quick glance at the Nigeria water body back then would immediately put you off. But Dr. Dakuku came up with this strategy of employing locals as marine litter marshals that will serve as watchdog around their areas.

This strategy is worth emulating by every administrator because apart from tackling unemployment, it gives youth a sense of belonging as stakeholders in their environment. This decision by one man is also seen as one to ultimately tackle youth restiveness in the riverine areas which hitherto was a challenge for the Federal Government. As we speak a number of youths are in the books of NIMASA serving as marine litter marshals in their respective domains.

Surveillance is a major challenge of maritime all over the world, recently the Director General stated that NIMASA as the lead agency in providing security for merchant vessels is about making an investment of $195m to acquire purpose built specialized mission patrol aircraft and vessels as well as a command and control centre. Accordingly, this will not only provide safety and security for merchant vessels it will also serve as deterrent to perpetrators of illegal dumping at sea.

Emission of gases during the course of transportation by sea has its own fair share of   attribution to climate change. The IMO estimates Carbondioxide emissions from shipping were equal to 2.7% of the global human made emissions in 2007 and expects them to rise by as much as 2 to 3 times by 2050 if no action is taken. These calls for worries and the need for development of a technical basis for the reduction mechanism of majorly greenhouse gases from shipping should be put to the front burner by every maritime Nation.

Under Dakuku’s watch, the agency has commenced the registration of Local Fuel Oil Suppliers in line with the regulations of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution by Ships (MARPOL) Convention and IMO Resolution MEPC. 182 (59). This will ensure that ships running on unadulterated bunker fuels that have high sulphur emission prospects would not be allowed to visit our ports as well as set emission limits for vessels calling at our ports. It will also compliment the agency’s ratification of Annex VI of MARPOL Convention on Air Pollution in which Dakuku had set up a Think Tank Technical Committee to bring up modalities for full and effective implementation of the Annex in order to control the hazardous effects of air pollution and climate change in Nigeria.  We should not also forget to mention that the agency has in place a Climate Change Observatory Station at the NMRDC Kiri-Kiri and it is also planning to set up same in various institutions that would aid the analysis of the weather in the sector. 

Implementing the IMO Marine Environment Instruments have now become easier under Dakuku’s watch and visibly more attention is being given to various Marine Environment Conventions such as: International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from ships (MARPOL), The International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Co-operation (OPRC), 1990, The Protocol on Preparedness, Response and Co-operation to Pollution Incidents by Hazardous and Noxious Substances, (OPRC-HNS) 2000 to mention but a few. 

Remarkably, while discharging her duties, NIMASA keeps on opening windows of opportunities to various stakeholders and also creates a lot of employment opportunities for job seekers.  

Phase out of single hull tankers has opened a new window for ship scrappers and the business of ship recycling is on the rise. The Agency has brought a strict supervision regime that ensures that scrapping and recycling of ships are done in line with the global best practices. Ship wrecks on our water ways are now becoming a thing of the past as there is a committee in place that is vigorously monitoring the removal of towable wrecks.

The sea is now blue and Dakuku is still bent on removing the word potential from Nigeria being a country of great maritime potentials to a great maritime nation with the Agency’s strategically carved mission to achieve and sustain safe, secure shipping, cleaner oceans and enhanced maritime capacity in line with global best practices towards Nigeria’s economic development.

Ganiyu Alayaki is a public relations officer at NIMASA.

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