The Central Naval Command (CNC), Yenagoa, on Wednesday inaugurated a Sea Exercise code-named ‘EXERCISE AKERE’, which is the Ijaw word for “arrest” or “catch”.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the exercise which started in the Central Naval Command Area of Responsibility (AOR) will run from Sept. 23, 2020 to Sept.25, 2020.
The Flag Officer Commanding (FOC) of CNC, Rear Adm. Suleiman Garba, speaking at the event said that the aim of the exercise is to enforce the use of Automatic Identification System (AIS) by vessels operating in the Command’s AOR.
Garba said that the Command’s AOR covers one of the major coastal regions of the country which accommodates the bulk of the nation’s economic assets including oil exploration infrastructure.
According to him, “It is therefore part of the CNC’s responsibilities 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.”
He said that the command had observed lately that some vessels operating within its maritime environment were in the habit of switching off their AIS.
He said that such an action used to impede the identifications of such vessels, thus interfering in the nation’s maritime awareness infrastructure from monitoring or tracking such vessels’ activities.
He said, “This non-observance of the command’s rules can be adduced to criminal intent by them so that their nefarious activities will not be detected.
“Furthermore, the act of inappropriately switching off AIS can prevent the Nigerian Navy from determining vessels that are genuinely in distress probably due to either piracy or 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 FOC said that the act of deliberately switching off AIS for illegal activities had led to economic losses and sabotaging the nation’s economic growth and prosperity.
He said that with the approval of the Chief of the Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Adm. 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.”
He also said that “Operations CALM WATERS II and SWIFT RESPONSE” were still ongoing .
The FOC said that through them, other security agencies within the Command’s maritime boundary are making efforts 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.
“This is considered as a leading cause of increase in maritime crimes such as: illegal fishing, poaching, sea pirates/robbery, kidnapping, arms smuggling and trafficking, illegal oil bunkering and anti-economic activities.”
Garba added that EXERCISE AKERE was inaugurated to complement and consolidate on the achievements recorded so far by the ongoing operations.
“We are deploying eight ships and a helicopter to carry out intensive patrols of the waterways and sea lanes.
” This is 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 practise other evolutions such as: ship manoeuvres, emergency drills, communication exercises and gunnery firing ,” the FOC said.