Piracy Alert - Armed Security in Nigerian Waters

June 2014

Members will be aware of the threat to vessel security that exists in waters off West African and particularly in Nigerian waters. The Managers have recently been notified of a disagreement that is currently on-going between the Nigerian Navy and the Nigerian Marine Police. The Nigerian Navy has started to detain/arrest vessels with armed guards on board even when such guards are provided by the Nigerian Marine Police. The Nigerian Navy considers that it has jurisdiction over the territorial sea and exclusive economic zone (EEZ). The Nigerian Navy is not allowing armed guards on board vessels, even from the Nigerian Marine Police, whereas the Nigerian Navy is only providing patrol boats/escorts. The International Group 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 addition, BIMCO has recently issued the following advisory notice on this issue:

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Members operating vessels within the Nigerian EEZ and territorial waters should be aware that they may be at risk of potentially significant liabilities and delays if they employ armed guards on board their vessels who are sourced from the Nigerian Marine Police, the Nigerian Police or the "Joint Task Force".

The Nigerian Navy only provides vessel escorts and it is understood to have sole primacy and authority in territorial waters and the EEZ.  BIMCO has been advised that the Nigerian Navy does not provide or permit armed guards on merchant vessels. The Navy has seemingly begun enforcing its alleged authority to prevent the employment of armed guards on board and this has resulted in the arrest of members of the Nigerian Marine Police and consequent delays to the vessel and unresolved liabilities placed on the owners.

This appears to apply regardless of whether the armed guard policemen are sourced by an agent or a PMSC. There have also been reports of incidents of “blue on blue” where policemen have opened fire on Nigerian Naval vessels believing they were pirates and where seafarers have been killed or injured in the crossfire.

Apparently, the Marine Police and Police only have primacy and jurisdiction in "riverine" areas and ports and harbours out to the fairway buoy and no further.

The Joint Task Force (JTF) against terrorists, is a combined task force of navy and police, with a specific role to counter oil theft and smuggling in the Delta. The JTF is understood to have no jurisdiction outside this remit. The transit of supply vessels up the Bonny River to Port Harcourt is arranged by the JTF and these ships go in convoys (for a charge) whilst the offshore oil export Terminals are patrolled by private security units or the Nigerian Navy.

It would seem that the only legitimate method of acquiring armed security protection in territorial waters and the EEZ of Nigeria is by utilising the services of the Nigerian Navy (although, this seems to exclude armed guards on board vessels). BIMCO is presently seeking written confirmation of these facts.

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Further information if required should be sought either from the Managers’ London Representatives, or the Club’s local correspondents in Lagos.