During the month of July 2011, the Presidential Implementation Committee on Maritime Safety and Security (PICOMSS) announced the acquisition and installation of hi-tech surveillance gadgets with a range of 99 nautical miles to cover the nation’s coastal waters.
The first consignment of equipment has been installed in Lagos. Already, radar, Close Circuit Camera (CCC) and Automated Identification System (AIS) have been mounted on a 50 meter-high mast. One of the sophisticated systems has already been installed around the Bar Beach area on the Victoria Island to cover the Lagos channel.
The system has the capacity to work round-the-clock; courtesy of solar and wind powered devices. Investigations revealed that the radar is able to monitor the movement of ships and other watercraft as far out to sea as 99 nautical miles, while the AIS can capture all images from as far out as 75 nautical miles. The highly sensitive and high-resolution camera is said to be capable of receiving images from as far as about 10 nautical miles in daytime and about three nautical miles at night.
Meanwhile, the surveillance equipment is already being put to use in the Lagos axis whilecomplementary coastal radar sites are said to be in the process of being replicated at Escravos, Bonny, Brass and Calabar for total and effective coverage of the nation’s coastline from Lagos as the hub.
An official of PICOMSS who pleaded anonymity said that apart from providing adequate security services, the equipment will also assist sister government agencies to function more effectively.
The Lagos base which is reportedly already being manned by PICOMSS operatives also has a functional situation room from where chief executives of relevant government agencies are to meet form time to time to appraise maritime and related security issues when occasion arises.
Earlier in Q1 2011, the Nigerian Navy completed a training program for selected officers on the new surface surveillance system, the Regional Maritime Awareness Capability (RMAC), on March 4, 2011.
The U.S. Navy-funded coastal surveillance program uses an automatic identification system and ground-based radar and sensors to enhance awareness of maritime traffic. The project is coordinated by the U.S. Department of Defense and the Department of State. The RMAC system is integrated into the Maritime Safety and Security Information System, a global database to track ships all over the world.
The [RMAC] system enables Nigerian Navy ships on patrol to be vectored to vessels of interest with precision, said Rear-Admiral J Olutoyin, presiding over the RMAC graduation ceremony.
The graduation ceremony at the Western Naval Command Regional Maritime Awareness Capability Center (WNC-RMAC) in Apapa, was also attended by a representative of the Fleet Commander (West), Commander MB Ajibade, the Fleet Operations Officer, Commander JD Michika, Captain J. Muktar and Commander A. Mohammed, Nigerian Maritime Administration & Safety Agency (NIMASA), graduating officers, and a representative of the U.S. Consulate-General in Lagos, Kris Arvind.
Speaking to the graduates and members of the Nigerian Press, Olutoyin, also stated, “I will like to thank the government of our partner nation, the United States of America, as well as the U.S. Embassy and the Office of the Security Cooperation here in Nigeria for their interest, support, and unrelenting efforts [in] making the establishment and continuous operation of this RMAC Centre possible. It is our fervent desire that this collaborative effort [will] continue and that, in [the] future, other RMAC centers will become fully operational.”
During the event, Kris Arvind, a U.S. government representative, toured the facility and witnessed real-time feeds of the RMAC system and watched live-feeds of all registered ships and suspect vessels in the Gulf of Guinea. Arvind also interacted with the graduates and participated in the graduation ceremony.
The U.S. Navy has previously installed the RMAC system in Bonny in the Niger Delta(on the eastern maritime flank of Nigeria) and in Sao Tome and Principe.
The system in Nigeria will assist Navy authorities in enforcing maritime governance and preventing illegal activities within the country’s maritime domain.
As reported earlier by U.S. Africa Command, installation of the coastal surveillance system is coordinated in part by the African Partnership Station, a U.S. Navy program to enhance maritime safety and security in Africa in a comprehensive and collaborative manner, focusing first on the Gulf of Guinea.
The mission responds to specific African requests for assistance, and is aligned with the broad international community in a concerted interagency and multinational effort to promote maritime governance around Africa.
The goal of the Africa Partnership Station is that West and Central African coastal nations become self-sufficient in maritime safety and security and are able to stop illegal activities, protect natural resources, and foster safety at sea, leading to greater prosperity and stability in the region.
The closely-allied Total Radar Coverage of Nigeria(TRACON) Project, which is geared towards the total radar coverage of the nation’s airspace and which features a network of primary and secondary sites dotted across the country, attained completion in 2010.
With additional information from:
“NATIONAL COMPASS” newspaper and the US CONSULATE-GENERAL, LAGOS.