By Adeleye Ajayi & Taiye Elebiyo-Edeni
Abuja – The Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Mr Hassan Bello, has urged African maritime nations to take positive steps in protecting the continent’s marine environment.
Bello made the plea on Friday in Abuja at the Annual Conference of the Association of African Maritime Administrations (AAMA).
He presided over a paper titled “ Regional Initiatives for Sustainable Exploitation of Maritime Resources’’.
He noted that the resources from the seas and oceans were exhaustible and should therefore be protected.
The executive secretary said there should be regional integration and the domestication of the UN Conventions on Marine Environment for sustainable output.
Bello talked about awareness on maritime domain, saying that there should be a connection between security, safety and the marine environment.
In her contribution, a former President of Nigerian Trawler Owners’ Association, Mrs Margaret Orakwusi, said Africa lacked the resources to protect the maritime domain.
Orakwusi suggested that African maritime nations should rise as a group and approach the UN.
She said this would make it easier to fight the poachers in the fishing industry through the UN efforts.
According to her, foreign shipping companies come into Nigerian waters to fish in an irresponsible and illegal way.
She said, “They (poachers) have nothing at stake. We are not only talking about resources, we are talking about environmental pollution.’’
Experts from Tanzania, Mozambique, Guinea Conakry, Namibia, decried the lack of technologies, human capital , funds and called on heads of maritime administrations in Africa to devise a way by establishing an African Maritime Development Fund.
The discussants noted that Africa should not depend on the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) for solutions to their maritime problems.
The Chief of Navigation of Guinea, Mr Mohammed Kama, called for a fight against sea robbery, drug trafficking as well as illicit and illegal fishing.
A professor of International Law of the Seas, Lawrence Mgbangson, said there was a big problem in implementing the various maritime conventions.
Mgbangson suggested that the proceeds made by foreign fishing companies could be shared instead of stopping the fishing companies entirely.
The Secretary of the Abuja Memorandum of Understanding on Port State Control, Mrs Mfon Usoro, suggested that member states should collaborate on Port State Control measures.
Also in another paper on “Countries’ Initiatives for Effective Implementation of International Maritime Safety Instruments’’, Bello called for adoption of a strategy of regional conventions on maritime security.
“Even though shipping is international, there are local legislation which should be utilised,’’ he said.
During the discussion of the paper by South Africa, Egypt, Mauritania and Ghana, discussants suggested an amendment of the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention of 1974 to specify minimum standard for construction and equipping ships.
The discussants called on the legislatures of member states to domesticate international maritime safety instruments so that the instruments could be enforceable.
They also called for judicial cooperation which they described as “a must in line with international legislation to effectively combat maritime crimes’’.
The discussants also looked forward to IMO to facilitate the implementation of the international maritime safety regulations.
The conference participants were told that Ghana had the Vessel Traffic Information Management System (VTIMS) for comprehensive and surveillance of the nation’s maritime domain.
Mr Mike Igbokwe, said, “It’s high time we have a common position to be taken on international maritime conventions.’’
According to Igbokwe, it is important that African nations participate fully in formulation of conventions and not to force those conventions on nations.