By PEARL NGWAMA
The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has said that the country is taking proactive steps to address its exposure to the threat of ballast water because of the high tanker traffic in its waters.
Director General of the Agency, Dr. Bashir Jamoh, stated this in Lagos at the 10th Meeting of the National Taskforce (NTF) on Implementation of Ballast Water Management (BWM) Convention, 2004.
Jamoh said being an oil producing country; Nigeria was prone to the effects of harmful aquatic organisms transported across regions by tankers.
He said NIMASA, the Lead Agency for the implementation of international conventions, codes, and regulations of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), had in conjunction with other members of the NTF set up a plan for full implementation of the BWM Convention in the country.
The Director General, who was represented by the Director, Marine Accident Investigation Unit, Mrs. Rita Egbuche, stated: “As an oil producing country, we recognise the country’s susceptibility to the danger of ballast water and we have put processes and actions in place to deal with the threat in line with the resolutions of the IMO.
“We would continue to update and fine-tune our strategies as new developments emerge.”
All ships, especially tankers, carry ballast water while on voyage to maintain stability and operate effectively and safely.
But ballast water has also been identified as one of the major vectors for the introduction of invasive alien species in the marine environment.
Activities on the roadmap for Nigeria’s full implementation of the BWM convention include: development of ballast sediment reception facilities; establishment of globally recognised and integrated BWM testing laboratory; development of regulations and guidelines for ship-owners; and authorisation of Classification Societies and formalisation of agreement with NIMASA on safety and prevention of pollutions survey and certification.
Others are partnership with relevant research institutions and universities on biological baseline studies of Nigerian ports and coastal states, particularly the sensitive areas with prevalence of marine lives; and training of Surveyors and Marine Inspectors for the enforcement of the BWM Convention.
There are also plans to designate Ballast Water Management Exchange Areas in Nigerian waters, and organise sensitisation programmes on BWM for stakeholders on the provisions of the regulations, as well as enforcement and compliance.
The NTF was constituted in 2010 following a workshop organised by NIMASA, in collaboration with IMO, to develop strategies for full implementation of the BWM convention. Nigeria was one of the first eight countries to domesticate the convention on October 5, 2005. The country has taken steps towards full compliance with the provisions of the convention, including the development of the Merchant Shipping Regulations for BWM 2012 by NIMASA.
Other steps include the Survey and Certification of applicable ships prior to issuance of the International Ballast Water Management Convention certificate; issuance of Ballast Water Exemption Certificate to ships operating exclusively in Nigerian waters and ships with sealed ballast tanks; feasibility study for the designation of BWM exchange areas in Lagos, Warri and Port Harcourt; and preliminary marine biological baseline survey (MBBS) of Lagos ports and environs.
The two-day meeting featured paper presentations on thematic areas covering home-grown ballast water management strategies; experiences of Classification Societies on compliance by Nigerian-flagged vessels; training on BWM convention; feasibility studies on designation of ballast water exchange areas; and baseline survey of Lagos territorial waters.