Maritime Incident Reporting in Nigeria: An Analysis of Trends, Gaps, and Recommendations

Maritime incidents are events that occur on or involve vessels, platforms, or other structures in the marine environment, and that result in loss of life, injury, damage, pollution, or disruption of normal operations. Maritime incident reporting is the process of collecting, analyzing, and disseminating information about such events for the purposes of learning from them, preventing their recurrence, and improving maritime safety and security.

Nigeria is a coastal state with a large maritime domain that encompasses the Gulf of Guinea, a strategic region for global trade and energy supply. Nigeria also has significant offshore oil and gas resources that contribute to its economy and national development. However, Nigeria faces various challenges in ensuring the safety and security of its maritime domain, such as piracy, armed robbery, illegal fishing, oil theft, smuggling, and environmental degradation. These challenges pose risks to the lives and livelihoods of seafarers, fishermen, coastal communities, and the general public, as well as to the national interests and sovereignty of Nigeria.

The aim of this paper is to examine the current state of maritime incident reporting in Nigeria, identify the main trends and gaps in the system, and provide recommendations for improvement. The paper will review the existing legal and institutional framework for maritime incident reporting in Nigeria, analyze the data and statistics on maritime incidents that occurred in Nigeria from 2017 to 2023, and discuss the challenges and opportunities for enhancing maritime incident reporting in Nigeria.

Legal and Institutional Framework for Maritime Incident Reporting in Nigeria

Nigeria has ratified several international conventions and protocols that regulate maritime safety and security, such as the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), the International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue (SAR), the International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Co-operation (OPRC), and the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation (SUA). These conventions oblige Nigeria to establish a national system for reporting and investigating maritime incidents, as well as to cooperate with other states and international organizations in this regard.

The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) is the lead agency responsible for implementing the international obligations and national policies on maritime safety and security in Nigeria. NIMASA was established by the NIMASA Act of 2007, which merged the former National Maritime Authority (NMA) and the Joint Maritime Labour Industrial Council (JOMALIC). NIMASA’s mandate includes regulating maritime safety standards, enforcing maritime laws and regulations, conducting maritime surveillance and security operations, providing maritime search and rescue services, preventing and combating marine pollution, promoting maritime education and training, developing maritime infrastructure and facilities, facilitating maritime trade and commerce, and promoting Nigeria’s maritime interests.

One of NIMASA’s functions is to establish a Marine Casualty Investigation (MCI) unit that is responsible for carrying out safety investigations into all serious and very serious marine casualties that occur on or involve Nigerian vessels or vessels operating in Nigerian waters. A marine casualty is defined by NIMASA as “an event which has resulted in any of the following: death or serious injury to any person; material damage affecting the structural integrity or performance of a vessel; material damage to any marine infrastructure external to a vessel; severe damage to environment; or loss of a vessel”. A serious marine casualty is one that involves “a fire or explosion; structural failure; collision; grounding; contact; heavy weather damage; ice damage; hull cracking; or suspected hull defect”. A very serious marine casualty is one that involves “total loss of any vessel; loss of life; or severe pollution” .

NIMASA has issued a Master’s Casualty/Incident Report Form that must be filled out by the master or person in charge of any vessel involved in a marine casualty or incident within 24 hours of its occurrence. The form requires information such as: name and type of vessel; flag state; owner/operator; port of registry; voyage details; date/time/location of casualty/incident; weather/sea conditions; description of casualty/incident; actions taken; consequences (e.g., injuries/fatalities/damage/pollution); witnesses; evidence/documents available; recommendations . The form must be submitted to NIMASA either electronically or by hand delivery.

NIMASA also has an Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) that is responsible for conducting independent investigations into accidents involving Nigerian aircraft or aircraft operating in Nigerian airspace. An accident is defined by NIMASA as “an occurrence associated with

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