The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has launched a new aircraft to tackle oil thieves high-seas pirates as well as maritime hijackers off the country’s coast.
The high-tech plane is one of seven to be operated by the state-run Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and the Nigerian Air Force.
It includes sensors, radar and Electro-Optic Surveillance and Tracking (EOST) equipment, which houses three cameras to monitor ships in Nigerian waters, said Sergeant Sunday Olalekan Omotosho.
“When fully operational, no vessel can escape our coverage,” he told reporters before a demonstration flight from Lagos to Escravos in the Niger Delta and over offshore platforms in the oil-producing southeast.
The 20-seat plane can fly as low as 200 feet (60 metres) above the sea and passes on information about maritime traffic to the navy, who can intervene with fast-attack craft if necessary, he added.
“Our aim is to fight all manner of maritime crimes in the country. With this aircraft, we can spot any vessel hundreds of kilometres (miles) away,” said Air Group Captain Enobong Eneh Effiom.
The aircraft is inscribed with the words: “Vigilance over the ocean.”
Piracy off the western coast of Africa has been rising in recent years, with attackers targeting ships playing a key role in the region’s thriving oil industry.
Last month, global maritime watchdog the International Maritime Bureau said West African piracy made up 19 percent of attacks worldwide last year while Nigerian pirates accounted for 31 of the region’s 51 attacks — the most since 2008.
Following the imposition of Conditions of Entry (COE) on some ports and terminals which have not been found to be compliant with the International Ships and Ports Facility Security (ISPS) Code in Nigeria by the United States government, the US Coast Guards blacklisted Nigeria alongside 15 other maritime countries for not maintaining an effective anti-terrorism measures at their ports some months ago.