Following the incessant boat mishaps in the country, there are calls for the creation of Maritime Search and Rescue (SAR) Guard (MSG) to address the situation.
This is part of the submissions of a study report by General Manager, Area Offices Coordination, National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), Tammy Fiberesima, titled, ‘Memorandum to the Secretariat, Ministerial Committee to Review Search and Rescue Operation in Nigerian Inland Waterways’.
Fiberesima, in his report, proposed that the needed Maritime SAR Guard administrative and operational structures should be run, at the very beginning, by NIWA and Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) under the Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy as well as agencies under the ministries of Transport and Defence
According to the report, NIMASA will be the lead agency, as it has better financial muscles, and is the custodian of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) in Nigeria.
The report said NIWA’s inclusion hinged on three major advantages, which are being the landlord of the nation’s inland waterways, its relatively wide spreads such as the area office- and infrastructures-wise as well as its encompassing function to build up and amend the country’s inland waterways.
The report also proposed an Interdepartmental Committee on Search and Rescue (ICSAR), which will ensure the effective national coordination and delivery of SAR as well as report to the lead minister for SAR.
Members of the committee include the ministries of Aviation, Water Resources and Environment, Finance, Solid Minerals and the Department of Fisheries of the Ministry of Agriculture, the report suggested.
Others proposed to be involved are the Attorney General Office, Secretary, Federal Government, Office, state governments, Nigerian Police Force, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited. Others are GSM and internet service providers, Nigerian Communications Satellite Ltd (NigComSat), Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and the National Search and Rescue Secretariat.
He stated that these ministries and agencies should be part of the Interdepartmental Committee on Search and Rescue (ICSAR), which will ensure the effective national coordination and delivery of SAR as well as report to the lead minister for SAR.
The report noted that the committee will, among others, have mandates, which include, identifying SAR requirements and providing advice to the government on the best methods for meeting these requirements.
The report also proposed the creation of the National Search and Rescue Secretariat (NSARS), which will give support and advice to the Lead Minister of SAR, coordinate and assist in developing the National Search and Rescue Programme, while the Executive Director of the NSARS chairs the ICSAR.
Fiberesima said the statutory body should have a semi-independence from the NIWA and NIMASA Managements, until it is transformed to be a self-governing body if necessary.
He also noted that the main civilian operational arm of the Federal Government concerning maritime search and rescue will operate all vessels and offer services, among others, such as search and rescue boating safety.
Other services include, environmental response and marine navigation service, navigable water protection, marine communications and traffic services, provide marine support and services to other institutions.
Fiberesima noted that the operational arm will also be responsible for, among others SAR tasks, such as the detection of marine incidents, coordination, control and conduct of SAR operations in maritime SAR situations within Nigerian areas of federal responsibility as well as providing marine resources to help with air SAR operation as necessary.
Others include providing SAR resources to assist in humanitarian and civil incidents within the country, coordinating, controlling and conducting SAR prevention and boating safety programmes in all waters across the country to reduce the number and severity of maritime SAR incidents.
He said it will also supplement its primary maritime SAR response element with secondary SAR vessels and oversee the activities of the Maritime SAR Guard Auxiliary (MSGA), a volunteer organisation.
Fiberesima, in his report, further proposed the Department of National Defence and Transport (DNDT), which will have the Minister of Defence as the lead minister for SAR.
He said the body will be responsible for the coordination of the National SAR Programme (NSP) and the development of National SAR policies in conjunction with other ministries, among others.
Fiberesima said the body will also ensure the effective operation of the National SAR system, deliver primary air SAR support from its aircraft fleet and coordinate the activities of the civil Air Search and Rescue associations or bodies.