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Sample Masters Maritime Law Dissertation Proposal

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Policy Paper

Sea Trade Security and ISPS Code Implementation in Nigeria


Since the conclusion of the Second World War, the global economy shifted towards freedom of trade and finance. In this dynamic shift, private corporations were provided prime importance by the countries, which were guided by the guidelines under The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), passed in 1947, as a legal agreement between many countries (Tomz et al., 2007). According to Acharya (2017), the shift of liberal socioeconomics entailed freedom of cross-border trade and thus initiated an era of exponential globalization.

In compliance with the shift of international trade, the sea trade routes became exceedingly busier, and hence their regulations became imperative for the international trade organizations (Yeo et al., 2013). In this lieu, among several maritime trade conventions, the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS) was introduced as an extensional in the framework of the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention (1974/1988) regarding the safety of maritime which also involves security for ports, ships, and involved government agencies (Code, 2016).

This amendment focuses on the security and the mitigation of threats to the shipping ports to provide a safe and conducive environment for shipping and trade for all countries, regardless of their associations (Code, 2016). However, countries vary in their capability to ensure and implement the policies of ISPS. Nigeria, in this context, is crucial since the country is considered the economic powerhouse of Africa.

In this respect, this policy paper attempts to elaborate on the glaring security issues of Nigeria in terms of ports and shipping facilities. This paper examines security issues in the light of ISPS code and analyses Nigeria’s progress in different security domains. Afterwards, the paper proposes some policy enhancements for Nigeria to improve its port security.

The paper sets out to define the goals of policy implementation and examines the potential actions required for achieving sustained port security. Furthermore, the paper analyses potential actions in conjunction with the institutional limits for policy formulation and implementation.

Maritime Policy Development Process

Since the advent of internet technology, the primary platform for international trade of maritime has been the computer and the internet (Kpee, 2015). Although Nigeria has a tradition of long-distance trading routes through the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, however, trade through shipping is limited in its extent. This is also because of shifting business trends towards consumer products, often imported and exported through land or air routes (Hummels et al., 2009).

The country has six major seaports, i.e. Onne and Port Harcourt in Rivers, Papa and Tin Can Island at Lagos, Calabar in Cross River, and port Warri in Delta. Moreover, the country is the focal point of international trading and foreign direct investment (Ndubuisi, 2020).

Nigeria is a country blessed with a significant proportion of mineral resources, including fertile lands for many crops such as palm seed oil, coffee, neoprene, timber, pepper etc. Additionally, the country is rich in natural gas and oil resources, and tin, copper, bauxite, and columbine (Olajide et al., 2012).

Therefore, to exploit its resources for national growth, the country has allowed conducive trade tracts for developed countries and multinational organizations. Since the country mainly excels at natural resources, it is also a hub of resource theft and conflicts (Boris, 2015).

Due to this, the country needs strict implementation of international shipping and security regulations. However, it is observed from various studies that the country has progressed in its implementation of ISPS code since its ratification in 2006. Recently, it has started to experience international backlash due to lagging internal security situations, exacerbated by the political conflicts impacting the country (Katsouris and Sayne, 2013).

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Origination and implications of the problem of port security

The policy development for port and shipping security, as part of the International Sea trading conventions, became increasingly prominent after the commencement of the war on terrorism. However, it is observed that apart from international terrorism, the most glaring issue with port security faced by countries is internal security (Parola and Maugiri, 2013).

This is especially the case for countries like Nigeria, the Middle East block etc., facing internal radicalism. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) propounds that “The International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS Code) is a comprehensive set of measures to enhance the security of ships and port facilities, developed in response to the perceived threats to ships and port facilities in the wake of the 9/11 attacks in the United States” (IMO, 2019).

Evolution and implementation were expedited exponentially as a response to the WTC attacks in 2001, which were further cemented after the attack bombing on the French oil tanker of Limburg. In this domain, the Coast Guard team of the US, which front-lined the US delegation in the International Maritime Organisation, first proposed the policy implementation (Mazaheri, 2008).

The signatories agreed upon the measures mentioned in the Code and were ratified on July 1, 2004 (IMO, 2019). Further refinement of the regulatory framework established the mandatory position of a Company Security Officer (CSO). It mandates that a CSO officer will always be present in the trade ships, which will analyze the security situations and function his duties in conjunction with the Ship Security Officer (SSO) to strengthen the security situations for the ship (Marine Insight, 2012). In the process, the CSO gathers the relevant information from the Ship Security Assessment or Vessel Security Assessment to advise on potential security risks on the ship (Marine Insight, 2012).

ISPS implementation in the case of Nigeria

The case of Nigeria is crucial from the perspective of sea trade inwards and outwards in Africa. As aforementioned, the nation is the hub of natural resource trade through developed countries and multinational companies. However, in recent years, the nation has been marred by internal security challenges due to the weakening political fabric (Angerbrandt, 2018).

In this lieu, the issue of piracy, hijacking, ransoming, and illegal trade of drugs, ammunition and human trafficking has become one of the prominent problems of the country. Recently, the United States of America has recently raised sanctions against sea trade outward Nigeria (Ite, 2013).

The sanctions imposed by the United States of America on Nigeria on the allegation of security laggings translate into a limitation of Nigerian trade routes. The United States Coast Guard imposed strict conditions on the entry of ships which have been in contact with the Nigerian ports in their previous port calls (Hellenic Shipping News, 2015).

However, such impositions are not limited to the restriction of ships because restricted sea traffic effects the country in ways with a negative international image, and thus it will be strenuous for the country to live up to its potential. It might get further trapped in a downward spiral of terrorism, kidnapping, theft and piracy due to the weakening socioeconomic fabric (Plaut, 2019).

Criteria for evaluation of problem for policy agenda

Goals of the plan of ISPS implementation

According to the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (2020), the goal of the implementation of ISPS code in the nations follows the following objectives:

  • To detect security threats and implement security measures
  • To establish roles and responsibilities concerning maritime security for governments, local administrations, ship and port industries at the national and international level
  • To collate and promulgate security-related information
  • To provide a methodology for security assessments to have in place plans and procedures to react to changing security levels.

To comply with the abovementioned objectives, the country needs a constant monitoring mechanism which could analyze the possible lags in safety and security scenarios, and initiate mitigation plans (Nimasa, 2020). Moreover, the objectives also function as a checklist for all the ships entering and leaving the Nigerian ports, to ensure maximum security and safety.

Potential Actions for Achieving the Objectives

In light of the recent backlash against Nigeria’s lag in security situations, the country needs to reiterate its policies and implementation mechanism of the ISPS code (Okoronkwo et al., 2014). Although the official data from the West African coastal areas show a marginal number of piracy attacks, international concerns question the authenticity of the data itself (Phelps, 2010). For example, the graph shown in Fig 1. depicts the rise in piracy and terrorist attacks on the West African shoreline, concentrated around shipping routes of Nigeria.


Figure 1. Comparison of Piracy hotspots (Source: McCarthy, 2019)

In the Niger Delta, the situation worsened due to the mixture of radical insurgency, pockets of bands, and organized crimes against some international entities.


Figure 2. Criminal circles in Nigerian sea trade (Source: Stephen Phelps, 2010)

In such a situation, one of the primary actions the country could take is to increase the number of ships in its security fleet. The Navy is reported to lack appropriate equipment and manpower training for riverine and inshore security (Onuoha, 2012). Therefore, the country should proactively contact partnering developed countries to strengthen its naval fleet.

Additionally, the country could also converge its shipping and naval organizations under a singular overarching framework, which would guide both the Navy and the trading ships in maintaining law and order situation. This would also enable easier and timely information sharing across all the national and international organizations involved in the training about potential threats.

For this purpose, it is asserted that organizational changes, especially those involving changes in the business mechanism, should include all the stakeholders. The involvement of all the concurrent stakeholders provides a better perception of reality and creates an inclusive environment of opinion sharing, which reduces inter-departmental resentment.

Analysis of potential actions

In the recent observations provided by a review committee of NIMASA, it was revealed that there exists lag in understanding of the ISPS code in different stakeholders of Nigerian ports and shipping (Oritse, 2013). Due to fragmentation of security forces, interdepartmental coordination becomes unnecessarily arduous, impacting the fluency in implementation.

Therefore, establishing a singular body involving all the shareholders, would provide a conducive platform for information and opinion sharing. Since Nigeria’s political coherence has become impaired contemporarily, therefore, rise in dissatisfaction and political stratification is imperative (Oritse, 2013).

In such a scenario, the combined shareholder body, with legal authorities and representation in the legislature, has the potential to garner sufficient strength to curb radical militants from Nigerian shores. Furthermore, as mentioned previously, Nigerian sea security fleets lack sufficient manpower training and equipment for in-shore security (Montlcos, 2012).

Therefore, formation of a combined stakeholder’s body, would facilitate in collecting crucial data regarding the lags and will be able to provide better perspective of the scenario. The current state of affairs of international sanctioning of Nigeria originates from its uncertain political and security situations (Blancard and Husted, 2013). Therefore, a combined task force with legislative authorities would, in turn, aid in attracting international support for the cause.

Institutional limits for policy formulation and implementation

Currently, Nigeria’s political fragmentation is the major institutional hindrance that obstructs the way towards efficient and sustained seaport security. This situation, in turn, originates due to historical struggles of some radical groups in certain parts of the country (Muzan, 2014).

However, security practices’ efficiency is based on the inclusion of related personnel in the security team. Moreover, no framework exists that enforces the relevant entities to initiate a combined effort against the piracy threats (Oriste, 2013). Due to bi-organizational methodology for seaport security, under the surveillance of Presidential Implementation Committee on Maritime Security and Safety (PICOMSS) and NIMASA, the connection between planning and action has become dismal (Oriste, 2013). Therefore, instead of scrapping off one body, it would be beneficial to integrate both through a common channel, and work on their individual capacity building in parallel.

Resources Required For Policy Implementation

Policy implementation regarding a joint-shareholder legislative platform would have a foremost requirement of approval from legislative domains of the country. For this, all the political entities will have to realize the gravity of the situation, and recognize the need for active initiatives to curb militancy from seashores.

The Navy is reported to lack appropriate equipment and manpower training for riverine and inshore security. Therefore, the country should pro-actively contact partnering developed countries to strengthen its naval fleet. Additionally, the country could also converge its shipping and naval organizations under a singular overarching framework, which would guide both the security navy as well as the trading ships in maintaining the law and order situation.

This would also enable easier and timely information sharing across all the national and international organizations involved in the train about potential threats. In addition to tactical resources, the country also requires an effective maritime justice system, which would expedite the trials and justice provision process.

Currently, delays in the execution of punishments to arrested offenders give the radical groups enough time to retaliate and exert pressure on the government to release their members, thus jeopardizing the entire justice and security system. The nation also needs improved reforms of legislature regarding sea terrorism.

The security initiatives are mainly led by the Navy, with insignificant contribution of the legislative bodies. This creates discrepancies in political and strategic/tactical manoeuvring. Therefore, Joint initiatives, under the satisfaction of political entities would further cement the initiatives and also attract international support, which is another primary requirement for curtailing security threats.

Furthermore, reports indicate that port management lacks in comprehension of their roles and responsibilities. Therefore, concomitant standard operating procedures must be formulated for all the relevant groups involved in shipping and trade. According to Lagos Chamber of Commerce, the ports cost around N2.5 trillion annually to the nation, mainly due to mismanagement of goods, and negligence of shipping maintenance (CBI, 2019).

Due to negligence in maintenance, ports have decreased capacity utilization as only between 38%-40% of installed stevedoring and other port-related activities, which forces the international ships to adopt a different port route (Oriste, 2013). It is also reported that due to negligence in human resource management and inherent systemic corruption, the port officials, customs officers, port operators, and related political elites have become significantly influential in manipulating the system.

Since these entities comprise the supply side of the port functionality, they negatively influence the demand side of the port (CBI, 2019). Therefore, legislative and technological impetus is required to mitigate personal influences. Since Nigeria is marred with socioeconomic inequality, this situation leads to a mind-set of “the end justifies the means”.

Approximately, 40 % of the total population, or almost 83 million people, live below the country’s poverty line of 137,430 naira ($381.75) per year (Oxfam, 2017). In this regard, the inclusion of technologically-backed security systems such as automated checks and balances of finances, drone technology for security monitoring, and online and transparent data-keeping of incoming and outgoing ships etc. is required to minimize human intervention in the system, and also increase system’s efficiency.

Period and Evaluation and Effective Implementation of the Policy

The policy development of joint-stakeholders legislative committee would require mid-term to long term to bear fruits. Since the procedure is complex and will require several sub-initiatives, the proposed evaluation period is 5 years. This is in line with the style of government formation of the country, which would provide sufficient time of incumbent government to plan the policy and implement it in a step-by-step manner. Evaluation of the policy could be done through the involved stakeholders themselves. For this purpose, the legislature should convene periodic reviews of performances.

Evaluation should be conducted based on several piracy attacks, militant activities in the said period, cases of corruption detected at ports. Efficacious implementation plan also needs the development of Key Performance Indicators for personnel deployed on the ports.

These KPIs should be made the primary basis for their employment, salary increases, and promotions. Establishing KPIs also requires incorporation of naval security personnel, as the military is normally more inclined towards strict discipline. However, inclusion of technology for monitoring and evaluation is imperative in order to ensure transparency and fluidity in the legal system.

In this regard, it is essential that the developed legislative framework and shareholders’ joint committee has an inherent element which would ensure consistent up gradation of rules and implementation, otherwise regardless of improvement, the mechanism could shortly become obsolete, as the radical elements find loopholes in the mechanism.

Policy Evaluation and Recommendations

Evaluation of the proposed policy of joint stakeholders’ committee would be based on legality, functionality, and inclusiveness. In this regard, there are various ways to establish a legislatively authorized joint committee:

  • Election of members through popular voting
  • Election of members through voting in legislatures
  • Giving the naval security forces the authority to establish a working committee.
Policy Question: How can all the stakeholders be involved in seaport security and risks monitoring? Policy choice A: Establishment of joint committee through popular elections of members Policy choice B: Establishment of joint committee through voting in legislatures Policy Choice C: Authorizing the naval forces to establish the joint committee
Criteria 1: Legality Yes Yes Yes
Criteria 2: Feasibility No Yes Yes
Criteria 3:Inclusiveness Questionable due to possibility of corruption Yes No
Recommended? No Yes Dependent upon functioning of the naval security forces

Table 1. Policy Feasibility (Self-made)

In light of the proposed policy of joint stakeholders’ committee, this policy paper recommends the establishment of a joint committee of stakeholders to monitor and implement seaport security checks under the auspices of the legislative assembly. The committee could be feasibly formed through in-house election of members, which should be a mix of political members and technocrats, specializing in the field.


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Frequently Asked Questions

The purpose of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) is to promote safe, secure, and environmentally friendly shipping by establishing international regulations and standards, facilitating cooperation among member states, and enhancing maritime safety and efficiency worldwide.

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