By Omar Bah
The Gambia and Nigeria naval commands have renewed commitment towards working closely to fight against piracy and illegal fishing in the sub-region.
The two countries’ high navy commands were speaking during a formal welcoming event of a new Nigerian Navy survey vessel, NNS Lana. The vessel, built in France, was handed over to the Nigerian Navy in Saint Nazaire on 15 April. The vessel sailed from France on 16 April 2021 and is expected to stop over in 4 countries/ports, including The Gambia where it will spend at least four days.
In accordance with naval tradition, the ship berthed at the Banjul port for logistics including fueling, food/fresh water and preventive maintenance.
As part of security protocol, senior officers from the Nigeria Naval Headquarters received the ship which conveyed a goodwill message on behalf the Federal Government of Nigeria and the Chief of Naval Staff (Nigeria) to The Gambia for their hospitality and use of berthing facilities
Speaking at the event, the Gambia Navy Commander, Madani Senghore, said berthing of the Nigerian Navy vessel in Banjul clearly demonstrates the strong relationship the two countries continue to share and the leadership role Nigeria continues to play in the Gulf of Guinea and West Africa, particularly in maritime safety and security.
“The Gambia and Nigeria navy have been partners since 1996 and more so, Nigeria has been playing a leading role in the establishment of the Yaoundé Architecture of which Gambia is a member, though we are not in the same group,” he said.
Senghore said Nigeria has been organising a lot of symposiums to look into issues that transgress national boundaries to overcome the challenges of maritime security in the region.
“So the acquisition of this vessel clearly demonstrates that Nigeria has the capacity and as our partners – we will look forward to them for support towards overcoming maritime security and illegal fishing challenges,” he said.
The representative of the Nigeria Navy [NN] Rear Admiral Mustapha Bala Hassan, expressed profound gratitude to his Gambian counterpart for their hospitality as he relishes the strong mutual relationship the two countries continue to share.
He said the new vessel was conceived as a replacement of the previous NNS Lana, a survey ship that was decommissioned about ten years ago.
Admiral Hassan said survey services and charting waterways play a crucial role in ensuring safe navigation as well as delivery of maritime security.
“Hence, NNS Lana will not only enhance the safety of Nigeria’s maritime environment but the ship will serve as a critical component in the projection of naval power for enhanced maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea. It will also play a critical role in the protection of maritime resources and preservation of law and order at sea, thus contributing significantly to the promotion of global maritime commerce,” he said.
He said the new vessel has an Automatic Weather Station (AWS), wet and dry laboratories, scientific and technical workshops as well as operating and processing rooms for survey data.
The 60-metre-long ship, he added, has a maximum speed of 14 knots and a capacity of 50 crew.
He said the ship would afford the Nigerian Navy Hydrographic Department the leverage to successfully and systematically conduct hydrographic surveys and charting of Nigeria’s waters.
“It would also afford Nigeria with the opportunity of keying into the General Bathymetric Charts of the Oceans (GEBCO) Seabed 2030 project and the Global Multi-Resolution Topography (GMRT) synthesis project which would ultimately facilitate Nigeria’s accomplishment of its obligation under SOLAS Convention in accordance with President Muhammadu Buhari’s deliberate and sustained policies on maritime safety and security,” he said.
The Nigeria High Commission Charge d’Affaires, Eche Abu Obe, expressed delight over the mutual relationship Gambian and Nigeria continue to share.
“Due to the brotherly relations we share with The Gambia, you can stay for a longer time without having any hitches. We hope and pray that the relationship continues in the same manner. Sailing of the vessel in Banjul is an indication that we are still close and we can only continue to have cohesive relations between each another. So we hope the vessel will achieve its purpose and we are looking forward to seeing the coming of many of these vessels,” he said.