The ongoing crisis scenario that plagues Nigeria’s territorial waters has prompted a dramatic transformation of the offshore security industry in the region. The industry was previously focused on unregulated fishing and other low-level issues, but has now evolved to tackle combative security threats such as illegal bunkering, the vandalism of oil and gas installations, piracy, sea robbery, militancy and kidnapping.
Behind this shift is a destructive bout of youth restlessness in the Niger Delta region. The predicament has dealt a serious blow to the oil and gas industry, leading to reduced revenues for international companies that operate in the region. Similarly, its effects have also been damaging to the insurance companies that cover assets in the area. World Finance spoke to Nasir M Saulawa, CEO of Aquashield Oil and Marine Services, to discuss the rising demand for offshore security services and discover how security companies are evolving to meet such challenges.
Could you describe current trends in the offshore security industry?
As a consequence of the current threat levels in the Niger Delta, offshore companies are facing potentially costly downtime and rising insurance premiums. This has led to a growing demand for services to safeguard offshore assets, which has ultimately paved the way for the establishment of a wide-reaching security services industry.
Issues of illegal bunkering, the vandalism of oil and gas installations, piracy, sea robbery, militancy and kidnapping all remain rife in Nigerian territorial waters. The escalation of these issues means that many companies that previously did not require security services are now actively seeking out ways to better protect their assets and employees. To further gauge a sense of the current climate, it is useful to look at the way companies are judging their threat levels. Companies operating offshore use a colouration system to classify the level of security threat, with the colour red signifying the highest threat level. At present, the majority of companies operating within Nigeria’s territorial waters classify the threat level as red.
As threat levels intensify, various stakeholders in Nigeria’s offshore security industry have collaborated to develop new strategies
Another important trend is the increase in demand for the relevant security vessels and hardware. Out of those in need of security services, most companies require state-of-the-art security boats that can reach speeds as high as 20 knots. They also need tracking devices, communication equipment, monitoring equipment and ballistic protection in order to ensure that the security vessel can adequately protect their assets.
As the demand for offshore security services increases, so does the demand for a broad range of high-end vessels and technology. Indeed, the need to obtain the right vessels has led to an extensive effort by maritime security companies to collaborate with relevant stakeholders to ensure that vessels of this class are available at all times.
What changes have occurred in the offshore security industry over the past five to 10 years?
As threat levels intensify, various stakeholders in Nigeria’s offshore security industry have collaborated in order to develop new strategies aimed at combatting both real and perceived threats. Consequently, offshore security architecture as a whole has undergone a fundamental transformation.
For instance, it became apparent a few years ago that there was an urgent need to coordinate the activities of the already existing private maritime security companies (PMSCs) to effectively deliver on their mandate of providing efficient offshore security services. This prompted the Nigerian Navy to establish standard operating procedures for the PMSCs operating within the country’s territorial waters.
The result of this was a ‘memorandum of understanding’ (MOU), signed by the Nigerian Navy in 2012. The agreement established a standardised licence for PMSCs, which all security companies must now possess in order to provide security services within Nigeria’s territorial waters. Consequently, the activities of all PMSCs are now far better monitored and regulated than they were previously.
How many firms are there in Nigeria’s offshore security sector, and how does Aquashield Oil and Marine Services stand out from the others?
There are currently 20 PMSCs that hold an MOU signed by the Nigeria Navy. Owing to our excellent fleet and highly trained staff, Aquashield Oil and Marine Services is able to stand out as a pioneering company among this group.
In order to meet the needs of clients, our fleet has several state-of-the-art, ballistic-protected intervention vessels that are fast and fuel-efficient. Furthermore, our team of field staff are both highly trained and experienced. They receive round-the-clock support from staff situated in our operations room, which is equipped with modern surveillance and remote monitoring tools. As a result, we have been able to consistently provide robust offshore security services for several international oil companies, with many companies relying on our services.
What kind of offshore security services do you provide, and which services are most popular at the moment?
Our offering covers a broad range of services, including offshore oilfield protection, armed security escort duties, harbour terminal security surveillance, search and rescue, safe marine transportation of materials and crew, and covert intelligence gathering. At present, the most popular services are offshore oilfield protection and armed security escort duties.
Aside from our security capabilities, we also conduct related services, such as the provision of tugs, diving support vessels, work barges, survey vessels, pipe laying barges, shallow draft vessels, platforms support vessels and crude oil tank vessels. These services are not in high demand at present due to low oil prices.
What factors shape the quality level of offshore security services?
When it comes to offshore security services, there are several factors that shape the overall level of quality, with much depending on the client in question. One major factor is the importance of providing the right class of vessel, with the necessary gadgets on board to deliver on a specific type of operation.
Another fundamental factor is the importance of having experienced staff, both on the water and onshore. Ultimately, inexperienced and incompetent staff cannot be counted on to adequately deliver services, even if they have the right vessel and equipment at their disposal.
What key developments are driving the demand for offshore security services in Nigeria?
The threats that are driving the demand for offshore security services are piracy, kidnappings, sea robbery, militancy, illegal bunkering and outright destruction of oil and gas assets. While threat levels are always fluctuating, a recent bout of destructive behaviour by certain militant groups led to the destruction of various oil and gas assets just over a year ago. Once again, this resurgence of violence has increased the demand for offshore security services in Nigeria.
The developments driving the demand for offshore security services are intrinsically linked to ongoing issues within the Niger Delta region. Even when they subside temporarily, the possibility that they could re-emerge is very real. As such, it seems clear that these services will continue to be sought after as a necessary precaution.
How is Aquashield Oil and Marine Services adapting to changes in the industry?
To meet increased demand, we have been busy acquiring new state-of-the-art security vessels. On top of this, the company has entered into several technical agreements with internationally recognised engineering and technical service providers. These ensure that our vessels are constantly kept in top shape. Furthermore, our staff members are continually trained on the latest changes in the offshore security industry, so they are kept abreast of current trends and noteworthy developments.
At Aquashield Oil and Marine Services, what is your strategy for success?
Our strategy to succeed is to continuously provide cutting-edge security services on a foundation of honesty, integrity, hard work and commitment. It is these values that will ensure we can continue to deliver for clients.
In practical terms, this will require a strict focus on sustaining our periodic maintenance schedules and upholding the standards that are enshrined in our safety monitoring system. On top of this, we remain committed to sustaining the provisions of the MOU with the Nigerian Navy. On a strategic level, it is important that we take actions to meet the increase in demand for our services. To this end, we will be looking to acquire even more modern security vessels in the near future.