HL Deb 23 February 1978 vol 389 cc230-1

3.8 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the Nigerian Government have been requested to provide security for British vessels at Lagos and other Nigerian ports; and with what result.


My Lords, I share my noble friend's concern at the lawlessness which has been rife in Lagos harbour in recent months. Following joint protests by the Nordic countries and by countries of the European Economic Community in November and December last year, the Nigerian Government have taken steps to improve the security of all ships in Lagos harbour.


My Lords, is my noble friend aware that, despite the representations and the steps that have already been taken by Her Majesty's Government and other countries concerned, there are allegations of looting of ships and piracy; that, recently, about 100 ships from various countries were at the port of Lagos for the purpose of either loading or discharging cargoes and that it was quite unable to operate; and that the Nigerian Government have been accused of doing nothing at all?


My Lords, the Nigerian authorities have increased their harbour patrols so that they now operate round the clock, rather than only in daylight hours. Radio communications with the shore have been greatly improved and night movements of small vessels have been prohibited. I have no reports of incidents after 26th December. We are in constant consultation with the Department of Trade, with the owners and unions involved in this country and with other Powers who have an interest in this matter; and we have instructed our High Commissioner to keep us closly posted about developments. Indeed, we stand ready to repeat and reinforce our representations as and when necessary.

Baroness ELLES

My Lords, can the Minister say whether any better facilities for loading and unloading are being made available in Lagos, where I understand the position has been so chaotic that a great many firms, both in this country and in other European countries, have sustained considerable financial losses?


Yes, my Lords, it is perfectly true that much of the difficulty arises from the congested circumstances in the harbour. That, of course, is a longer-term matter, which the Nigerian Government will have to take in hand. We should all be interested in any proposals they may make, of course, and, I would say, we stand ready to co-operate in every way.


My Lords, is my noble friend aware that, as recently as the last issue of the journal produced by the Merchant Navy Navigators' Association, there were allegations so serious that British shipowners are threatening not to send their ships to Lagos and other Nigerian ports?


My Lords, I have no information on that particular point, but, of course, I do not for a moment suggest that my noble friend's information is inexact. What I do know is that we have been in very close and continuous contact with the owners and the unions, and with the Department of Trade, that the position is very closely watched, and that our High Commissioner is keeping us constantly informed of the position.