The Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas, spoke at the launch of the operation, codenamed: “Tsare Teku II,” in Onne, Rivers State.
Ibas said the operation would also contain high spate of attacks by oil thieves on critical oil and gas installations and other criminalities prevalent on the nation’s territorial waters.
He said Tsare Teku II was a continuation of an earlier operation it launched in the first quarter of 2016 to tackle incessant attacks on merchant ships.
He said: “Between January 1 and April, pirates and oil thieves carried out 30 attacks on our waterways, which 16 of these attacks were successful.
“Since the first phase of this operation was launched to protect ships, there have been less than seven attacks on the sea, with only one pirate attack being successful.
“This reduction was largely achieved by intensive patrols by navy vessels, which covered about 2,280 hours at sea focused to stabilising the maritime environment.
“To this end, we felt the need to extend the operation with focus to sustaining the protection of shipping and oil and gas installations particularly in high risk prone areas.”
Ibas said the operation became expedient in order to inject new tactics and robust operational initiative to tackle the merging security challenges in the Niger Delta.
He added that the operation would enable merchant ships move their cargoes freely, which according to him, will improve economic activities and revenue for the country.
The navy, he said, would soon take delivery of “many gunboats” to complement 30-newly built gunboats it recently deployed to waterways and creeks in the Niger Delta.
According to Ibas, the navy is ready to partner with investors to upgrade its naval dockyard and shipyard while improving other key facilities.
He said: “We urged state governments to assist the navy by sensitising coastal communities in their states on the need to protect critical oil facilities in their domain.
“It is equally important that other coastal states that are yet to regulate the use of high capacity outboard engines should do so because these engines are used to perpetrate crimes.”
Ibas advised ship owners and charterers to vet and profile their crew members before recruitment.
Ibas also appealed to agitators in the Niger Delta to seek peaceful ways to press home their demands.