Nigeria has commissioned the Israeli-designed Falcon Eye maritime domain awareness system to monitor the country’s territorial waters and track movements within the broader Gulf of Guinea maritime zone.
It was commissioned by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on 13 July at the Nigerian Naval Headquarters in Abuja. He said the Falcon Eye system generates real-time situational awareness of maritime activities off Nigeria’s coastline.
Falcon Eye is a mass surveillance system that uses a number of radars, electro-optic systems and cameras operated from a command centre. It was designed in Israeli but manufactured by United Arab Emirates (UAE)-based Falcon Technologies. The company also manufactures unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
After a contract was signed in 2014, installation began more than five years ago at strategic points within the country’s territorial waters and the Gulf of Guinea, and was due to be completed in 2016 but the project was delayed.
Osinbajo said Falcon Eye “will enable the Nigerian Navy generate a comprehensive intelligence picture of activities within our maritime environment for further analysis before, in appropriate cases, dispatching a Nigerian Navy Ship for interdiction, investigation, and/or subsequent arrest of erring vessels…It will also enable the Nigerian Navy to effectively combat any maritime crimes that could disrupt the conduct of maritime trade.”
He explained that Nigeria loses around $26 billion a year to criminality, particularly piracy and sea robbery, which underscores the need to enhance maritime security architecture.
“The Falcon eye system is a state-of-the-art surveillance facility that incorporates various sensors located along the nation’s enormous coastline, such as radars, long range electro optic systems with thermal or night vision capability, Automatic Identification System receivers, weather stations and marine very high frequency radios for communication,” Osinbajo said.
The system operates observation posts which feed information and real time imagery to a central command centre/fusion cell where information is analysed and shared with relevant stakeholders, including the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Nigerian Ports Authority and Marine Police, amongst others.
Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Gambo said the Falcon Eye system “translates to complete coverage of Nigeria’s Exclusive Economic Zone. Monitoring and analysis of data from the various sites strategically located along the nation’s coastline is facilitated through the four Falcon Eye Centers in Abuja, Lagos, Yenagoa and Calabar.
“Penitently, the coverage of the satellite aspect of the Automatic Identification System of Falcon Eye extends beyond Nigerian waters to Cote D’Ivoire at the West, Cameroon at the East, and Angola at the South East.
“This significant capability enhances the maritime projection capabilities of the country and enables the Nigerian Navy to maintain strategic partnership on information sharing, especially with navies of the Gulf of Guinea nations, as well as Indian and Italian navies.”
Osinbajo pointed out that NIMASA last month launched its Deep Blue maritime security initiative. “Between these initiatives, we have significantly increased our national capabilities in the areas of maritime surveillance and criminal interdiction within our territorial waters.”
Deep Blue and Falcon Eye will allow Nigerian authorities to monitor all movements and prevent the commission of maritime crimes such as piracy, oil theft, vandalism offshore oil infrastructure and illegal aircraft movements within the Gulf of Guinea.