28 agosto 2020

Interview with Commodore Daniel Atakpa, Nigerian Navy

The ‘Blue Economy’ is a concept that fosters better and more rational use of the world’s oceans or ‘blue’ resources. It emphasizes the close linkages between the ocean, climate change, and the well-being of the people of a given region or country. 

At its heart, it supports all of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially SDG14 ‘life below water’, and recognizes that this will require ambitious, and coordinated actions to sustainably manage, protect and preserve our ocean now, for the sake of present and future generations. 

With that in mind, the latest interviewee of the Brazilian Institute for the Law of the Sea (BILOS), Commodore Daniel Atakpa, a senior officer of the Nigerian Navy, and expert on blue economy matters, will share with us valuable insights on that topic.

Question Excerpts by Victor Ventura (associate of the BILOS): 

Q1.      Victor Ventura: What separates the blue economy from the “traditional” economy? What is so innovative in that concept?

Commodore Daniel Atakpa: I guess you’d meant “traditional ocean economy”. Well, a proper understanding of the blue economy must, of necessity, start with the initial understanding of the concept and operating principles of traditional ocean economy. The traditional ocean economy is the age-old maritime commerce founded primarily on fisheries (for food), and shipping (for transportation/movement/exploration). These traditional ocean economies subsequently increased in scope with advancements in technology to include offshore oil and gas, as well as marine tourism in western climes. The snag in these ocean and ocean-related activities was the absence/non-observance of sustainability principles as espoused by the Brundtland Commission in its report “Our Common Future”, which views sustainable development as the development that “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”  This is viewed as the balanced intersection of the 3 factors of economy, ecology and social well-being. The traditional ocean economy never operated in the context of these important pillars of sustainability. Thus, from a practical point of view, the blue economy differs from traditional ocean economy on the basis of the infusion of sustainability in the former, and the absence of sustainability in the latter.

Q2. Victor Ventura: How is the concept of blue economy supposed to provoke changes in which the oceans are managed?

Commodore Daniel Atakpa: The concept of blue economy is expected to provoke changes in ocean management through the fundamental operating elements of ocean sustainability and marine spatial planning (MSP). The MSP would emplace and enforce compliance with the 3-dimensional sustainable development principles within designated maritime domains. 

Q3.      Victor Ventura: Does the blue economy relate to specific maritime spaces (such as the EEZ) or rather to all maritime spaces under national jurisdiction (TS, CZ, EEZ and CS alike)?

Commodore Daniel Atakpa: The blue economy cuts across all maritime zones as contained in UNCLOS. The reason is simple: the marine environment is composed of very fragile ecosystems, and there are no physical boundaries/borders at sea to prevent the movement of unsustainable practices in one maritime zone to the other. Thus, sewage discharges from the land into internal waters may end up in the territorial sea, and continue, if unchecked, to the CZ, EEZ and CS. Recall that Articles 207-212 of UNCLOS identified 6 sources of marine pollution namely pollutions from land-based sources, seabed activities, activities in the Area, dumping, from ships, and atmosphere. Any of these pollutions can be found in any of the maritime zones with grave environmental consequences on zones contiguous to the polluted zone. This provides a good reason for the blue economy sustainability machineries to dominate the entire maritime zones. 

Q4.      Victor Ventura: What does an entirely “blued” economy ideally look like? Does it mean that a particular state will have achieved full sustainable management of its maritime spaces? 

Commodore Daniel Atakpa: An entirely blue economy would imply first, that the littoral state has activated strategies for the operationalization of all the sectors of the blue economy which consist of the traditional and emerging sectors. The traditional sectors are the very old sectors comprising fisheries, shipping, and offshore oil and gas; while the emerging sectors consist of marine biotechnology employing in large part marine genetic resources for variety of products ranging from cosmetics to pharmacopeia amongst others, deep sea mining, offshore renewable energies through wind, wave and thermal vents, sustainable marine leisure and tourism. I must admit that these sectors are more emerging in developing world than in the developed world.           

Q5.      Victor Ventura: How many avenues for public governmental and private action could the option for a blue economy open for a coastal state such as Nigeria or Brazil? 

Commodore Daniel Atakpa: A lot, depending on national interests and blue economy policies or roadmaps. For instance, the Nigerian maritime environment in the resource-rich Gulf of Guinea is believed to be capable of creating 40 million direct and indirect blue economy jobs and generating N7 trillion (US$1.94 billion) annually. These translate to huge opportunities for government and private organizational engagements for job creation, enhance GDP, and overall national development.

Q6.      Victor Ventura: Which social actors must engage in the road for effectively implementing a bluer economy strategy? 

Commodore Daniel Atakpa: All maritime stakeholders from the ocean-based professionals such as skippers, ocean explorers, hydrographers, marine scientists, and the navies; to ocean-related professionals such as ship builders, chandlers, stevedores, maritime reporters, maritime lawyers/law of the sea experts, and ocean health workers. This list is by no means exhaustive.

Q7.      Victor Ventura: How likely is it for poorer, Third World countries such as Nigeria and Brazil, to effectively implement blue economy guidelines nationally? What are, in your opinion, the main requirements for such successful implementation? 

Commodore Daniel Atakpa: Very simple. The first driver is a well-informed knowledge of the blue economy from an operational point of view. I must stress that what is predominantly known of the blue economy is blue economy concepts. The operationalization of these concepts is what I believe developing world would require to effectively establish a functional blue economy. Let me also add that there is presently a dearth of the operational knowledge of the blue economy. The second is the national/political will to do the needful, where the operational knowledge has been discovered. This, I have found out, is the primary challenge to the implementation of blue economy among developing countries. When these 2 are right, every other requirement would fall in place through proper planning and implementation.

Q8.      Victor Ventura: What role is reserved for national Navies in implementing a shift towards a bluer economy? 

Commodore Daniel Atakpa: Ocean sustainability patrols, and the enforcement of MSP directives in accordance with step 8 of the IOC/UNESCO 10-step guide for MSP. This would mean the expansion of the scope of Ken Booth’s traditional peacetime roles of navies. 

Q9.      Victor Ventura: What is the role of education and technological innovation in achieving a bluer economy? 

Commodore Daniel Atakpa: Education through the creation of sustainability awareness and the resourcefulness of the oceans to stem its pollution is central to achieving blue economy ocean sustainability. Innovation is also key to its development because of the dynamic nature of the maritime environment. The present blue economy awareness is largely driven by the combined effects of education and innovation. For instance, the present knowledge of the deep-sea mineral and marine genetic resources was brought about by education/innovations, which were either lacking or in their incubating stages at the time of the drafting of UNCLOS. 

Q10.   Victor Ventura: What could the role of an Institute such as BILOS be, in terms of promoting a bluer economy? Are there international funds for blue economy projects that you are aware of? 

Commodore Daniel Atakpa: A law of the sea institute such as the BILOS could play a significant role in blue economy advocacy and training in ocean governance provisions of UNCLOS. On international blue economy funds, I’ll admit I am not aware of any particular fund specifically dedicated to the blue economy. However, I am aware there is the UNSDG Fund established after the adoption of the UNSDG in September 2015. The fund is aimed at assisting UN member States eradicate poverty in their respective countries. Perhaps the fund may be accessed through the SDG 14 implementation strategy plan – I hope so. Also, I recall there were some international bodies at the 2019 European Union Maritime Day held in Lisbon, who had indicated their willingness to financially support individuals and institutions championing the blue economy ideals, particularly in the area of marine liters prevention. 

Q11. Victor Ventura: How relevant would international cooperation be, in terms of fostering blue economy initiatives between countries? Would you envisage a partnership between Nigerian and Brazil, given both countries’ oceanic features? 

Commodore Daniel Atakpa: The future of the blue economy is a collaborative future on the basis of ocean global commons. Although Brazil is geographically distant from Nigeria (smiles), notwithstanding, both countries could mutually engage through diplomatic/bilateral cooperation to exchange blue economy ideas/expertise, as well as implementation strategies. One area that readily comes to mind, as a hydrographer, is in joint hydrographic training/exercises for mapping blue economy spaces. Another area, as a law of the sea expert, is through joint law of the sea conferences/seminars/workshops on blue economy. I think the opportunities for partnership are as varied as our individual and collective expertise would allow. 

Concluding word: I sincerely thank you Vic for the opportunity given me to share my thoughts on the blue economy. I look forward to more engagements in the future. Fair winds.  

Commodore Daniel Atakpa can be reached at:

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