Maritime Lawyer and former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Ghana Shippers’ Authority, Dr. Kofi Mbia is proposing the shepherding of vessels in and out of the Gulf of Guinea to fight the rising pirate attacks.
According to him, some concerted effort is needed among countries along the Gulf of Guinea to ensure that the menace, which is currently threatening the blue economies of these countries, is addressed head-on.
Speaking to the B&FT at the Inauguration of Women in Maritime West and Central Africa (WIMOWCA) organized by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), Dr. Mbiah said: “At the height of the problem in Somalia, one of the key things they did was to have a dedicated lane where all the vessels will pass, so the vessel is guided through that lane till it is off.
The way these criminal elements are acting within the waters it would mean that if we do not have dedicated lanes, we are going to have bigger challenges. We would have to deploy equipment in many areas for monitoring purposes but if we have dedicated lanes then, with less equipment, you are able to guard those vessels to safety and that is something we should be looking at.”
He said for this to be successful, there should be the buy-in of all the nations using the Gulf of Guinea so that the shepherding would be coordinated among the countries.
“This takes collaboration because it cannot be done for and by one country, Somalia happened to be one country so it was a little easier for the naval forces but here we have a number of countries that share the Gulf of Guinea with Ghana. As a result, some form of collaboration is needed among the nations to help shepherd the vessels in and out,” he said.
He believes that if this is diligently done, pirates on the Gulf of Guinea would have no incentive than to leave to other areas. “Once you do that, after a time and the criminals are not getting any vessels and they don’t get ransoms, it will die by itself.”
Ghana, according to its maritime authority, has since 2020 recorded nine pirate attacks in its territorial waters in the Gulf of Guinea. Out of the nine incidents that took place last year, three occurrences happened between January and June 2021. These attacks were mainly on ships transporting bulk petroleum and its products and ships carrying exotic goods.
Though the menace is rapidly increasing in West Africa, the Ghana Maritime Authority (GMA), told the B&FT that these recorded attacks, actually started from other countries and penetrated into Ghana’s exclusive economic zone. The GMA maintains that it is currently pushing for stricter piracy laws and stiffer punishment for culprits.
As the attention of the world has been diverted to COVID-19, piracy and armed attacks against ships’ crews in the Gulf of Guinea remain a serious problem, requiring a concerted response by the international community at the highest level.