The Minister of Transport, Kwaku Ofori Asiamah, has said that government’s heavy investment in modern information systems and equipment to ensure the safety and security of Ghana’s territorial waters are already yielding results and boosting the country’s image.
For instance, he said, the country through the Ghana Maritime Authority (GMA) has recently acquired five speed-boats and two search and rescue boats to ensure safety within the country’s maritime space.
The vessels are to help clamp down on the increasing spate of illicit and crime activities in Ghana’s territorial waters, while the rescue boats are used for quick and effective evacuation of victims or survivors in case of emergencies and accidents.
Similarly, the country has also invested a significant amount of money on the drastic upgrade of its traffic management information system, which enables the monitoring of activities in the West African nation’s maritime space and beyond.
These tools enable effective and direct communication with captains of vessels to provide real-time assistance in the event of pirate attacks.
With the tools, equipment and/or machinery already in use, Mr. Ofori Asiamah said the country’s territorial waters are now safe and attracting lots of vessels.
“Ghana is therefore on course to becoming a safe haven for vessels in the sub-region. Due to such investments and the positive strives made over the years, we keep enjoying the attention of many others and vessels regularly dock and refuel in Ghana,” he noted.
Mr. Ofori Asiamah made this observation when he addressed Justices of the Superior Courts of Ghana on the occasion of the 12th Maritime Law Seminar, held in Accra on 11-12 October 2019.
The event is held every two years, and was designed by the Ghana Shippers Authority (GSA) in collaboration with the Judicial Training Institute (JTI) to bring the about-70 Justices of the Superior Courts of Judicature together in order to deepen their understanding and knowledge of maritime-related matters.
It was also to further enrich and strengthen justice delivery on maritime-related cases.
Furthermore, he said, government remains committed to positioning Ghana as the preferred destination for business in the West African sub-region – particularly as the shipping and logistics centre, since the maritime industry over the foreseeable future will continue to be the main driver of intra and international trade to stimulate growth and socio-economic development.
As a result of this, he said, government in partnership with the private sector is investing heavily in port expansion at both Takoradi and Tema Ports.
“The ultra-modern MPS terminal, which is equipped with state of the art facilities and logistics, has the capacity to receive bigger vessels and is one example of such bigger investments government is pursuing. The government has for the first time in the history of Ghana given the opportunity for indigenous Ghanaian business people to develop the Takoradi Port; with a multi-purpose terminal to the tune of US$450million. That is the commitment of this government,” he underscored.
He added: “We believe we cannot develop our infrastructure without the direct involvement of our people, and we want to showcase that Ghana’s indigenous people also have the capacity to develop”.
Delivering the keynote address at the Seminar, Chief Justice of the land, Her Ladyship Justice Sophia Akuffo, urged the Justices to apprise themselves with maritime laws in the area of Ocean Governance and Maritime Trade, since disputes and conflicts in these areas have become inevitable with the fast pace of technological advancement.
She said the constant and consistent upgrade of knowledge for judges to be abreast with exigencies of the time is a must, and should not be taken for granted if the country’s quest to become the hub of maritime activities in the sub-region is to be taken seriously.
“The advent of technology and increased globalisation has introduced new challenges, thus triggering disputes that require new jurisprudence. To dispense commercial justice in the fast-paced world of today, a greater number of judges must appreciate the peculiar nature of the industry in which maritime disputes arise,” she observed.
The Minister of Justice and Attorney-General, Ms. Gloria Akufo, on her part reiterated the judiciary’s need to sharpen its skills in the maritime laws to forestall the creeping uneasiness along the coast – due to the increasing discovery of oil and gas in commercial quantities which is making disputes inevitable in the sector.
She therefore urged organisers of the training programme to include some lawyers in the bi-annual programme in order to ensure that both the Bench and the Bar are on the same page with regard to the maritime laws, as well as latest developments in the maritime sector.
Ms. Akufo also urged the faculties of law in the country’s various universities to consider introducing courses related to the maritime sector and its laws into their curriculum, in order to raise lawyers with the requisite expertise in maritime issues and disputes.
The Chief Executive Officer of the GSA, Ms. Benonita Bismark, in her opening address indicated that the need for members of the judiciary’s constant training on the current issues and laws concerning the maritime sector cannot be overemphasised.
According to her, Ghana has the potential to become the centre of adjudication for maritime cases due to its strategic positioning and favourable business environment.