The Director-General of the Ghana Maritime Authority, Thomas Alonsi, has said that the threat of piracy to the nation’s blue economy needs to be dealt with vigorously, as it is being done to unscrupulous persons engaged in illegal mining popularly known as galamsey.
According to him, the huge investments the nation has made into the maritime sector will come to nought if the continuous threat being posed by pirates on the Gulf of Guinea is not dealt with assiduously.
“We have to explore an effective and collective response to the piracy question that is threatening the otherwise good reputation of the country as far as maritime security is concerned. I pray you [Chief of Defence Staff (CDS)] to consider a wide-ranging response similar to that deployed in the fight against illegal mining,” Mr. Alonsi said.
Mr. Alonsi said this when he and one of his deputies, Yaw Akosa Antwi; the Director-Technical, Captain Inusah Abdul Nasir; and Acting Director-Maritime Services, Nana Boakye-Boampong, paid a courtesy call on the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Vice Admiral Seth Amoama, at his office in Burma Camp, Accra.
His comment is coming at a time when piracy in the Gulf of Guinea is on the ascendency and amounted to 43 percent of reported piracy attacks globally, according to first-quarter data from the International Maritime Bureau – an agency of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC).
The DG said having sat on the GMA Board in the last four years, Vice-Admiral Amoama must have been aware of the steps that have been taken by the GMA to improve security in Ghana’s maritime domain.
“A Vessel Traffic Monitoring and Information System (VTMIS) operated by the Authority has been enhanced to improve surveillance. The GMA is also in the process of acquiring a vessel that can be stationed at sea for a long time for purposes of maintaining security presence there,” Mr. Alonsi said.
He noted that joint patrols by the Authority, the Navy and Marine Police at Takoradi and Tema anchorages had yielded some results, but more needs to be done on the high seas.
The CDS told Mr. Alonsi that the development is high on the security table, and leadership of the Ghana Navy and Ghana Maritime Authority (GMA) are scheduled to meet with their counterparts in Nigeria this week to discuss the joint deployment of naval and air assets in the Gulf of Guinea.
Vice-Admiral Amoama, who is the immediate past Chief of Naval Staff, said there was a meeting of minds as the Ghana Armed Forces are deeply troubled by the recent spate of attacks on vessels in the Gulf of Guinea.
He said even reports of pilfering from ships at the country’s anchorages is not acceptable to the Navy, and steps were taken to deal with them. “President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has equally been concerned about the attacks, and has taken up the issue with his Nigerian counterpart, Muhammadu Buhari, as the perpetrators are believed to come from that country’s troubled Niger Delta region,” he added.
The CDS revealed that his successor Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral Issah Yakubu, had been tasked to liaise with the Nigerians to find a joint solution for the problem of piracy.
Rear Admiral Yakubu, on his part, said a Maritime Defence Cooperation and an ECOWAS Naval Task Force are being mooted to ensure that rules surrounding jurisdictional boundaries will be relaxed to permit countries to conduct operations in others’ maritime domains. “We need a code that will guide operations in each other’s jurisdictions; and we should be able to patrol, for instance, Nigerian waters and pursue criminals into those waters without violating any laws,” he said.
He regretted that, currently, countries within the Gulf of Guinea are largely unresponsive when information relating to piracy activities is shared with them. “This must change under a Maritime Defence Cooperation,” Rear-Admiral Yakubu asserted.