The Attorney–General and Minister for Justice’s office and the Ghana Maritime Authority (GMA) are working on a new maritime bill, which, when passed into law by parliament, will see suspected pirates arrested in the country’s waters sentenced to a maximum 15 years’ jail term.
The move has become imperative as incidences of pirate attacks on the Gulf of Guinea is on the rise but the nation’s laws are inadequate to deal with the menace. Ghana, has since 2020 till date, recorded nine pirate attacks in its territorial waters in the Gulf of Guinea.
Six out of the nine incidents took place last year, with three occurrences taking place 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. it is against this background that the authority is currently pushing for stricter piracy laws and stiffer punishment for culprits.
Speaking to the B&FT, Director-General of the Ghana Maritime Authority, Thomas Kofi Alonsi said: “The proposal we have made to be factored into the law is that, when you are arrested on Ghana’s waters, you should be sentenced to a maximum of 15 years imprisonment. The Attorney General has brought a new draft and his office wants to have a comprehensive maritime offenses bill that would look at other areas of the industry.
The new law covers a whole gamut of our operations and we think it is the way to go. This new law would be an amalgamation of the pieces of maritime law scattered all over. It gives a one stop shop to all the law offenses and its ramification. This would make things easy for us as an industry.”
Currently the nation’s laws do not permit the culprits apprehended for engaging in piracy to be persecuted in Ghana because it does not view piracy as a public threat. Rather, people arrested for crimes of piracy in Ghana are often sent to Nigeria for prosecution.
According to him, Sections 193 and I94 of the Criminal Offences Act have some gaps in them that make it very difficult to deal with pirates in Ghana
“It is very difficult if a law is not provided that deals with a particular crime, you cannot be persecuting somebody when you do not have the law to do so. Together with the Attorney General’s Department, what we are seeking to get a new law,” Mr. Alonsi added
This, he added, would make it possible for pirates to be effectively dealt with when they are apprehended within the territorial waters of Ghana.
He is worried the nations blue economy might face some setbacks in terms of vessels being attracted to the country if expedient measures are not taken quickly to address the challenge.