Tighten the net on maritime safety—Bawumia tells regulators

Vice-President Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, in a pose with Transport Minister Kwaku Ofori Asiamah and heads of maritime administrations that are signatories to the Abuja MoU

Vice-President Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia has tasked heads of maritime administrations across the West and Central Africa region to ensure strict compliance with port state control measures that will secure the marine environment and make it attractive to international trade.

Opening the third ministerial conference of the Abuja MoU on Port State Control for West and Central Africa in Accra, he highlighted the need for port countries to protect and enhance the socio-economic gains of seaborne trade by leveraging the vast maritime resources.

He said: “Tighten the net and enforce compliance to international maritime instruments that will help to conserve the oceans and marine resources for sustainable development.

“Shipping is indispensable because every country relies on sea borne transport to some large extent; shipping and international trade goes hand in hand and it is very critical to African economies, especially port states.”

He added: “We must act to ensure that all ships that call at our ports are seaworthy and do not pollute the sea environment.”

Dr. Bawumia implored stakeholders and signatories to the Abuja MoU to deliberate on further actions that will be required to eliminate activities of substandard vessels so as to make the regional seas attractive to international trade.

According to the vice president, Ghana’s commitment to the Abuja MoU is aligned with government’s efforts to leverage the regional integration approach to contribute toward global maritime trade and protect the regional marine environment.

Port state controls basically provides for the inspection of foreign ships in other national ports to determine the compliance-level of such ships with international conventions and codes governing maritime safety, marine pollution, as well as living and working conditions of seafarers aboard vessels.

The Abuja MoU on Port State Control aims to ensure a system of harmonised inspection procedures for the West and Central Africa region, targetted at the reduction and eventual elimination of sub-standard ships.

Minister of Transport, Kwaku Ofori Asiamah, in his remarks indicated that having efficient ships in the regional waters is fundamental to the transportation of goods, because effective trade between countries requires a safe and secure marine environment.

He added: “We cannot in any way compromise with standards, as many sub-standard vessels continue to operate in our waters.

“Member-countries of the Abuja MoU must tighten the net through effective coordination and harmonisation of port state control procedures to improve maritime safety.”

Assistant General Secretary to the Abuja MoU and IMO Representative, Lawrence Barchue, urged the need for proper legislation that will protect the maritime economy from the threats of substandard shipping – which, according to him, will require equal determination from maritime administrators of various port states.

To him, the real gains of shipping to every port state can be realised only when there are numerous quality ships operating in the waters of the region, and anything short of that would be exploitation.

“Maritime administrators in port states have the responsibility to ensure they do not fall for exploitation, and that their maritime jurisdictions do not become playgrounds for sub-standard ships,” he indicated.

The Director-General of the Ghana Maritime Authority (GMA) said in his remarks that the conference was apt and timely, as there is a need for joint action to improve maritime safety and help eliminate sub-standard shipping in the sub-region.

He said the GMA is poised to carry out its mandate to ensure the safety, security and prevention of pollution in the country’s marine environment.

He said: “Together with our maritime partners of the Abuja MoU, we believe that our renewed efforts will tighten the net and get rid of sub-standard ships operating in our region. This will lead us in our quest for safer and cleaner oceans”.