A high-level maritime security seminar will be convened early next week by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission at its headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria, from 4th to 5th April 2022. The seminar is organised in the framework of the European Union-funded Support to West Africa Integrated Maritime Security (SWAIMS) project.
Among other matters, the seminar will review and refine modalities on the distribution of essential maritime security equipment across ECOWAS’ littoral countries.
“Maritime insecurity has long been one of the most persistent and intractable threats to maritime communities and economic prosperity in West Africa,” revealed Col Abdourahmane Dieng, the Head of ECOWAS’ Regional Security Division. “Cognisant of this problem and its ramifications well beyond West Africa, ECOWAS launched its Integrated Maritime Strategy in 2014 with parameters for the development of the blue economy premised upon a coherent security framework,” he added.
Turning the tide against maritime insecurity is a collaborative effort that no single country or region can tackle alone. For this reason, ECOWAS, in conjunction with the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), formulated the Yaoundé Code of Conduct as a foundation for broad-based regional maritime security along the entire Gulf of Guinea. But the security partnership goes beyond Africa, embracing the European Union (EU) and other key international players geographically outside the Gulf of Guinea because the Gulf is of global importance as a crucial international maritime route.
“The EU is a committed partner to the Gulf of Guinea region and will continue to provide extensive and targeted assistance to strengthen the critical features of the Yaoundé security architecture, further cementing the long-standing relationship between ECOWAS and the EU,” affirmed Ambassador Nicolas Berlanga Martinez, the EU Senior Coordinator for the Gulf of Guinea, who will attend the event in person.
Among these efforts is the EU-funded ECOWAS project tagged SWAIMS, a collaborative, complex, multi-component, regional initiative implemented by various partners, and covering all 15 ECOWAS countries.
SWAIMS is helping organise the high-level maritime security seminar bringing together representatives from the 12 coastal ECOWAS countries: Benin, Cabo Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea-Conakry, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Senegal and Togo. Attending will be high level officials from the Ministries of Defence (mostly the Navy), Transport (mostly Maritime Agencies) and Foreign Affairs.
The seminar will finalise an agreement on the delivery of rigid-hull inflatable boats (RHIBs) to each coastal ECOWAS state that forms a crucial part of the SWAIMS project. The boats and forensic equipment will be supplied to coastal ECOWAS countries by Portugal’s Camões, IP. Camões, working closely with the Portuguese Navy, will also provide related training and maintenance.
“In financial terms, the delivery of RHIBs and forensic equipment worth more than 5 million euros is the most significant component of the SWAIMS project,” observed Dr Axel Klein, SWAIMS Team Leader. The boats and equipment will significantly enhance the capacity of beneficiary countries to enforce the rule of law in their territorial waters and adjoining exclusive economic zones.
SWAIMS adopts a pragmatic and holistic approach to enhancing maritime security. Equipment supply is not only a crucial extension but also a logical follow-up to the other SWAIMS components that – through the training of personnel, the drafting of standard operating procedures, and the strengthening of the legal framework – have engendered the necessary preconditions for efficient and effective use of the equipment. Besides Camões, other SWAIMS implementing partners assuring these various preconditions are Institut de sécurité maritime interregional in Côte d’Ivoire, Regional Maritime University in Ghana, ECOWAS’ Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.