Experts in Ghana’s maritime industry have sent out a clarion call to governments in the West African region to invest enough into the acquisition of maritime security logistics and adoption of uniform procedures in the fight against piracy bedevilling the Gulf of Guinea.
Speaking on Eye on Port, maritime law consultant, and legal practitioner Dr. Emmanuel Kofi Mbiah emphasized that necessary steps ought to be taken else, the piracy menace could exacerbate to a point where the gulf becomes ungovernable.
Citing recent piracy figures, he said 162 incidents were recorded at the Gulf of Guinea in 2019 compared to 195 incidents recorded in 2020.
“Around April 2021, we have recorded almost about 47 incidents and we don’t know what will happen by the end of the year. But if what is happening in recent times is anything to go by then it’s a cause for concern,” he said.
Harbour Master at the Port of Tema, Capt. Francis Kwesi Micah, doubled down on this assertion, saying if the right measures are not put in place, the consequences will be spread across board.
“Nations should be up and doing, it is a clear and present danger and we need to nib this with all the might that we have. If we fail we have no excuse,” he said.
Capt. Micah, while chronicling piracy in the Somali area in years past, recommended policy makers to take cues from efforts made to combat the menace in the East Coast of Africa.
“It is only when we have more than enough logistics at sea at vantage locations and also call for support that we can succeed,” he said.
On the issue of employing armed guards deployed on vessels, he said governments should introduce protocols that would regulate such operations.
“Governments are also mindful that these weapons do not end up in the hands of indisciplined armed guards eventually and they becoming pirates themselves. So it needs to go with some enhanced seamless protocols that need to be worked out to ensure that these things are all in order. Because if you are unable to do that it backfires,” he said.
Capt. Micah called on all nations in the Gulf of Guinea to take the fight against piracy seriously.
“It is important for all nations in the Gulf of Guinea to be up and doing. If we are unable to nib things as they stand now, we greatly stand to lose. Somalia was a failed state but their activities transcended into the largesse of the Indian Ocean,” he said.
Dr. Mbiah revealed existing initiatives for the Ghana Navy to provide support for merchant and fishing vessels, but he underscored the limitedness of such an intervention.
“With respect to merchandise ships, they are liaising with the Ghana Navy and the latter is providing armed guards. Apart from placing the armed guards, naval vessels are also escorting vessels and bringing them in and that is very useful. This is one measure of dealing with it but it is not solving the problem in its entirety,” he said.
He also explained how the kidnapping dynamic has made aggressive combat difficult to deploy at sea and further on shore.
“Once kidnapping comes into the fray, then they use the people they have kidnapped as human shields and consequently if you want to attack, you need to be careful,” he stated.
Dr. Mbiah and Captain Micah revealed the sophistication and complexities associated with activities of pirates giving more reason for deterrent initiatives to be adopted.
Dr. Mbiah who is a maritime Lawyer and former Chief Executive of the Ghana Shippers’ Authority said the modus operandi of the pirates is such that they have very fast boats, some with 500 horse power and above.
“If you are a vessel, you cannot chase them into the creeks because your draft will only get to a point. But because of the nature of the boats they are using they are able to go into creeks of the Niger delta which is a safe place for them,” he said.
Captain Micah said the sophistication of the craft of the pirates is such that they use very powerful outboard motors.
They also urged governments to escalate their concerns more fervently to the international community so they can assist where Africa falls short.