The Minister for Transport, Kwaku Ofori Asiamah, has called for a stronger collaboration to deal with the high emerging risk within the maritime domain as a result of the rising profitability in the seas of the Gulf of Guinea region.
According to him, piracy, illegal bunkering, IUU fishing, and other illicit activities have been on the rise in the Gulf of Guinea within the last decade.
For instance, he said, available records at the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) indicate that in the first quarter of 2021, the Gulf of Guinea recorded 38 reported incidents of piracy activities.
The Q1 2021 IMB Piracy Report further revealed that the Gulf of Guinea accounted for 43% of all reported incidents, including both fired upon incidents and hijacking.
The region also accounted for all 40 crew kidnapped and crew fatality, he added
These, he noted, have resulted in Insurance Companies charging higher insurance premiums, making the cost of maritime operations very expensive within the region.
“We have to work and plan together because now our maritime domain is becoming more profitable. Once your maritime domain is becoming more viable, it means the risk is also high. So, we need to work together and see how best we can minimize this risk to our advantage. Insurance Premium in our maritime domain is one of the highest in the world simply because of this risk associated with the maritime domain”, he noted.
Owing to the seriousness of the situation, the Minister said the Ministries of National Security, Defence, Interior, Transport, Energy, and Communications are in talks to see how they could make the Gulf of Guinea safe for smooth operations.
He also added that, he is aware of a Harmonised Standard Operating Procedure (HSOP) for Maritime Law Enforcement Agencies being developed by the National Maritime Security Committee with funding from the UNODC.
This document is expected to improve operations between the plethora of agencies with mandates within the maritime domain by making it seamless, efficient, and more effective.
Mr. Asiamah made these observations on Thursday, August 12, 2021, when a team from the Center for Maritime Law and Security (CEMLAWS) led by Dr. Kamal Deen-Ali, paid a courtesy call on him to congratulate him on his reappointment as the Minister for Transport and as well, recognize the good works that he is doing for the country.
The call on the Minister by the think-tank Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) was also meant to strengthen its relationship with the Ministry of Transport, having worked with the Ghana Maritime Authority (GMA) for some years now.
Commenting further, Mr. Asiamah said it is only through a harmonious working relationship between the Ministry and CEMLAWS that their research findings could be adopted to influence policy decisions at the national level.
“If you don’t have the right information, you can’t make the right decisions. We are not an island. About 90% of international trade is done on the sea, and it is important for us to create an atmosphere that will enable us to engage multinationals to come into the maritime domain for us to also benefit from them. About 30 years ago, we hadn’t found oil, so, we were not much concerned about the risk associated with other countries.”
“Nigeria was having its own problems. We thought that it will never catch up with us. Today, it has. Once maritime domain becomes profitable, the criminals would like to take advantage of it. About 90% of pirate activities in the world happen in the Gulf of Guinea. Are we going to sit down for them to take over our businesses? We need to run faster because if we don’t, they will catch up with us. But if we work together, we will all reap the benefits of it”, he underscored.
A Research Assistant at CEMLAWS, Stephanie Lolk Larsen, speaking on the matter, gave a brief about how they have been working with the Ghana Maritime Authority (GMA), an agency under the Ministry of Transport, in the areas of legal reforms in the maritime industry as well as that of the National Integrated Maritime Strategy.
She said the research think-tank body has also completed a study in the Niger Delta about the modus operandi of pirates, with their work covering areas such as how it costs to lead an operation for pirates; how much pirates gain from their activities; and what are the networks of the pirates among other things.
“These types of studies or research are very important to really target both our laws and operations at sea”, she noted.
Dr. Kamal-Deen, enthused about the enormous work that has gone into the country’s maritime domain, presented a plague to the Minister in recognition of his good works for the maritime industry; and that of Ghana in general.
The Ag. Chief Director of the Ministry of Transport, Mrs. Mabel Sagoe, contributing to the discussions, said all the research findings of CEMLAW will help the Ministry in its policy decisions.