An urgent meeting of maritime and security experts has been held in Accra to address the high incidence of piracy in West African countries.
The second international conference, dubbed: ‚ÄúCombating Piracy: West African Maritime Security‚ÄĚ and jointly organized by Hanson Wade, a United Kingdom (UK) based organization working to overcome life-threatening dangers of maritime piracy and the International Maritime Organization (IMO), commenced on Tuesday.
Reports by the International Maritime Organization put the number of piracy and armed robbery in 2011 worldwide at 544 as against 489 the previous year, representing an increase of 11.3 percent.
Collins Dauda, Minister of Transport, who officially opened the two-day conference, in a keynote address, stated that West Africa recorded an increase in piracy from 47 in 2010 to 61 in 2011.
‚ÄúFrom IMB sources, most incidents reported for West Africa occurred in March 2012 at Abidjan Anchorage in Ivory Coast where robbers seized an LPG tanker. At the Port of Boma Anchorage in the Democratic Republic of Congo, 10 robbers in two boats and intercepted a cargo ship.
Mr. Dauda reiterated that as a result of the increasing incidence of piracy and armed robbery in the Gulf of Guinea, the Ghana Maritime Authority (GMA) was implementing the Vessel Traffic Management Information System.
‚ÄúThis is an integrated electronic surveillance system intended to enhance the country‚Äôs maritime domain awareness for purposes of combating piracy and armed robbery within Ghana‚Äôs maritime jurisdiction. The system, he said, is both AIS and LRIT-compliant.‚ÄĚ
He noted that international and regional cooperation and the formation of the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) had yielded positive results.
Mr. Dauda stressed that owing to the seriousness of the Piracy Issue, the United Nations Security Council voted unanimously to adopt Resolution 2018 on October 30, 2011 which condemned these criminal acts in West Africa.
‚ÄúThe Resolution 2018 called on West African States, governmental and non-governmental organizations to develop domestic laws and regulations in order to criminalize piracy and armed robbery in accordance with the relevant international treaties as a measure to combat the menace.
Peter Issaka Azuma, Director-General, GMA, who chaired the opening ceremony, noted that the main purpose of the conference was to stimulate innovative and strategic thinking on measures to effectively deal with the scourge of piracy and armed¬† robbery in the Gulf of Guinea.
According to him, ‚ÄúFrom 2006, over 500 to 2,000 seafarers have been taken hostage. The total cost of these criminal activities to the global economy is estimated at $12 billion with a growing trend,‚ÄĚ he said.
Mr. Azuma noted that participants would be updated on the relevant security information on latest statistics and intelligence and offered an enhanced insight to improve sub-regional coordination.
They will also be trained on how to obtain support from the international maritime security to effectively deal with the matter.
¬†By Stella Danso Addai