A Six-Week maritime affairs and security training which forms part of efforts to combat maritime insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea was opened at the Regional Maritime University (RMU) in Accra on Monday.
The training, which falls under the European Union (EU) Support to West Africa Integrated Maritime Security (SWAIMS) programme, would be the third edition as two were held in past years.
Participating countries for this year’s course include Ivory Coast, Benin, Togo, Nigeria and Ghana, and they would be taken through various areas of maritime insecurity by renowned experts from maritime industry, defence and security, shipping and fishing industry, the academia and research institutions.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, the Vice-Chancellor of the RMU, Dr Jethro W. Brooks, said the course would help build capacities and competencies of staff and personnel of maritime focus agencies and institutions across the West African Region in combating crimes in the Gulf of Guinea.
He said the security and prosperity of the Gulf of Guinea states depended on the seas, adding that the Gulf of Guinea, with over 25 commercial ports, connected global markets, provided essential resources and linked coastal and landlocked states together.
“By value, about 90 per cent of regional trade travels by sea, facilitating commerce and supporting million jobs,” Dr Brooks stated.
Unfortunately, he said for decades, the free and peaceful use of the Gulf of Guinea waters had come under severe threats from criminals at sea, including illegal fishing, pollution, narcotics, arms trafficking and other illicit activities.
The RMU Vice-Chancellor added that with strong commitment through collaborative efforts by states of the Gulf of Guinea, and with support from international partners for programmes such as SWAIMS in areas of equipment and training, the region recorded significant decline in maritime piracy incidents in 2021 and 2022.
On his part, the Deputy Director General of Ghana Maritime Authority (GMA), Mr Daniel Appianin, reiterated that the maritime crime prevention course held in the past had yielded some positive results, which meant that the Gulf of Guinea would be able to deal completely with maritime crimes.
“According to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), out of the 90 global piracy and armed robbery incidents recorded between January and September 2022, 13 have been reported in the Gulf of Guinea region, compared to 27 over the same period in 2021,” he stated.
He expressed appreciation to the EU for consistently supporting the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in promoting maritime affairs and combating maritime crimes in the Gulf of Guinea.
Project Coordinator, Eng. Augustus Addy Lamptey, said the feedback from the programme over the years had been impressive with decrease in maritime crimes since 2020.
The training, he said, would focus on areas including introduction to maritime crimes, legal framework, blue economy and maritime safety.
He charged all participants to make the most out of the training since it discussed critical ways of dealing with the menace of piracy, armed robbery and other maritime crimes within the waters.
BY MICHAEL D. ABAYATEYE