The Ghana Maritime Authority (GMA) in collaboration with the Navy and Marine Police have started all night security patrols at the Takoradi Anchorage and the western coastline to halt illegal fuel bunkering in the area.
Deputy Director and Manager in charge of the GMA in the Western Region, Captain William Eson Thompson who told the Ghanaian Times in an interview said GMA personnel were working together with four armed officers, who sail to the Takoradi Anchorage on two vessels, the ‘Paa Grant’ and ‘Private Odartey’ to stop the practice.
Captain Thompson said Private Odartey, which was smaller and faster, makes frequent rounds at the anchorage whiles ‘Paa Grant’ was anchored in a strategic position such that small crafts departing and returning to the shore are easily sighted.
The Deputy Director said the Navy also conducts normal patrols on the whole of Ghana’s coast and Exclusive Economic (EEZ).
He indicated that the GMA-Navy-Marine Police joint patrols had effectively checked the petty stealing incidents that used to take place in the area.
“Petty stealing means locals board vessels at anchorage with the intention of stealing paint, ropes and other ships store. These are not armed and have no intention of harming ship’s crew but only to steal whatever they can lay hands on and quickly run away,” he said.
“Thieves disguised as fishermen board vessels at anchorage to steal. Others also use large wooden vessels called ‘Dendeys’ to smuggle diesel from vessels drifting in our territorial waters and bring it to the shore. These products that may not be wholesome are loaded into road tankers and eventually end up being sold on our market,” Capt. Thompson added.
In addition to patrols, he told the Ghanaian Times that GMA officers together with the Marine Police had visited fishing communities to advise fishermen to desist from fishing too close to vessels at the anchorage “as they could be treated as having the intention to board the vessel.”
The GMA Deputy Director revealed that many arrests have been made, adding that the cases have been handed over to the Marine Police for further action.
Commenting on the effects of the illegal trade Capt. Thompson said “The port could be tagged as an unsafe port in international circles. This means business will go down because insurance premiums will shoot up and any prudent ship owner will prefer a safer port, where it will cost them less to do business.”
Mr Thompson described the joint marine operations as good and hoped that the exercise would be sustained to protect marine economy.
He said through such collaboration, the Western Naval Command and marine police had arrested 23 persons suspected to be engaged in illegal bunkering.
The suspects are currently in the custody of the Ghana marine police while the wooden boat ‘dendey’ has been anchored at the Western Naval Command.
FROM CLEMENT ADZEI BOYE, TAKORADI