Maritime security chiefs from the West African sub-region are meeting in Accra to share ideas and harmonise strategies to deal with rising piracy and other criminal activities along the Gulf of Guinea.
The West African sub-region has suffered several attacks by pirates and other gangs of criminals in recent times, from Angola to Nigeria and in Togo, Benin and Ghana.
Speaking at the opening of the Second Coastal and Maritime Surveillance Africa Conference and International Defence Exhibition, 2015, on Tuesday, the Minister of the Interior, Mr Mark Owen Woyongo, described crimes at sea as having assumed alarming proportions and posing a huge threat to global commerce, particularly in West Africa.
The threats confronting African states in the maritime domain are trans-national crimes perpetrated by the same criminal gangs, Woyongo said.
Mr Woyongo called for inter-regional and inter-agency collaborative efforts to combat the maritime crimes which, he said, were at a centre stage in the Gulf of Guinea.
Stakeholders in the maritime industry, he said, were making huge investments in infrastructure, driving the need for security and protection solutions.
Rear Admiral Geoffrey Mawuli, the Chief of Naval Staff, expressed worry over vaguely defined maritime borders in the West African region, which had encouraged pirates to launch more attacks along the coastal areas.
He said a Ghanaian registered fishing vessel was hijacked a few months ago and moved across borders to Nigeria, but when the vessel was released one crew member was dead and two were still missing at sea and presumed dead.
A Ghana Navy ship also succeeded in rescuing a hijacked vessel and arrested eight armed pirates who were currently standing trial in Accra, he said.
“We the naval forces and other security agencies have to stay a step ahead of the criminals,” Rear Admiral Mawuli told participants.
The conference, which is on the theme: “Delivering Total Surveillance of African Maritime Domains,” is one of the initiatives the security chiefs are taking to help naval forces in West Africa to deal with rising pirates and other criminal activities.
“The criminals take advantage of our ill-defined international maritime borders to commit crimes in one country and immediately move into other country’s territorial waters to escape arrest, Rear Admiral Mawuli said.
“Pirates and other criminal gangs have been emboldened and are launching more daring attacks and also becoming more violent,” he said.
The crushing crude oil prices during the period are also said to be a threat to security in the region while dwindling investments in the offshore oil and gas industry is likely to impact on investments in maritime security.