Purpose of Special Boat Units
The units will be trained in ship hijack, hostage rescue and landing operations to protect ships from pirate attacks in Ghana’s territorial waters.
That, according to the Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Rear Admiral Geoffrey M. Biekro, would forestall a repeat of the attack on a ship by pirates while it was in anchor in Benin’s territorial waters last year, resulting in several months of load-shedding in the country.
He explained that Ghana’s conventional forces and equipment were not suitable to counter threats by pirates, for which reason there was the need for formidable special forces to deal with those threats.
Rear Admiral Biekro, who was addressing a stakeholders’ cocktail in the maritime sector in Accra last Friday, indicated that assistance would be sought from appropriate foreign and local partners for the training and acquisition of equipment for the units.
The cocktail, which brought together personnel from the foreign missions and financial institutions, was meant to express the GN’s appreciation to the stakeholders for their support over the years and also afford the CNS to spell out his vision upon assuming office in May this year.
Threats on Ghana’s territorial waters
The Naval chief, who touched on a wide range of issues, including challenges confronting the GN, stated that the threats to national security, economic threats and threats to the marine environment were some of the dangers the country faced in its maritime domain.
“We also have transnational crimes that are posing serious national security threats to the country,” he added.
He expressed concern that the inability to exercise full control of the maritime domain had resulted in the inability to fully exploit fishery resources and that illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing had caused the government to import up to $500 million worth of fish annually.
“Apart from the economic losses, there are also human security losses, with a reduction in protein intake and impoverishing of fishing communities,” Rear Admiral Biekro said.
He also touched on the issue of oil theft which he described as a major economic threat to Ghana’s maritime domain.
He condemned the phenomenon of criminal gangs conniving with officials to steal crude oil from offshore installations, a practice which he said was very common in oil producing countries in the Gulf of Guinea and which cost the region about $1.2 billion a year.
Ghana, he added, had had its fair share of the phenomenon, noting that there had been several occasions when tankers stole oil from the Saltpond Oil Ri.
He said if mechanisms were not put in place to protect the oil in the Jubilee Field, that criminal activity could be committed on a much larger scale.
Vision for the GN
The Naval boss outlined his vision, which included maintaining a professional, well motivated, cohesive and formidable Naval force highly responsive in delivering its mandate of a safe and secure maritime domain while maintaining the time-rested traditions of the GN.
He outlined what he described as the “smart strategy” for the GN, which included achieving total surveillance coverage of the exclusive economic zone of Ghana, maintaining ships at high operational readiness state, establishing and maintaining highly skilled specialised forces for various maritime security operations and enhancing cooperation with the navies of neighbouring countries.
GN priority projects
Rear Admiral Biekro said much as the government was committed to equipping the Navy, not all of its priority projects had been captured in the national budget.
He enumerated special forces training and equipment, acquisition of training simulators and accommodation projects as other projects the GN intended to tackle.
By Sebastian Syme/Daily Graphic/Ghana