Secure Gulf of Guinea from security threats - Chief of Staff charges countries

BY: Della Russel Ocloo
Mrs. Akosua Frema Osei-Opare, Chief of Staff, addressing the opening ceremony of the 16th extraordinary session of the MOWCA. Pictures: BENEDICT OBUOBI
Mrs. Akosua Frema Osei-Opare, Chief of Staff, addressing the opening ceremony of the 16th extraordinary session of the MOWCA. Pictures: BENEDICT OBUOBI

The Chief of Staff, Mrs. Frema Akosua Osei-Opare, has charged maritime sector players in West and Central Africa to protect the Gulf of Guinea from the security threats that are hampering international trade through the domain.

She said the sub-region's geographical location made it a beneficiary of all resources, including oil, and that cooperation among member states was important to improve upon safety and security at sea.

At the opening of the 16th Extraordinary Session of the Maritime Organisation for West and Central Africa (MOWCA) in Accra yesterday, Mrs. Osei-Opare said although 90 per cent of Africa’s international trade, including import and exports, was conducted by sea, insecurity was impacting growth in many coastal states and required a unified front to address the situation.

The conference was aimed at reorganising the sub-regional body to enable it to handle regional maritime matters in line with International Maritime Organisation (IMO) regulations.

Representatives from the 25 member states, including the ministers of Transport, Maritime and Aviation, as well as experts in those sectors, attended.

The reorganisation, officials said, had become necessary following disputes over the organisation’s internal administrative matters, including the failure to elect a new substantive Secretary General for 10 years.

United front

The Gulf of Guinea, Mrs. Osei-Opare stressed, had become a dangerous area for both merchant and fishing vessels, with the area fast becoming a breeding ground for pirates, “while armed robbery and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing continue to rise in our waters”.

MOWCA, she said, would be required to have a united front to be able to guarantee safety and security in the shipping business, as well as ensuring the barest minimum pollution within the sub-region.

“Nurturing a unified front serves as a powerful tool for attaining positive outcomes in all development processes, and I have no doubt that MOWCA would be at the forefront of leading an effort to improve maritime safety and security,” Mrs. Osei-Opare said.

The Chief of Staff, however, expressed regret over the non-payment of dues by member states to finance the running of the organisation.

That, she said, had limited the organisation’s representation on international platforms, including the IMO’s Council where major dialogues and negotiations concerning the sector were held.

Development strategies

The Minister of Transport, Mr. Kwaku Ofori-Asiamah, stressed the need for member states to collaborate more in the development of strategies for the sustainable utilisation of the maritime resources within the region.

The minister, who is also the Chairman of MOWCA, indicated that the organisation had a very important mandate to execute for the safety, security and sustainable exploration of resources in its maritime domain for the benefit of its people.

“We concede that the organisation has experienced some challenges in the past, but this is not the time to apportion blame. Rather, I believe we can learn lessons from the past to guide how we approach the future,” he said.

The quest for the development of a so-called blue economy, Mr. Ofori-Asiamah emphasised, required an effective collaboration and coordination among member states because no single member state could make significant strides on its own.

“Areas such as maritime security, maritime safety and navigation, port and infrastructure development, environmental protection, fisheries, among others, can only become effective when approached with a coordinated and integrated effort,” the minister said.