Protecting Hydrocarbon Wealth
The Ghanaian Navy says it is setting up special boat units to deal with maritime security challenges like piracy in order to secure the country’s new-found offshore oil and gas resources
Ghana to set up special naval units, maritime crime courts to counter piracy
by Oscar Nkala, defenceWeb
The Ghanaian Navy says it is setting up special boat units to deal with maritime security challenges like piracy in order to secure the country’s new-found offshore oil and gas resources.
The establishment of the special units comes after Ghana announced plans to set up the first African special courts to deal with maritime crimes, as piracy takes root in the West Africa’s Gulf of Guinea. Ghana Navy Chief of Naval Staff Rear Admiral Geoffery Biekro said apart from protecting maritime boundaries, offshore oil rigs and pipeline infrastructure, the special boats units will also fight trans-national crimes such as smuggling, illegal fishing, weapons and drug trafficking.
Biekro said foreign partners will fund the training and equipment needs for the special naval units. He added that the Ghanaian Navy is already over-stretched in dealing with national security threats, threats to economic infrastructure and even more serious threats to the security of its newly-found offshore hydrocarbon wealth.
“We also have transnational crimes that are posing serious national security threats to the country. Apart from the economic losses, there are also human security losses, with a reduction in protein intake and impoverishing of fishing communities,” Biekro said.
He said the failure of the navy to exercise full control of the country’s maritime domain has directly led to the inability to exploit fishery resources, forcing the government to import fish annually.
Biekro said oil theft remains the major economic threat to Ghana’s maritime and national economic security due to the advent of criminal gangs which connive with local officials to steal crude oil from offshore installations as evidenced by an increase in the number of foreign tankers found stealing crude oil from offshore facilities in the country’s prestigious Salt Pond and Jubilee oil fields.
Among other national maritime security initiatives, the Ghana Maritime Authority (GMA) in August commissioned a Vessel Traffic Management and Information System (VTMIS) to improve safety and security in the country’s waters. The VTMIS is a state-of-the-art monitoring and surveillance electronic system designed to ensure effective management of maritime boundaries, the protection of maritime resources, offshore oil resources and pipeline infrastructure.
The system can track vessels 1,000 nautical miles from the country’s shores and is operated from four control centres, eight remote sensor sites along the coast and three remote base stations on Lake Volta.
Meanwhile, Ghanaian High Court Chief Justice Georgina Woods says the country will set up special courts to deal specifically with maritime crimes before the end of this year. “Off shore discovery and exploitation of Ghana’s oil and gas resources coupled with significant increase in international trade has brought to the fore the need for the establishment of maritime courts to adjudicate the many maritime cases that will come before the courts. I have therefore decided to set up maritime courts in Accra, Tema and Takoradi,” Woods said.
He said through collaborations with the Ghana Shippers Authority, three judges drawn from the High Court will be sponsored to undertake post-graduate studies with specialisation in maritime law in preparation for deployment to the three new special courts.
Source: Defence Web