The Chief of the Naval Staff (CNS) of the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF) – Rear Admiral (R/Adm) Issah Adam Yakubu, has refuted claims made by a Malaysian-based international maritime setup, that sought to portray Ghana as one of the countries that recorded the highest number of piracy incidents, in 2022.
Speaking in an address at an event where the Danish Government donated two vehicles to Ghana Navy’s (GN) Special Boat Squadron, at the Naval Headquarters, Burma Camp, Accra, on Friday 14 April 2023, Admiral Yakubu described the latest data on piracy released by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) Piracy Reporting Centre, as utterly misleading and disingenuous.
Citing the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) definition of piracy: “an act of violence or detention perpetrated on the high seas against a ship outside of state’s jurisdiction of 12 nautical miles off its coast”, he said it makes the crime one of universal jurisdiction, thus any state can respond to a piracy incident, anywhere it occurs on the high seas.
With the authoritative definition of piracy by UNCLOS, the Admiral, thus disputed the Maritime Bureau’s redefinition of piracy as “the act of boarding any vessel with the intent to commit theft or any other crime, and with an intent or capacity to use force in furtherance of that act.”
With reference to incidents of petty thefts that occurred on some vessels at Ghana’s Takoradi Harbour, the CNS stated categorically that none of the incidents of petty thefts that occurred on some vessels at the Takoradi Port and anchorage fit any of the two definitions; “In none of those incidents was violence used and none of those vessels reported seeing any intruders onboard. All they reported was the detection of missing petty items, such as paints and ropes stowed on the upper decks, which are outside of living spaces of the vessels”.
While admitting that Ghana can do more to improve security at her ports and anchorages, he called on vessel crews to bear full responsibility for what happens onboard their vessels, where law enforcement officers have no access, particularly where no violence nor the threat of it is involved; “It is like leaving your front door open and blaming the police, when thieves sneak in to steal your belongings”, he added.
Stressing that there has not been any violent attack or kidnapping against vessels in Ghanaian waters in the last two years, R/Adm Yakubu said efforts by GN and its collaborators, have nipped piracy in Ghanaian waters in the bud, by building capacity and sharing information, resulting in increased presence of GN at sea, and the deployment of armed guards on fishing vessels.
The Kuala Lumpur-based IMB’s 2022 Piracy Report, without citing locations of alleged actual and attempted incidents piracy and armed robbery against vessels, from January to December, 2022, asserts that there were 7 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships in Ghana, portraying her as the African country with the highest activity of the maritime crimes, with the whole of Africa recording 21 such incidents, according to the bureau.
The report further claimed that there was 1 gun attack, 2 knife attacks, 4 ‘not stated’ attacks, summing up to 1 attempted and 6 boarded incidents.
It is widely believed that some maritime industry practitioners tag particular maritime zones as high risk for shipping vessels, hence encouraging merchant vessels that ply such routes to charge astronomical cost of freight and insurance, in order to increase profit margins of shipping lines.
There have been many cases when crews have sent messages to their shipping companies to allege attempted boarding, stealing of paints, and others, when they actually were birthed at anchorage, and never make the effort to call the local police to register any said crime, attempted or actual.