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The Chief of Staff, Akosua Frema Osei-Opare, has tasked the Maritime Organisation of West and Central Africa (MOWCA), to curb the seeming surge in pirate attacks on waters within the sub-region.
The Ghana Navy has revealed that 39 pirate attacks were recorded on the Gulf of Guinea between January and October 2021, with the latest occurring on October 11, 2021, when personnel successfully warded off an attempted pirate attack on a Tuna vessel off the south of Aflao.
The new modus operandi of pirates, according to the Ghana Navy, is to kidnap seafarers and demand ransom, rather than simply hijacking oil vessels.
The Chief of Staff made the admonition in her keynote address at the Opening Ceremony of the 16th Extraordinary Session of the General Assembly of the Maritime Organisation of West and Central Africa.
“Over 90% of Africa’s international trade, imports, and exports are conducted by sea. For us in Ghana and across our sub-region, seaports serve not only for domestic trade, but also trade with other landlocked countries and the international community. However, the Africa continent faces many maritime-related challenges, with the biggest of them being maritime insecurity. This, I know, is a major concern for most coastal nations within our region. The Gulf of Guinea has become a dangerous area for both merchants and fishing vessels with the area fast becoming a breeding ground for pirates. Armed robbery and the illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing practices are also on the rise in our waters, a problem that can only be solved through cooperation between nations to fish out these criminals.
Again, the sub-region by virtue of its geographical location, has all the benefits of the Gulf of Guinea, including its stores of oil. The area, which stretches from the coast of Senegal to Angola, although notorious for illicit activities, is still one of the most preferred routes for ships transporting goods through Africa. It is, therefore, our responsibility to protect this area, and I implore members to urgently take steps to address any security issues. I have no doubt that MOWCA would be at the forefront of leading an effort to improve safety and security of our territorial waters.”
She further charged the sub-regional maritime body to work towards securing adequate representation of the sub-region on the Council of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), responsible for regulating shipping across the globe.
“So far, only Kenya, Egypt and South Africa are represented on the IMO Council, with none of these three representing the West and Central Africa sub-region. It is therefore pertinent to initiate the process of ensuring MOWCA’s representation at the IMO to guarantee this Region’s representation on the Council.”
The Minister for Transport, Kwaku Ofori Asiamah, who is also the Chairman for MOWCA, in his opening address at the Opening Ceremony of the 16th Extraordinary Session of the General Assembly of MOWCA, charged member states to come together for the body to make significant strides in creating a safe environment for the exploration of resources within its maritime domain.
“On account of our geographical location, we occupy a strategically important position in the Gulf of Guinea. We rely heavily on international maritime commerce and exploitation of our maritime resources. To reap the full benefits of our proximity to the maritime space, there is the need for member states to collaborate more in the development of strategies for the sustainable utilisation of our maritime resources. This calls for the urgent revitalisation of regional bodies, particularly MOWCA. We must be committed to the objectives that brought us together and adhere strictly to our rules and procedure.”
The Maritime Organisation of West and Central Africa (MOWCA) was established in 1975 as the Ministerial Conference of West and Central African States on Maritime Transport (MINCONMAR). Its aim was to provide the sub-region with an institutional mechanism for having control over the cost of carriage by sea of foreign trade member states. It also sought to ensure the provision of profitable transport services within member states.
In 1999, the organisation adopted its current name, MOWCA and since then, the mission of the organisation has been expanded to include safety of navigation, institutional support for maritime businesses, capacity building and sustainable financing of maritime and port sectors.