By Erica Kwapong
The Ghana Maritime Authority (GMA), in collaboration with the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and Maritime Organisation for West and Central Africa (MOWCA), has organised a five-day conference to develop strategies to protect marine environment in West and Central Africa.
The conference, which is aimed towards the implementation of an integrated coast guard network for West and Central Africa, is to combat crime associated with piracy and armed robbery against ships, drug trafficking and weapons, unlawful and improper fishing, and illegal migration
In his opening address, the Director General of the GMA, Mr. Issaka Peter Azuma, said: “The main object of the network is to strengthen regional cooperation and build the requisite capacity for enhanced maritime safety.”
The Minister of Transport, Mike Hammah, who spoke on behalf of Vice President John Dramani Mahama, affirmed that “Credible reports from IMO indicate a total of 27 incidents, involving piracy and armed robbery against ships engaged in international shipping, occurred within the first to third quarters of this year in West Africa.”
Adding, “Ghana is honoured to host the workshop as a testament of our commitment to regional and international cooperation, and to resolve to collaborate with the lead partners to combat all forms of unlawful acts at sea.”
The GMA has therefore, decided to intensify its efforts for effective port state control and flag state implementation, and ensure the prevention of ships source pollution of the maritime environment.
Mr. Azuma stated: “We will continue to vigorously implement maritime security audits at the country’s sea ports and offshore installations, which will provide facilities for ship-interfacing operations, in accordance with the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) code, and the Ghana Maritime Security Act 2004, Act 675″
Rob Wray, a representative of the African Partnership Station, also noted: “The network is aimed at safeguarding human rights and getting rid of the canker eating up our marine environment.”
Meanwhile, the GMA has also drafted the enactment of the requisite pieces of legislation to support Ghana’s oil and gas operation, which are crucial for strengthening the administrative and legal muscles of the authority for effective performance.
Out of 25 member countries of MOWCA, 18 countries were represented at the workshop, including France, the United Kingdom, United States of America and Lithuania.