West African regional experts call for action plan on integrated maritime strategy – Maritime experts from West Africa have asked the ECOWAS Commission to facilitate the development of a detailed action plan for the implementation of the proposed ECOWAS Integrated Maritime Strategy (EIMS), the Commission said in press statement, received here Tuesday by PANA.
At the end their two-day meeting in Banjul, Gambia, on 1 November, 2013, to review and validate the draft EIMS, the experts said the action plan should outline the roles of various stakeholders in support of the strategy designed to address the multifaceted challenges to the realization of the ECOWAS Maritime Domain (EMD).
They urged the Commission to promote the harmonization of National Maritime safety and security initiatives among Member States.
According to the statement, the experts also called for the accreditation of the Accra-based Regional Maritime University and the Regional Maritime Academy of Science and Technology, in Abidjan as ECOWA Centres of Excellence.
They expressed satisfaction with the draft strategic framework which comprises five objective areas aimed at strengthening maritime governance; safeguarding and securing the maritime domain; managing the maritime environment, optimizing the ECOWAS Maritime economy as well as promoting maritime awareness and research among Member States.
Speaking at the opening session of the meeting, the Gambian Minister of Interior, Mr. Ousman Sonko, emphasized ‚Äúthe need for greater cooperation, coordination of efforts and effective complementary roles by all maritime stakeholders‚Äù to harness the abundant resources of the region‚Äôs¬† maritime domain.
He recalled the emergence of transnational maritime crimes in the Gulf of Guinea, and the intervention of the United Nations and the ECOWAS 40th Ordinary Summit of the Heads of State and Government in Abuja last February, which mandated the Commission to develop a holistic EIMS and synergy with the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and the Gulf of Guinea Commission (GGC).
The Minister urged the experts to contribute their expertise in refining the draft EIMS.
In her address, read by the Head of Regional Security Division, Col. Abdourahmane Dieng, the ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Mrs. Salamatu Hussaini Suleiman, outlined the threats of illicit maritime activities in the West African coast and the Gulf of Guinea, and urged stakeholders to adopt a holistic approach in combating the scourge.
She said the Banjul meeting was a follow up to the recent Joint Summit in Yaound√© of the Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS, ECCAS and the GGC on Maritime Safety and Security in the Gulf of Guinea.
Three Strategic documents were endorsed at that summit, namely, a Political Declaration; a Memorandum of Understanding and a Code of Conduct on the repression of piracy, armed robbery and other illicit maritime activities in West and Central Africa.
Also speaking at the opening ceremony,¬† the Permanent Secretary in Gambia‚Äôs Ministry of Defence, Mr. Yusthe atupha Dibba, highlighted the timeliness of the validation of the EIMS, which he described as fundamental to the peace and security architecture of ECOWAS Member States, given the impact of terrorism, piracy, armed robbery at sea, as well as drug trafficking and other transnational maritime crimes in the region.
He stressed the importance of the UN Security Council Resolutions 2018 (2011) and 2039 (2012) in facilitating the collaborative engagement of ECOWAS, ECCAS and the Gulf of Guinea Commission (GGC).
The development of an Integrated Maritime Strategy for the region commenced in 2011 with the rise of piracy, armed robbery at sea and other transnational maritime crimes in the Gulf of Guinea with the Republic of Benin recording heavy losses in revenue.
The subsequent call for UN‚Äôs intervention by Benin President Boni Yayi resulted in the Security Council‚Äôs Resolutions 2018 (2011) and 2039 (2012).
Participants in the Banjul meeting, presided over by the Ivorian Navy Chief, Rear Admiral Djakaridja Konate, included experts from¬† the ministries of defence, foreign affairs, environment, infrastructure and finance of ECOWAS Member States.