Written by Oscar Nkala
The Djiboutian Navy has taken delivery of a new Regional Maritime Awareness Capability surveillance system from the United States Army’s Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA).
Djiboutian Navy operations officer Lieutenant Omar Ali said the new maritime surveillance system will enable his force to monitor piracy, terrorism, smuggling and other maritime crimes in its territorial waters. The system, which has already been installed, includes six radar sites equipped with Automatic Identification System (AIS) receivers.
“All ships are assigned a unique code identifier and AIS can track ships as they come into Djiboutian waters. With AIS, RMAC [Regional Maritime Awareness Capability] operators can learn all of the information they need to know about the ship to include what type of vessel it is, cargo it’s carrying and the weight of the vessel.
“It is very important for us to monitor and see all ships that transits through this area. Our economy depends on the sea. We don’t have industry or manufacturing, but we have the port. We need to keep this safe to keep our economy strong and (this system) improves the ability of the Djibouti navy to keep its waters safe and secure,” said Lt Ali.
The RMAC system includes remote security cameras, six sensor and communication towers with broadband microwave links to provide data connectivity throughout the entire country, a harbour security video surveillance system and renewable electrical power systems at six sites around the country.
US Navy Air Systems Command project manager Thad Hand said the surveillance system will help Djibouti fight piracy in the Indian Ocean and the Bab el-Mandel Strait.
“In 2011, there were 439 pirate attacks and 45 merchant vessels hijacked worldwide, 237 of these attacks and 28 of these hijackings occurred in the Gulf of Aden, off the coast of Somalia, and in the wider Indian Ocean. Data from the system can be shared with auxiliary RMAC workstations located at sites at the Captain of the Port and at Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa,” he said.
The setting up of a new maritime surveillance system in Djibouti comes as most African states intensify efforts at securing territorial waters in the face of increasing and expanding incidents of piracy, smuggling and resource theft. In West Africa, Nigeria and Ghana have improved their maritime surveillance capacities.