BY DANIEL NONOR
Ghana’s oil and gas assets could face serious threats from increasing pirate activities in the Gulf of Guinea, as a new report suggests that these activities in the region could double, with attacks, presently one a day, set to rise to two a day in 2014.
According to Paramount Group, Africa’s largest privately-owned defence and aerospace business, unless pragmatic measures are put in place to protect the country’s offshore assets, “piracy could do serious damage to Ghana’s oil and gas industry, slowing development for years to come.”
A main driver of pirate activities in the Gulf of Guinea has been the boom in the regional oil ‘black market’, where stolen oil finds a ready market on the high seas, and also serving as a conduit for drug and arms trafficking in the West Africa region.
The problem has, however, assumed an international concern, on the basis that more than 30 percent of US oil and 40 percent of Europe’s oil passes through the Gulf, and is vulnerable to pirate activities.
By the beginning of the last quarter of 2013, the International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Centre had recorded 30 pirate attacks in Nigeria alone, including two hijacking acts.
The International Maritime Organisation’s 2012 Annual Report also indicated that despite a decline in Somalia-related piracy, the pirates’ success rate had seen significant increase.
Finding home-grown solutions A security analyst at the Kofi Annan peace keeping centre, Dr. Kwesi Aning, has often expressed concern over the sophisticated nature of pirate activities in the region, and called for consistent study on the strategies, the groups, their modes of attack, and their weaponry, to be able to design the response mechanisms needed to tackle the menace, but laments:
“Unfortunately, I think there is a certain unwillingness to accept that this is going to be a growing trend, therefore, we need to start designing the response mechanisms.”
According to the International Crises Group, an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organisation committed to preventing and resolving deadly conflict, has warned that “the Gulf of Guinea piracy is, above all, an organised crime problem. Ships will never be safe until authorities strengthen police capacity to investigate and prosecute criminal networks, as well as enforce a zero tolerance policy for corruption in security services.”
James Fisher, CEO of Paramount Naval Systems, says: “The solution is not to seek international help to solve these African problems, but to build African solutions to them. The development of a strong African shipbuilding industry means it is possible for African nations to find African solutions to the threat of piracy.”
He maintains that his company, now part of the largest privately-owned defence industry conglomerate in South Africa, is responding to demands from sovereign governments across Africa, by developing a fleet of multi-role patrol vessels.
“The speed and flexibility of Paramount’s ships mean they are well-suited for a range of operations in coastal waters to prevent illegal activity and protect both assets and territory.”
Last month, a team of navy experts from the Kingdom of Netherlands were in Ghana, as part of a West African programme dubbed the “African Winds 2013”, to offer a high level of technical training for Ghanaian forces in the development of ports and maritime operations.
The government of Ghana has, in recent times, made some logistical provisions for the Ghana Navy to effectively man the country’s offshore oil assets. Notably among them is the provision of a fleet of patrol boats.
Again, there are plans far advanced to set up special boat units at the various naval bases of the Ghana Navy to protect the country’s territorial waters and oil assets.