Ghana requires ‚Äúwell-crafted regulations‚Äù designed specifically to protect its offshore oil rigs from potential threats like piracy and terrorism, Naval Captain Emmanuel Ayensu Kwarfo, Director of Naval Training of the Ghana Navy, has said.
‚ÄúWe are talking about a law that will cover the broad range of offences that could threaten the survival of the oil industry…We need laws that will protect the oil industry and which will also empower us [the navy] to enforce those laws, so that when we go out to sea and we see anyone offending those laws we will be in a position to enforce them. But where there are no laws, we will be limited,‚Äù he told journalists on the sidelines of a workshop organised by the Petroleum Commission on the country‚Äôs preparedness for upstream safety and security.
‚ÄúThere is what is called the Fisheries Act, which spells out offences in that sector; and the Act empowers the Ghana Navy to enforce the fisheries laws of the nation. So when we go to sea in our normal course of operations and we find you offending our fisheries rules, we arrest you and bring you to the Ministry in charge — which prosecutes you according to the laws,‚Äù he added.
Globally, offshore oil and gas installations are viewed as national strategic assets that are exposed and vulnerable to terror threats and ocean pirates.
Sabotage or terrorist activity is said to be capable of causing severe economic and ecological damage which might affect national and international oil and gas markets.
Other possible threats on the high seas include hostile takeover, theft of equipment, underwater sabotage by scuba divers, and theft of oil and gas through underwater connections.
Asked whether there are no existing regulations so far, Naval Captain Kwarfo said: ‚ÄúThere are regulations; there are laws. If you take our territorial sea, all the laws that apply in Ghana here apply there. But the oil fields are beyond that; they are further out at sea. So we need special regimes to protect them because they come with their own peculiar threats.‚Äù
Various security agencies, including the Army, the Police, the Fire Service, National Disaster Management Organisation, and the Environmental Protection Agency have roles to play in ensuring holistic security in the oil and gas industry.
Industry players are however concerned that the multiplicity of institutions sometimes leads to lack of clarity as to which institution to deal with.
The stakeholders‚Äô workshop was therefore aimed at mapping out the roles of relevant statutory institutions in the areas of health, safety and security in the sector. Discussions centred on the current preparedness level of the various agencies for ensuring a safe, secure and congenial environment for upstream petroleum operations.
‚ÄúThe aim is to harmonise the roles of the various security agencies, so that in the event of an emergency we will know who to call and how to coordinate security activities,‚Äù said Kweku Boateng, Director of Special Services at the Petroleum Commission.
The Ghana Air force and the Ghana Navy said although their fleet of aircraft and vessels has increased with the dawn of the oil industry, they need more to be able to appropriately police the country‚Äôs territorial waters.