THE South African Navy is preparing for a major coastal patrol exercise that will see its warship travel from the Western Cape to Senegal and train with the navies of countries where incidents of piracy have dramatically increased in the past two years.
While the operation is scheduled to coincide with the Sea Power for Africa Symposium in Senegal in November, it is also taking place at a time when the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has expressed concern about the “dramatic increase in piracy activities in the Gulf of Guinea” off the west coast of Africa.
Brig-Gen Xolani Mabanga said the navy vessel would conduct a port call to Dakar as part of the exercise for the symposium. En route to Dakar, the frigate will carry out exercises with its counterparts, stopping over in Walvis Bay in Namibia, Luanda in Angola, Lagos in Nigeria and Tema in Ghana.
“An invitation has been extended to these countries to conduct naval exercises with their navies while in their territorial waters,” he said.
The symposium is expected to discuss strategies and facilitate the adoption of Africa‚Äôs integrated maritime framework to deal with piracy and other maritime crimes that are threatening the continent‚Äôs development and economic fortunes.
The document is expected to provide a continent-wide framework for responding to threats such as piracy, illegal fishing, pollution and human trafficking.
According to the United Nations International Maritime Organisation, the cost of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea due to stolen goods, security and insurance is estimated at $2bn. At least 45 incidents of piracy were reported in 2010, rising to 64 by 2011. The organisation noted that many events went unreported.
In the Gulf of Guinea, vessels are being captured for their valuable cargo rather than for hostages. Seized oil tankers are redirected to chartered tankers that receive the stolen oil.
Piracy is interfering with the legitimate trading interests of countries including Benin, Togo, C√¥te d‚ÄôIvoire, Ghana, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo.