The Minister of the Interior, Mr Mark Owen Woyongo, has observed that crimes at sea have assumed alarming proportions in recent times and are posing a huge threat to international trade.
He noted that about 90 percent of the world’s trade was undertaken by sea and the maritime domain was also endowed with resources such as oil and gas, which served the energy needs of many nations.
The economies of most countries also depended heavily on the maritime domain, hence the growing concerns about the security of the domain, he emphasised.
Mr Woyongo said this when he opened the second edition of the ‘Coastal and Maritime Surveillance Africa Conference and Defence Exhibition’ at the Accra International Conference Centre in Accra.
The conference, which was on the theme, “Delivering total surveillance of African maritime domains”, sought to explore ways of keeping constant watch at sea to prevent and combat crime.
The minister pointed out that the threats confronting African states in the maritime domain were trans-national crimes, which were perpetrated by the same criminal gangs.
“Recent incidents where ships were hijacked in one country’s territorial waters and moved across several international borders to escape arrest, attest to this fact,” the minister stated.
As a way forward, the minister stressed that while international collaboration in confronting the crimes was very important, coordination among agencies within states was also critical in ensuring effective maritime security.
“It is therefore gratifying to find out that there are more than 10 state agencies within Ghana represented at this conference,” the minister stated.
He commended the Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral Geoffrey Mawuli Biekro, for taking the initiative to reach out to his counterparts in the sub-region.
Mr Woyongo noted that the Vessel Traffic Management Information System (VTMIS), installed along the coast of the country, was a surveillance infrastructure to keep constant watch over Ghana’s maritime domain.
Additionally, he said the augmented fleet of the Ghana Navy and the establishment of the marine police, were part of the many initiatives to secure the maritime environment.
Rear Admiral Biekro observed that criminals took advantage of the ill-defined international maritime borders to commit crimes in one country and immediately moved into the territorial waters of other countries to escape arrest.
It was in the light of this that the African Union developed the Africa Integrated Maritime Strategy (AIMS), while the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) had also developed their sub-regional strategy.
He stressed the need for the naval forces and other security agencies to stay a step ahead of the criminals.
In his address, the Chief Staff Officer (CSO), Commodore Seth Amoama, noted that in June 2014, an unprecedented number of pirate activities were recorded within Ghana’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), where three ships namely MT Sampatiki, FV?Marine 711 and MT Fair Artemis reported of attacks on their vessels.
In January this year, he said, a tanker, MT Mariam, was hijacked by pirates in Nigerian waters and sailed into Ghanaian waters, but the hijackers were arrested later by the Ghana Navy ship Blika.
The last report of piracy was on January 31 this year, in which a fishing vessel, Lu Rong Yuan 917, was attacked south of Cape Coast and sailed eastwards, Commodore Amoama added.