The Ghana Armed Forces on Saturday said that it had detained the MV Madina whilst it was attempting to discharge oil at the Saltpond Offshore Producing Company Limited.
Colonel M’Bawine Atintande, director of public relations at the Ghana Armed Forces, said that the ship was arrested on Thursday after a tipoff from counterparts in Nigeria.
Quincy Sintim Aboagye, CEO of Saltpond Offshore Producing Company, ensured that the MV Madina was prevented from leaving the facility until vessels from the Ghana Navy arrived, Pana Press reports.
The owners of the vessel said the MV Madina was supposed to transfer oil from a small field in Nigeria into a larger ship, the MV North Wind Grace, but the captain and crew instead decided to steal the cargo, the Ghana News Agency reports.
According to the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, one of Ghana’s newly commissioned vessels, the Garinga, made the arrest.
The Garinga was commissioned on February 21 together with three other Chinese-built patrol ships, by the president of Ghana, John Atta Mills. The new vessels were procured for combating piracy and increasing maritime security in Ghana’s territorial waters.
“With the increasing incidents of piracy and other related maritime crimes, we have no option than to equip our Navy to be able to guarantee a secure environment where all legitimate entities can operate freely without hindrance,” Mills said.
The four vessels were commissioned Blika (P34), Garinga (P35), Chemle (P36) and Ehwor (P37) and named after venomous snakes.
Mills said that Ghana needs protect its maritime resources, police its waters and ensure security at sea from a variety of threats, including piracy, drug trafficking, arms smuggling, dumping of toxic waste, illegal bunkering, illegal fishing, and pair trawling.
The Ministry of Transport, the Ghana Maritime Authority and the Ministry of Defence are establishing a Vessel Traffic Monitoring and Information System (VTMIS) along the entire coast of Ghana. This will include coastal radar stations with command and control centres.
In the course of the year Ghana will also take delivery of two newly refurbished ex-German Navy Gepard class Fast Attack Craft currently undergoing refitting in Germany.
In July last year Jane’s reported that Ghana’s Navy plans to acquire ten new vessels over the next two years. Ghana is also expanding its Naval Dockyard in the southwest of the country. Janes believes Ghana has ordered two 62 metre patrol craft from South Korea for delivery by July 2013.
Last month the US Navy praised the Ghana Navy for exhibiting professionalism in its defence of the territorial waters of Ghana. Commander Leonard Milliken aboard the USS Simpson commended the Ghana Navy during an Africa Partnership Station visit, stating that he was happy to work with professionals from the Ghana Navy.
Ghana has been reviewing measures to safeguard its waters, most importantly to protect our oil installations from pirate attacks. Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea is not on the scale of that off Somalia, but analysts say an increase in scope and number of attacks in a region ill-equipped to counter the threat could affect shipping and investment. For instance, Cameroon blamed piracy for part of a 13 percent drop in oil output in 2009.
Ghana is also strengthening its air force and recently ordered two Airbus Military C295 transports, an Embraer 190 and two Diamond DA 42 surveillance aircraft which will presumably be used for maritime patrol, especially safeguarding Ghana’s offshore oil assets - the country becoming a major oil producer in the region after beginning production in December 2010.
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