France donates boats to Togo


France has donated two semi-rigid patrol boats to Togo’s navy, which will use them to combat piracy and other maritime crimes.

The vessels were officially handed over on 10 November at the Lomé naval base in the presence of the French Ambassador Jocelyne Caballero, the Minister of Defence Essozimna Gnakadè, and the Chief of General Staff of the Togolese Armed Forces, Major General Abalo Kadangha.

The French Embassy said the donation of the boats and the forthcoming training of Togolese sailors aims to develop Togo’s rapid intervention capability against maritime piracy. A first rapid intervention unit should be operational from the end of 2020.

The general area of Togo, Benin and the western/south-western Nigerian exclusive economic zone has seen a dramatic increase in piracy events in November, with multiple ship attacks and kidnappings.

The two boats were transported to Togo by the amphibious helicopter carrier Dixmude during its stopover in Lomé between 28 and 29 October. Following the stopover, the Dixmude took part in a Franco-Togolese patrol with the Togolese patrol boat Agou.

The two boats were apparently meant to go to Libya, but in December 2019 the French government reversed the decision to deliver six Sillinger 1200 Rafale boats to the Libyan coast guard after allegations they would be used to apprehend migrants at sea and return them to overcrowded detention centres.

The French Embassy did not identify the model of boat delivered to Togo, only saying they were 12 metres long and capable of carrying six sailors, but they appear to be 1200 Rafale models as were supposed to be delivered to Libya. According to Sillinger, the 1200 Rafale is 11.53 metres long, weights 2 400 kg, has a payload of 5 120 kg and can be powered by two or three outboard engines.

The French Embassy added that instructors, coming from France and Dakar (where French elements are stationed in Senegal), will soon come to Lomé to provide a one-month training in boat piloting and rapid intervention for the benefit of Togolese sailors.

“This cooperation between the Togolese and French navies is long-term and contributes to an objective of economic development. Togo stands out for its exemplary involvement in the fight against maritime piracy which is rampant in the Gulf of Guinea and which is a brake on trade. Improving maritime safety contributes to the competitiveness of the port of Lomé, West Africa’s leading container port. It strengthens the potential for regional economic integration as well as Togo’s place as a logistics hub, which contributes to the attractiveness of the country as well as to job creation, particularly in industry, in accordance with the objectives of the National Plan of development,” the French Embassy said.