The United States’ SAFE Boats International has been awarded a $1.1 million contract to supply two Defender class boats to Ghana.
The company was awarded the US Coast Guard-funded contract on 1 June 2021 and is due to complete the order by the end of September 2023.
SAFE Boats International will supply two 38-foot (12 m) Defender class boats along with trailers, spare parts and training. They will be used to help Ghana fight piracy and other maritime crime.
Ghana has previously received other Defender class boats from the United States: by 2015 the US Coast Guard had given Ghana’s Navy five 27-foot Defender class boats to aid their operations.
A typical Defender requires a minimum crew of two, but has a carrying capacity for 10 persons. The boat can be transported by a C-130 Hercules aircraft or truck. Although superficially similar to a rigid-hulled inflatable boat, the Defender is actually an aluminium-hulled vessel, equipped with a foam-filled floatation collar (hence the SAFE in SAFE Boats stands for Secure Around Flotation Equipped – unlike inflatable air collars, foam does not deflate and can withstand impacts well). Aluminium was chosen as it is easier to repair than fibreglass and is more durable.
They are used extensively by the US Coast Guard and other Department of Homeland Security agencies and have also been supplied to other African nations including Liberia, Djibouti, Togo and Benin.
SAFE Boats offers the Defender class in a variety of different lengths. The 29 foot version is powered by two 225 horsepower outboard engines, usually Honda four-strokes though Mercury and Johnson engines have also been used. The 38 foot versions to be supplied to Ghana can be powered by up to four outboard engines and seat up to 14 people.
SAFE Boats was established in 1996, catering mainly to the military, law enforcement and firefighting markets, and is based outside of Seattle, Washington. More than 2 300 boats are in service in more than 50 countries around the world. In Africa, this includes Tunisia (25 to 65 feet boats) and Kenya (40 to 42 feet boats).
Currently, piracy and armed robbery in the Gulf of Guinea continue to pose significant threats to national and regional maritime activities, including the operations of the facilities of the offshore oil and gas sector. In response, Ghana has been strengthening its navy, and has revealed plans to acquire multiple offshore patrol vessels.
Ghana has slowly built up its naval capabilities, introducing new vessels into service over the last decade. In October 2017 it commissioned into service four patrol boats donated by China. The four Chinese-made patrol boats (985Y) have a maximum displacement of 8.6 tons, a maximum speed of 38 knots and range of 220 nautical miles.
Previously, Ghana has bought Chinese military hardware that includes two 46 metre patrol vessels ordered from Poly Technologies in 2008. The two were commissioned in 2011. The navy also operates several other fast attack craft and patrol boats that were ordered from South Korea, the United States and Germany over the past decade.