Ghana receives Defender boats as part of multi-million maritime security upgrade

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The United States has donated two Defender class boats to Ghana’s Special Boat Squadron as part of a $6 million package to enhance the country’s maritime security.

The United States and the Royal Danish governments commissioned and dedicated a newly constructed mobile camp and other projects and equipment for the Ghana Navy Special Boat Squadron (GNSBS) on 14 July at Ghana Navy Training Command (NAVTRAC). The commissioning ceremony was attended by US Ambassador to Ghana Virginia E Palmer and other officials.

Six US-funded projects at NAVTRAC and the surrounding area total more than $6 million. “Our $48 million in security assistance to the Ghana Armed Forces this year includes substantial support for the Ghana Navy. Piracy and illegal fishing in the Gulf of Guinea pose a persistent threat to Ghana’s security and economic development. Better protected shipping means more reliable supply chains for the region and greater shared prosperity,” said Palmer.

The $6.4 million in US funding is equipping the Ghana Navy Special Boat Squadron to expand its offshore capabilities, the US Embassy said, while providing training and naval infrastructure projects at NAVTRAC. This includes the provision of two 38-foot Defender class boats for the SBS along with a US Marine Forces Africa Equipping Kit for the boats; the replacement of the NAVTRAC pontoon pier; and construction of a mobile training camp to allow SBS to train in diverse maritime environments.

Seabees engineers are deployed to complete naval infrastructure construction projects and provide technical support for Ghana Navy counterparts.

The Ghana Navy said a newly assembled prefabricated mobile camp that was donated by the Danish government was also commissioned, adding that it will, “serve as a vital operational base, providing the SBS with the necessary infrastructure and facilities to effectively plan and execute missions [and] as a hub for training, co-ordination, and joint operations”.

This is part of a five-year trilateral agreement signed with US Africa Command (USAFRICOM) and Denmark’s Frogman Corps to develop the SBS into an elite, tier-one special operations force by 2026, according to the Ghana Navy.

Flag Officer Commanding (FOC) the Naval Training Command, Commodore Bright Emmanuel Kojo Atiayao, said it was not strange that an infantile command such as NAVTRAC would have a number of teething problems and challenges, particularly that of office and residential accommodation. “However, it was heartwarming that Ghana Navy’s developmental partners such as the US Navy and the Danish Navy had come together to rescue the command.”

Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS), Vice Admiral Seth Amoama, said the structures and equipment provided by the US and Danish governments will expand the operational reach of SBS. “The boats will enable the SBS respond swiftly to maritime challenges and carry out critical operations with enhanced efficiency in the GoG”, he said.

The delivery of the SAFE Boats Defenders, ordered in 2021 for $1.1 million, comes a month after the Ghana Navy took delivery of two former US Coast Guard Marine Protector patrol boats supplied by the United States under its Excess Defence Articles (EDA) programme.

The two Marine Protector vessels were delivered on 17 June aboard the Ocean Giant at Takoradi Harbour, with the Ghana Navy saying they were donated by the US government to assist the Ghana Navy effectively patrol its maritime domain. The vessels will be named GNS Aflao and GNS Half Assini.

Ghana’s Navy has been expanding in recent years, notably with the acquisition of four Flex Fighter offshore patrol vessels that were built in Singapore by Penguin Shipyard. They were commissioned in February 2022. These four vessels were bought to provide dedicated security to the country’s offshore oil and gas installations.

In October 2017 Ghana commissioned into service four Chinese-made patrol boats (985Y), which 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.

New naval infrastructure is also being added, including multiple forward operating bases across the coastline.