Ghana’s Navy is adding four new vessels to its fleet to enhance maritime security and protect offshore oil and gas installations.
The four Flex Fighter vessels arrived over the weekend from Singapore’s Penguin Shipyard. Ghana Navy Ships (GNS) Volta, Densu, Pra and Ankobra arrived on board the merchant vessel BBC Nile and according to local media are at the quayside of Takoradi port. Ship tracking data shows the BBC Nile left Singapore on 13 December, arriving in Takoradi on 8 January.
The vessels will be used to safeguard oil and gas activities in the Gulf of Guinea. According to the Daily Graphic, only Ghana Navy ships will be allowed to protect offshore oil and gas infrastructure in the country, displacing private security vessels, which have proliferated with the growth of piracy in the region.
Once the Flex Fighters have been offloaded, they will be based under Western Naval Command at Sekondi, where the President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, will name and commission them.
According to Penguin Shipyard, the Flex Fighter is based on the company’s proven Flex 40 series of crew boats, but fitted with all-round wheelhouse ballistic protection (STANAG Level I), machinegun mounts with gunner shields forward and aft, and cabins and amenities for 12 security personnel.
The 40 metre long aluminium-hulled Flex Fighter is powered by three Caterpillar C32 main engines each developing 1 450 hp, giving a top speed of 28 knots. Up to 54 passengers can be seated and there is a 93 square metre cargo deck.
The Flex Fighter is aimed at offshore oil companies operating in high-threat environments and several are already operated by Nigerian security companies. Penguin Shipyard has delivered more than 60 Flex Fighters to customers around the world.
Next year Ghana will take delivery of two more vessels – these are SAFE Boats International Defenders, being acquired via the US Coast Guard. 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.
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.
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.
New naval infrastructure is also being added, including multiple forward operating bases across the coastline.