Ghana’s president Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has officially launched construction of the country’s new naval base with a sod-turning ceremony.
Akufo-Addo said the base is part of the country’s efforts to improve maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea and protect the country’s oil and gas sector. Construction of the Forward Operating Base in Ezilinbo in the country’s Western Region began on 16 December 2019.
Ghana plans to establish forward operating bases at Keta in the Volta Region, Winneba and Elmina in the Central Region, and Ezinlibo in the Western Region.
The new Western Region base is being built by Messrs Amandi and Vuluxx and will include a breakwater and a jetty with a double lane tarred road, berthing facilities, and accommodation for 150 military personnel.
“As part of the project, Government has also contracted Hawkmoor Co. Ltd. to supply six Phantom boats, and provide other equipment to enhance operational efficiency of the Base. When completed, the Base will serve as an advance military, operational location from where the security of our offshore oil fields, Ten, Sankofa and Jubilee, can be co-ordinated and maintained,” the President said.
With more offshore explorations and discoveries being made, and with the country’s daily production rate rising from 80 000 barrels to over 200 000 barrels per day, this is expected to double to some 400 000 in the next four years. “It is evident that huge capital investments in this nascent offshore oil and gas industry come with attendant security challenges, and should, thus, be jealously protected,” President Akufo-Addo added.
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.
“Aside these major threats, incidents of theft, including illegal oil bunkering, kidnapping at sea for ransom, illegal fishing, terrorism and drug trafficking, are common threats across our territorial waters. These transnational crimes do not only affect national and regional peace and stability, but also impose significant costs on our economy and those of our neighbours,” he stated.
In August 2019, Ghana said the Ezinlibo base would cost $200 million but this includes offshore patrol boats. The government said at the time that another contract was signed with Gulf Frontiers for the procurement of six additional patrol boats to beef up Ghana’s naval fleet. Gulf Frontiers, based in Accra, provides offshore patrol and transport services to the oil and gas industry in Ghana and the region. Its partners include South Africa’s Paramount Group, making it likely the new vessels are coming from there.
In addition to the contract, Ghana’s Navy is also set to take delivery of an additional two offshore patrol vessels. Dominic Nitiwul, the Minister of Defence, stated the government is acquiring the vessels “with reach and endurance capable of staying at sea for a long time to be able to patrol our exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of 200 nautical miles and extended continental shelf of 350 nautical miles.”
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. The Ghanaian government named the four patrol boats after successive Chiefs of Ghana Navy Staff.
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.