Ghana has recently signed a contract worth $200 million to construct a Forward Operating Base (FOB) at Edzinlibo in the Western Region in order to protect the country’s oil and gas infrastructure.
The contract will also include offshore patrol boats for Ghana’s Navy. The forward operating base, according to a statement released by the Ghanaian government, will improve the military’s reaction time during operations. It will allow for the protection of Ghana’s offshore oil and gas infrastructure.
The statement adds that another contract has been signed with Gulf Frontiers for 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.”
The announcement was made by Nitiwul when he addressed delegates at the maiden International Maritime Defence Exhibition and Conference in Accra last week Wednesday. The defence minister stated that the maritime sector was the backbone of the Ghanaian economy due to ports and harbours serving as the gateway for more than 80 per cent of the country’s international trade. The conference, organised by Ghana’s Navy and Great Minds events, marked the 60th anniversary of Ghana’s Navy and was attended by over 50 chief naval staffs in Africa as well as coast guards, service chiefs, researchers, regulators and over 80 defence solution providers from across the world exhibiting technological solutions to maritime security.
The conference was aimed at discussing maritime challenges, sharing information and looking to technological solutions to maintain maritime security. The conference was held under the theme: “Empowering Regional Collaboration to Enhance Maritime Security and Regional Development in the Gulf of Guinea”.
Since the discovery of vast amounts of offshore hydrocarbons, illegal maritime activity in the Gulf of Guinea is largely aimed at stealing cargo containing refined petroleum, termed as “petro-piracy”, as well as illegal oil-bunkering. The maritime criminals are said to be a part of a heavily armed criminal enterprise, with kidnapping, torture and shooting of crewmen being regular occurrences. Benin, Togo, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo all experience piracy and maritime crime, which interferes with their legitimate trade. According to the International Maritime Burea (IMB), since 2018 there has been a net increase in pirate attacks year-on-year, with a, “marked rise in attacks against ships and crews around West Africa.” The IMB also believes that about half of all attacks go unreported.
Over the past two years Ghana has experienced around ten actual and reported pirate attacks. With incidents of theft, kidnapping for ransom, illegal fishing and drug trafficking being common across West African oceans, Nitiwul states, “As we all know the sea is the super high way for global trade and Africa’s quest for a continental free trade area cannot be successful without a secured maritime domain”.
He said swift action is needed to deal with illegal and unregulated fishing, maritime pollution, sea robbery, illegal bunkering and other maritime crimes, and that technology can help overcome these challenges, along with information sharing and collaboration with other navies. He added that efforts are underway to achieve maritime domain awareness through satellite imagery and other maritime solutions while the Ghana Air Force was complementing the Navy with aircraft to protect the country’s maritime domain.
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.