The president of Ghana, John Atta Mills, has commissioned four new Chinese-built patrol ships for combating piracy and increasing maritime security in Ghana’s territorial waters.
Mills commissioned the vessels at the Western Naval Command port in Sekondi on Tuesday. “It is a positive development that the commissioning is taking place at a time when the responsibility of protecting our fish, offshore oil and gas resources leaves us without a choice,” Mills said. “With the increasing incidents of piracy and other related maritime crimes, we have no option than to equip our Navy to be able to guarantee a secure environment where all legitimate entities can operate freely without hindrance.”
Mills said that Ghana needs protect its maritime resources, police its waters and ensure security at sea from a variety of threats, including piracy, drug trafficking, arms smuggling, dumping of toxic waste, illegal bunkering, illegal fishing, and pair trawling.
“With the addition of these four ships, the Navy should be in a position to maintain continuous presence at sea,” he said. The vessels were commissioned Blika (P34), Garinga (P35), Chemle (P36) and Ehwor (P37).
The four 46 metre vessels were built by China’s Poly Technologies Incorporated. They were delivered to Takoradi on October 24 last year. Prior to delivery, personnel from Ghana’s navy went on a month-long training course in China. According to Citi News, the four patrol vessels cost around US$68 million. In September 2008 Ghana signed a US$39.86 million contract with Poly Technologies Incorporated (PTI) for two of the vessels, which are being funded by Ghana’s Ministry of Food and Agriculture.
Mills said the commissioning was a “very important occasion signifying the re-birth of our beloved Ghana Navy.” He pledged not relent in efforts to fully equip the Ghana Armed Forces and other security agencies.
Rear Admiral Matthew Quashie, Chief of Naval Staff, said the Ghana Navy has not commissioned new ships for the past 32 years. He said the four new vessels have been named after venomous snakes in the Ga-Adangbe, Dagbon, Ahanta and Ewe dialects.
Zhao Zhengao, President of Poly Technologies, said he was hopeful that the boats would greatly improve the maritime patrol capabilities of the Ghana Navy and contribute to safeguarding the country’s territorial waters.
Mills also announced that the Ministry of Transport, the Ghana Maritime Authority and the Ministry of Defence are establishing a Vessel Traffic Monitoring and Information System (VTMIS) along the entire coast of Ghana. This will include coastal radar stations with command and control centres.
“In the course of the year, we will also take delivery of two newly refurbished Ex-German Navy Fast Attack Craft currently undergoing refitting in Germany,” Mills said. In July 2010 Ghana announced the acquisition of two decommissioned Gepard class fast attack craft, which are 58 metres long and weigh 398 tonnes.
In July last year Jane’s reported that Ghana’s Navy plans to acquire ten new vessels over the next two years. Ghana is also expanding its Naval Dockyard in the southwest of the country. Janes believes Ghana has ordered two 62 metre patrol craft from South Korea for delivery by July 2013.
On January 21 last year, Ghana’s navy commissioned a refurbished Sea Dolphin-class fast-attack craft donated by South Korea, the GNS Stephen Out.
In 2008 the US government gave Ghana three ex-Coast Guard Defender class boats and another four in March last year and in December last year the Ghana Navy received six new speedboats.
Mills said that this year the Slipway Rehabilitation project carried out by Damen of the Netherlands and the MTU Test Bench Project by MTU of Germany would be completed and commissioned. “These projects will enable the Navy carry out routine docking and periodic refitting locally to save the millions of foreign exchange that is spent when such works are done abroad,” he noted. The facilities will also be used by the local oil, fishing and gas industries.
“The investment in re-equipping the Navy and other security agencies should be viewed as a means of sustaining the atmosphere of peace and security needed for the development of other sectors,” Mills said.
Ghana has been reviewing measures to safeguard its waters, most importantly to protect our oil installations from pirate attacks. Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea is not on the scale of that off Somalia, but analysts say an increase in scope and number of attacks in a region ill-equipped to counter the threat could affect shipping and investment. For instance, Cameroon blamed piracy for part of a 13 percent drop in oil output in 2009.
Other maritime problems include piracy and drug trafficking. The United Nations estimates that US$1 billion worth of cocaine, destined for Europe from Latin America, passed through West Africa in 2008.
Ghana’s Navy is relatively small, with 2 000 personnel, according to the IISS’s 2011 The Military Balance. It operates two 1940s-era Balsam class vessels previously operated by the US Coast Guard, four fast attack craft built by Lurssen (two PB 45 Dzata class and two PB 57 Achimota class vessels) and a single PB Mk III inshore patrol boat that was transferred from the US Navy in 2001.
Ghana is also strengthening its air force and recently ordered two Airbus Military C295 transports, an Embraer 190 and two Diamond DA 42 surveillance aircraft which will presumably be used for maritime patrol, especially safeguarding Ghana’s offshore oil assets – the country becoming a major oil producer in the region after beginning production in December 2010.