Greater maritime security cooperation needed in Africa- experts


Greater maritime cooperation and the urgent implementation of policy is required if Africa is to ensure maritime security and safeguard her commercial interests. This was the thread of the keynote speakers at the start of the two-day Maritime and Coastal Security Africa 2012 conference in Cape Town.

The conference, which opened at the Cape Town International Convention Centre today, is being attended by 200 local and international naval, academic and industry members and aims to discuss harmonised approaches towards maritime governance, risk and defence in the African maritime environment.

Professor Renfrew Christie, Dean of Research at the University of the Western Cape, outlined some salient points regarding the future of Africa that relate to maritime security. He said that the population of Africa will double from one billion in 2010 to two billion in 2050. Throughout history, Christie said, the rapid increase of population has placed huge pressure on land, food, water, the environment and social systems. “It has also always been accompanied by war,” Christie added.

Three quarters of Africa’s states, or 45 out of 60 states, are either exploring for or are oil and gas producers. As oil had also caused wars previously, oil wars will also impact on Africa’s maritime and coastal security, Christie said. Moreover, oil and gas requires transportation, much of it by ship. A large part of the new African oil and gas will come from vulnerable offshore fields. “Pirates and thieves everywhere are sharpening their daggers!” exclaimed Christie.

Finally, Christie warned that China’s rise, followed by India, will impact on Africa. One of these ways was that China had already started to consume Africa’s oil and minerals. China doubled its crude oil imports between 2006 and 2011, much of it coming from Africa. To this must be added Japan’s need for liquid natural gas following the effects of the earthquake and tsunami on their nuclear power industry. All these factors, Christie maintains, impact on the African maritime and coastal security, especially as most of the world’s trade is conducted by sea.

At present, the threat of piracy off East and West Africa is a major issue. Captain (Retired) Philip Holihead, Head of the Djibouti Code of Conduct, Implementation Unit, International Maritime Organisation (IMO), warned that piracy was still present in spite of a fall in activity.

This, he stated in a speech read out on his behalf, was due to the best management practices implemented by ships, defences on commercial vessels (such as armed guards) and international naval action.

Holihead remarked that this success can only be sustained if the above mentioned efforts were to remain in place. This was because “little else has changed in the background to prevent this (attacks by pirates) from happening again.”

Holihead said that, “there is a welcome re-establishing of some of the order at sea, but this is frail, and subject to strong resolve by governments, navies and industry alike.” The real work that needed to be done was to stabilise Somalia and building the capacity of neighbours to counter pirate attacks.
“In short, good governance in Somalia and its neighbours, including sustained maritime and coastal security capacity building, is the solution to Somali piracy,” said Christie.

Taking the point further, Christie noted that Nigeria produces 2.7 million barrels of oil a day, of which 250 000 barrels a day (10%) is stolen on land and at sea. Christie warned that Nigeria did not have good governance, nor proper maritime and coastal security.

Christie concluded that good governance was the best solution to the maritime threats facing Africa. “This means,” he said, “in turn, an urgent and sustained need for vigorous building of vast capacity in the African maritime and coastal security sphere, because it is at sea on the coasts that the problems will be focused.”

Continuing on this theme, Rear Admiral Bernhard Teuteberg, Director of Maritime Strategy, South African Navy, urged for greater co-operation and integration within the African maritime space. Teuteberg noted that Africa is particularly vulnerable to maritime insecurity, “increased in no small part by the somewhat developing status of its maritime capabilities…our human security and well-being is inextricably linked to the resources and opportunities represented by the surrounding seas.”

Maritime crime and insecurity compromised the identity, security and prosperity of the people of Africa, Teuteberg said, “be it directly in terms of curtailing livelihood and resources, or indirectly, through the degradation and sustainability of the environment and the social structures which form the basis for our coastal communities.”

Piracy has come to occupy a premiere position on the African collective regional and continental agenda, but maritime security should not just be the domain of navies. “We will always have a need for integration between departments of state, agencies, national, regional and international organisations, industry, and so forth,” Teuteberg stated.
“Clearly, maritime security has thus come to represent a common regional and continental interest, and a focus point for a number of organs, structures and agencies, both nationally and regionally.”
“The critical bridge between knowing what to do, and doing it, appears, in so many senses, elusive,” Teuteberg said.

Concerning South Africa, Teuteberg noted that “while Cabinet has strongly endorsed the SADC Maritime Security Strategy, and all requisite plans and strategies have been generated, our efforts are being constrained, due in no small part to the many National agencies and actors with both direct and indirect responsibilities within our maritime space and obviously the inability by National Treasury to fund such strategy.”

A pressing concern was the need for the improvement of collective maritime domain awareness, and collective maritime intelligence. Further issues that need addressing are human resource development and training.

Clearly, the success of Africa depends on the wealth, safety and security of its population. This has been recognised by the navies of the region, but political action is required to achieve this goal.