Ivory Coast rebuilding navy to ward off growing piracy threat


Ivory Coast is adding around 40 new vessels, mostly from French shipyard Raidco, to its depleted navy as it confronts a growing threat from pirates in the Gulf of Guinea, according to the country’s defence minister.

Attacks on commercial vessels off the coast of oil-rich West Africa jumped by a third last year. The first known hijacking of a vessel in Ivory Coast territorial waters occurred late in 2012. Similar attacks followed.
“These vessels will provide security on our rivers, the lagoon and at sea,” Defence Minister Paul Koffi Koffi said yesterday. “They will fight piracy, infiltration and illicit trafficking and will be managed by the navy.”

Ivory Coast’s navy was seriously damaged by 10 years of political upheaval that culminated in a brief civil war in 2011. Efforts to rebuild it have been hampered by a United Nations-imposed embargo on weapons imports.

However, the UN has approved the purchase of the new vessels, Koffi Koffi told Reuters, and some of them have already arrived. The order was placed with France’s Raidco Marine and includes around 30 inflatable speed launches. The rest are 9- to 12-metre craft and three 33-metre patrol boats.

French website Mer et Marine reports that the contract includes four 12 metre RPB 12 boats, six 9.3 metre speedboats for commandos and three RPB 33 patrol boats. The vessels will be delivered by 2015. The contract includes a training and maintenance agreement. Raidco has sold boats to other African countries, such as Senegal, Togo and Libya.

The minister declined to say how much Ivory Coast was paying for the vessels. Lorient-based Raidco Marine did not immediately respond to requests for comment but French sources suggest the deal could be worth 22 million euros.
“I can tell you that right now we have practically nothing,” Koffi Koffi said.

The new vessels are due to be managed by the navy but will also be used by the police and gendarmerie.

Ivory Coast’s small navy comprised a couple of L’Ardent class missile fast attack craft, a couple of Vigilant type patrol craft, a Batral type landing ship and two Rodman class fisheries protection vessels. However, the current status of the navy is unclear following the 2010-11 political crisis and subsequent violence.