The German government has donated maritime surveillance and communications equipment to help operationalise a segment of the West African regional Multinational Maritime Coordination Centre (MMCC).
The MMCC is a regional maritime security and surveillance network operated collectively by member states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to fight piracy and kidnappings, arms and drug smuggling, human trafficking, oil bunkering and attacks on offshore oil rigs in the Gulf of Guinea.
The equipment has operationalised ‘Zone F’ of the MMCC, which is charged with maritime security operations in the coastal areas of Ghana, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Burkina Faso.
The equipment, valued at 1.2 million euros, was handed over in March and consist of 18 items including a Barrett long range telecommunications radio system, nautical and marine radio facilities, satellite communication radios, a mobile command and control unit vehicle, a fixed radio communications mast, power voltage regulators and relevant accessories.
Additional items include satellite phones, laptops and monitors. German ambassador to Ghana Christoph Retzlaff said his government decided to equip the MMCC after learning that the Gulf of Guinea was a global hot-spot for piracy and other criminal threats to offshore business operations.
The ambassador said Germany will continue to support maritime security efforts against all piracy and the narcotics arms and trafficking trades, which have been linked to the rise of international terrorism in West Africa.
ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security General Francis Behanzin said piracy remains a major threat to shipping lanes throughout the Gulf of Guinea, which is the backbone of West African economies.
Human trafficking, illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, illegal immigration and the dumping of toxic waste were also identified as threats to the security of West Africa’s ocean-based economy.
The MMCC was set up to promote cooperation among ECOWAS member states navies and maritime law enforcement agencies. It is aimed at improving the operational capabilities of naval forces in protect their exclusive economic zones (EEZs).
In terms of the ECOWAS Integrated Maritime Strategy adopted in 2013, the Gulf of Guinea is divided into maritime security zones E, F and G to coordinate policing. ‘Zone E’ consists of Benin, Niger, Nigeria and Togo while ‘Zone G’ includes Cape Verde, the Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Mali and Senegal.