The Chief of Ghana’s Defence Staff has appealed for additional international help in fighting mounting piracy off the West African coast.
Vice Admiral Matthew Quashie said the Gulf of Guinea had become the world’s “piracy hotspot” and that West Africa needed greater international help from the world’s larger navies to help secure the region’s waters. The South African Navy had made a number of visits to Ghana for joint exercises and their support in fighting piracy would be “most welcome,” he said.
The recent discovery of large deposits of oil and gas off the coast of Ghana have raised fears in Accra about the rise in piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.
Quashie also said he wanted to see greater cooperation on security matters from the oil companies. “They (the oil companies) must stop using the excuse that they are not supposed to do anything for the military,” he said.
The Admiral was speaking at the Seapower conference held yesterday ahead of the opening of the Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) exhibition in London this morning.
In addition to a larger international naval presence, Quashie said some countries in West Africa required help in obtaining smaller vessels to keep themselves in the naval “trade” and take on pirates.
Last year the Gulf of Guinea saw the most attacks by pirates of any region in the world, according to the International Maritime Organisation. The greater naval and security force present in the Somali Basin has brought about a dramatic decline in attacks in this area over the past few years.
Quashie said the Ghanaian Navy was considering proposals for Offshore Patrol Vessels from a number of shipbuilders, “to give us a longer range of operation” than provided by the Fast Patrol Boats. The pirates “realise that our waters are more challenging and so they go deep into the sea and move to Cote d’Ivoire and Liberia,” he said.
Stronger regional naval co-operation under the auspices of the Economic Community of West African States ECOWAS is helping confront the piracy challenge, he said.
The other serious current threat in the region is from terrorism, but there is no sign that Boko Haram is currently involved in piracy, he said. “But you never know what terrorists will do,” Quashie said.
According to data from maritime intelligence provider Dryad Maritime, piracy off the Somali coast has all but disappeared while pirates remain active in the Gulf of Guinea and Southeast Asia. The company’s figures from 1 April to 30 June 2015 show that the Gulf of Guinea remains a piracy hotspot, with Dryad noting that in April and May, at least 20 mariners were taken from five vessels off the shores of Rivers and Akwa Ibom States in Nigeria. “Kidnapping of crew for ransom still remains the most significant threat to seafarers in the region. Given the historical frequency of attacks off Bayelsa State, Nigeria, it is somewhat surprising that there has been just one attack offshore there this year, with none occurring during this last quarter.”
Overall, there have been 16 confirmed incidents reported during the second quarter of 2015 compared with 18 during the first quarter, and 15 during the same period last year, Dryad said.