IMDEC 2021 focuses on security at sea to ensure free trade in Gulf of Guinea


Chiefs of Navies and Air Forces from across the world attended the two-day International Maritime Defence and Exhibition Conference (IMDEC) 2021 hosted by the Ghanaian Navy between 7 and 8 July, with a focus on combatting piracy and supporting economies.

US Naval Forces Africa, Europe and US Sixth Fleet Chief of Staff, Rear Admiral Nancy Lacore, were amongst those to virtually attended the event, US Naval Forces said.

The event included speakers by chiefs of Navies and Air Forces from across the world, admirals and generals, maritime experts, exhibitors and solutions providers as they focused on solutions to the challenges posed to trade along the Gulf of Guinea.

“The conference has come a long way since 2014, which had about 50 participants and less than ten exhibitors, to now attendees from over 70 countries, including 15 chiefs of Navies and Air Forces, 300 participants, 40 exhibitors and sponsors as well as over 30 speakers, becoming arguably, the largest gathering of Africa’s maritime industry,” said Rear Admiral Issah Adam Yakubu – Ghana Chief of the Naval Staff. “Concerned institutions of the Gulf of Guinea cannot afford to slow down their operations because of the pandemic, since the criminals have not done so, but have rather increased the tempo of their operations during the period.”

Vice President of the Republic of Ghana, Alhaji Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, was this year’s guest of honour. The theme was ‘Maritime Security and Trade: The Nexus between a Secure Maritime Domain and a Developed Blue Economy’.

“As nations seek to readjust and realign themselves in development and economic growth, post COVID-19, coastal states and even land-locked countries have a huge stake in dealing with matters governing maritime security, for whatever measures and strategies put in place to revive economies, would largely depend on trade,” Bawumia said.

Reports along the Gulf of Guinea in recent times signal a surge in attacks by Pirate Action Groups with most incidents occurring along the coasts of Cameroon, Nigeria, Benin and Ghana.

“The Gulf of Guinea is a critical nexus for both African and global economic prosperity,” Lacore said. The economic dynamism of the region is a result of the Gulf of Guinea being home to 4.5 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves and 4 percent of global fish production. It is critical that these resources can flow from and through this region unimpeded over maritime trade routes, supporting the global economy. But the region’s maritime affluence has attracted non-state actors, who lack economic opportunities elsewhere, to engage in illicit activity.”

Bawumia stated that the government of Ghana will endorse a comprehensive National Integrated Maritime Strategy that will enhance interagency cooperation and thereby boost the collaboration among land, sea and air forces and key stakeholders in the country, as the sea is the super highway for global trade and that Africa’s quest for a Continental Free Trade Area cannot be successful without a secured maritime domain.

“In the last year, the US has had more presence in the Gulf of Guinea than we’ve had in a long time with multiple US Coast Guard cutters and the USS Hershel “Woody” Williams deployed to this area,” Lacore said.