Close on 300 delegates from 41 countries attended the first ever African OPV (offshore patrol vessel) conference in Nigeria last week where the need for enhanced co-operation and collaboration to halt criminal activities in the African maritime domain was rated a top priority.
The three-day conference also noted the continent had to increase its shipbuilding capacity to make a more meaningful contribution to overall African maritime security.
Conference resolutions pointed out, in part, that “criminal and illicit activities in the African maritime domain constitute threats to the economies of African states” and that “current security challenges in the African maritime space and its effect of the African economy generally as well as the global community requires viable solutions to maritime threats and related capacity inadequacies”.
The conference also agreed there was a need for a framework leading to better inter-agency and inter-navy information sharing among African states with the establishment of anti-piracy centres high on the agenda.
The necessity for collaboration to build capacity for multi-national patrols through the establishment of sub-regional maritime forces, sub-regional maritime doctrine and the sharing of existing infrastructure to enhance overall maritime security was highlighted as a take home for all participants.
In a statement issued following the Lagos conference, the Mozambique/South Africa/Tanzania partnership to combat piracy off the African east cost was given as an example of “effective policing of a maritime domain, regardless of boundaries, especially in the prosecution of hot pursuit”.
The statement said that ECOWAS (Economic community of West African States) should take a cue from this tripartite arrangement as well as what ECCAS (Economic Community of Central African States) has done with the pilot zone E arrangement involving Nigeria, Benin, Togo and Niger to improve maritime security architecture in the Gulf of Guinea.
In addition to African delegates the conference also attracted naval representation from Asia, Europe, the Middle East and the United States. Multilateral organisations present included the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), ECCAS, US Africom (US Africa Command) and US Naval Forces Africa (US NAVAF).