Sandock Austral, the largest black-owned shipyard in Africa, and Ghanaian defence contractor Petram Fortis, have teamed up to offer world class maritime security solutions to Ghana through the newly established joint venture Petram Sandock Maritime Systems.
The company will be taking part in the International Maritime Defence Exhibition & Conference (IMDEC) in Ghana’s capital Accra between 6 and 8 July (Petram Fortis is a Gold, and only Ghanaian Sponsor of the event). IMDEC is the largest maritime security exhibition and conference in West Africa and this year’s edition expects to attract over 15 Chiefs of Navies, Chiefs of Air Staff and 300 international officials.
Arthur Kweku Ackah-Yensu, CEO of Petram-Fortis, said Petram Sandock Maritime Systems are proposing a total system to meet Ghanaian maritime security and fisheries protection requirements, that goes beyond just naval vessels but also includes land and air elements.
Petram Fortis, established in 2016, is Ghana’s leading defence company and has supplied defence solutions to Ghana’s armed forces, including artillery, communications systems, peacekeeping support and more. The company is a solutions and technology supplier that employs engineers across several disciplines as it has pioneered the development of local Ghanian Defence Engineering capabilities, leading to the establishment of a meaningful local defence industry. Petram Fortis has partnered with some of the world’s leading defence technology providers to achieve this. Training and support are crucial components to its offering, as Petram Fortis aims to support equipment throughout its life cycle.
Petram Fortis calls on its own team as well as a vast network of experts to cover everything a country could need, from vehicles to camp systems, naval vessels and aircraft. This capability now includes Sandock Austral, which is eager to work with partners across the continent, according to CEO Prasheen Maharaj. “Petram Fortis is the largest defence company in Ghana; Sandock is the largest indigenously owned shipyard in Africa. It makes sense to have this partnership in Ghana,” he said. “I don’t think any other partnership will stand up to what we have to offer.”
Maharaj explained that the partnership with Petram Fortis cuts across air, land and sea, with the current focus being on maritime security requirements for Ghana. “Our two companies are making for great collaborative cooperation. Whilst the focus is on maritime security, it doesn’t preclude us from exploring other opportunities on the continent and globally.”
The Sandock Austral Group includes Sandock Austral Aerospace, Sandock Austral Shipyards, Sandock Austral Defence Engineering Systems and Torpedo South Africa. Capabilities cover weapons stations, missiles, radars, ship construction, and maritime surveillance aircraft, amongst others.
Through the collaboration with Sandock Austral, Petram Fortis hopes to provide Ghana with solutions to most of its maritime problems, and will be highlighting these during IMDEC 2021. The companies are proposing a holistic maritime security solution comprising of vessels with sensors such as radar and optical systems as well as land-based units, both static and mobile, which provide information to a command and control centre. This intelligence is also applicable to all branches of the armed forces and allows for the protection of Ghana as a whole rather than just its sea or waterways.
Petram Fortis noted that new technology is providing greater capabilities for the enforcement of security and peace and new technology means that it is not necessary to only deploy light aircraft or large vessels. “By making use of the right tools and technologies, a cost-effective and mission-effective solution can be deployed, which is both flexible and tailored to the current scenario in Ghana and her territorial waters.”
Like other countries in the Gulf of Guinea, Ghana faces the challenges of maritime piracy, illegal fishing and other maritime crimes, such as drug smuggling. As much as 95 percent of all kidnappings at sea in 2020 occurred in the Gulf of Guinea, which saw 84 attacks on ships, with 135 seafarers kidnaped for ransom in 2020, according to the International Maritime Bureau.
The COVID-19 pandemic brought about increased economic hardship resulting in emboldened reliance on illicit, yet lucrative, activities. Piracy, armed robbery at sea, kidnapping of seafarers, illegal fishing, smuggling and trafficking, and transnational organised crime pose a major threat to maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea and ultimately to the economic development of the entire region.
Air Vice Marshal Frank Hanson, Chief of The Air Staff, Ghana, recently highlighted the need for maritime security off Ghana: “The maritime space remains one of the most vital components of our national security and with a coastline of 550 kilometres and an exclusive economic zone of 200 miles, Ghana’s maritime space accounts for more than 80 percent of Ghana’s GDP and that impacts positively on our neighbours in the region.”
While maritime security is seen as a mission on the sea by many, inland waterways must not be forgotten, Petram Fortis cautions. Inland waterways also need to be monitored, patrolled and secured as many maritime threats often originate on land.
Petram Fortis believe that by adding to its existing substantial capability, Sandock Austral’s decades-long history and pedigree, cutting edge technology can ensure Ghanaian maritime security, allowing the people of Ghana to take ownership of technology and systems through localisation and long term investment.