Ghana wants a fund to fight piracy

Pirates spotted in Ghana's territorial waters. Credit: Marsai

Ghana wants to create a financing mechanism that will allow the country to beef up its maritime security, mainly to combat piracy in the Gulf of Guinea. But industry leaders say this is only achievable with regional co-operation.

“We should have a maritime security fund. A fund from the various sources from which we raise money: port charges, oil and gas, and other services that we provide. So, let’s put something together and build a fund and from that fund, we will be able to tool and operationalise the navy and the other security agencies,” said Kamal-Deen Ali, executive director, Centre for Maritime Law and Security Africa. He was an Eye on Port panel member on Strengthening Ghana’s Maritime Security: Lessons in 2019 and Strategies for 2020.

He added that the funding needed to be more sustainable than the existing annual budget allocation to the navy, which was not adequate for the country’s long-term maritime security ambitions.

“Although we stand out as a safe country and a safe port, we are still facing the consequences of the larger insecurity in the region when it comes to high insurance, high freight costs, and everything else,” he said.

In 2019, the Gulf of Guinea recorded about 228 incidents of piracy and armed robbery at sea, which is a slight improvement over the 2018 figures. However, he said abductions for ransom and kidnappings have increased, indicating that human lives are now more at risk than ever.

Colonel Joseph Malik Punamane, Tema Port’s security manager, said that while Ghana’s state security agencies are working hard to keep its territorial waters safe, its efforts could be compromised by its neighbours. “My worry is that we are doing well to secure our coastline, but our neighbours are not safe. Every country needs to play its role effectively so we can all be safe.”

He said as long as the Niger Delta remains ungovernable, it will remain a breeding ground for well-equipped maritime criminals. “That enclave continues to be the highest supplier of pirates or piracy incidents in the region.”

He also called for a holistic approach to tackling maritime security, which includes both land and sea operations. “Improving the social-economic circumstances of the population is so vital in mitigating the growth of alleged militia group involved in the criminal acts.

“Creating employment, giving opportunities to the youth, raising people’s standard of living, and making sure that, as a country, we never have the fracture existing in our country where crime will be something that is consolidated,” he said.

Punamane said his unit had embarked on a campaign to remove all illegal settlers around the port. “The pirates live on land and interact with the locals. This is where they plan their operations. So that prompted us to conduct those swoops around the port environs to make sure we clear the criminals out of the place.”