Accra, July 10, GNA - Stakeholders in the maritime industry were on Tuesday tasked to come out with strategies and a roadmap that would effectively curb the scourge of maritime piracy and insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea.
Mr Peter Issaka Azuma, Director General of Ghana Maritime Authority (GMA), noted that piracy was becoming the criminal growth of the 21st century and a multi-million dollar criminal enterprise that had the tendency to grow into perpetuity.
According to him, pirates now made use of sophisticated technology and were able to adapt operational and tactical patterns and procedures faster than many navies and coast guards.
Mr Azuma was speaking at the opening of a two-day conference on combating piracy in West Africa.
Maritime Piracy, an act of robbery or criminal violence at sea, has now become a global threat causing lot of international concerns among states.
The conference, jointly held by Hanson Wade and the International Maritime Organization (IMO), would look at issues pertaining to identifying the nature and extent of piracy and maritime crime in the Gulf of Guinea, and maritime security operation in West Africa.
The participants, mainly ship owners and security experts, would also delve into exploring the success of counter-piracy forces and analyze how pirates operations were intercepted and disrupted and how complex maritime threats could be tackled.
The Director General mentioned that from 2006 over 500 to 2000 seafarers had been taken hostage adding that the total cost of those activities to the global economy was estimated at 12 billion dollars.
According to him, despite the world wide awareness of maritime piracy at national, regional and international level to stem it, the situation was becoming worse in West Africa.
He mentioned the lack of economic opportunities and bright futures and livelihood for the youth, lack of governance, peace and political instability as some of the factors accounting for the menace.
Mr Azuma further mentioned other factors as ineffective boarder controls, illegal migrants from troubled spots, maritime boundary disputes and lack of comprehensive strategy at the national and regional levels to address the problem.
He said Ghana has therefore clothed itself with the requisite legislative and administrative infrastructure to handle matters of maritime safety and security.
Alhaji Collins Dauda, Minister of Transport, recounted the number of acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships worldwide in 2011.
He said 544 cases were reported in 2011 as against 489 cases in the previous year saying that represented an increase of 11.3 per cent.
Alhaji Dauda noted that most areas affected by maritime piracy were East Africa, Far East, South China Sea, the Indian Ocean, South America, the Caribbean and West Africa.
“The number of incident reported for West Africa increased from 47 as reported in 2010 to 61 in 2011. Most incidents which occurred this year took place in Abidjan and Democratic Republic of Congo.”
The Minister said the United Nations Security Council had expressed deep concerns over maritime insecurity in the region and it had therefore condemned the act.
In the case of Ghana, Alhaji Dauda said government had taken steps to curb the situation. These include the passage into law of the Ghana Maritime (Protection of Offshore Operations and Assets) Regulations.
Alhaji Dauda said the Ghana Navy in collaboration with the GMA undertook patrols to deter, interdict, arrest and detain law breakers.
He said the GMA was in an advance state of implementing the Vessel Traffic Management Information Systems.
This, he said, was an integrated electronic surveillance system intended to enhance the country’s maritime domain awareness for the purpose of combating piracy and armed robbery within Ghana’s maritime jurisdiction.
He pledged Ghana’s commitment to align herself with international and multinational bodies to fight unlawful acts at sea.