Commander at the Kofi Annan International Peace Keeping Centre (KAIPC), Maj. Gen. Francis Ofori

A commander at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Centre (KAIPC), has said the Gulf of Guinea is currently the world’s leading hotspot for piracy, kidnapping and armed robbery at sea.

Major Gen. Francis Ofori said the International Maritime Bureau (IMB)’s first-quarter report for 2020 revealed a 25% increase in piracy and armed robbery worldwide compared to 2019 figures of the same quarter.

He added that the Gulf of Guinea accounted for approximately 90% of global kidnappings with 49 crew kidnapped in 9 separate incidents.

He further explained that the modus operandi of the pirates indicates a noticeable shift from oil theft towards kidnapping for ransom.

“This is buttressed by 2019 and 2020 figures which indicates a big climb in the number of kidnapping incidents in the region, and an increase in the number of hostages being taken overall.”

This, he said, has raised concerns about oil installations, container traffic and tanker movements through the region.

These facts were made public during the opening of a pilot course on Developing Maritime Security Culture in the Gulf of Guinea in Takoradi.

This pilot course is the first of the capacity building outputs of a three-year project on, “Enhancing regional research, capacity building and convening of stakeholders towards a safer maritime domain in the Gulf of Guinea,” which is funded by the Danish government.

Maj. Gen. Ofori added that other maritime crimes such as illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, human trafficking and migrant smuggling, marine pollution/toxic waste dumping, illicit trade in arms, drugs and contraband as well as maritime terrorism exist alongside piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.

“These illegal activities exploit the inadequate control of the region’s maritime domain, which revolves around inadequate law enforcement capacity, underdeveloped legislation and limited policy implementation ultimately resulting in weakened governance, corruption and political instability in the Gulf of Guinea,” he said.

He was quick to add that the occurrences of maritime security threats across the region, therefore, illustrate the need for a holistic approach to maritime security response in the region.

Sustainable development of the blue economy, improvement of the well-being of coastal communities and commitment and collaboration across agencies and governments, therefore, becomes key in reducing maritime insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea.

Why Western Region is hosting the piloting of course

The choice of Sekondi-Takoradi as the location for the Pilot Course on “Developing Maritime Security Culture in the Gulf of Guinea”, is historic and rewarding to the Western Region and Takoradi to be precise.

Apart from the Greater Accra Region, the Western Region is the only region with all the three (3) services of the Ghana Armed Forces (Army, Navy and Air Force) are represented.

The Ghana Police Marine Unit, has its headquarters at the Takoradi Harbour, as well as Marine Training School at Ayinase on the Elubo road also in the Western Region.

More importantly, the bulk of Ghana`s oil deposits are found in the Jubilee Fields.

As far as maritime training is concerned, this is the first of its kind to be conducted by the KAIPTC in the region. This enforces the uniqueness of the choice of Takoradi for this Pilot Course, Developing Maritime Security Culture.

Apart from the security agencies, all the key maritime institutions, oil companies are represented in the Sekondi-Takoradi metropolis.

Takoradi and environs have had their fair share of maritime challenges ranging from piracy and armed robbery at sea, illegal unreported unregulated (IUU) fishing, human smuggling/migrant smuggling, illegal bunkering among others.