Ghana steps up fight against West African piracy

Good. Glad its being taken seriously. Yet more could undoubtedly be done. Particularly support from allied nations. The Ghana Navy (GN) could probably have used one of those Type 22 frigates being sent to scrap by the British government or one of the Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates being decommissioned by the US government. The allied nations can provide their own ships for standing counter-piracy deployments along the West African littoral, as they currently do for the East African & Persian Gulf area of operations, but to truly mitigate the regional piracy threat presented in the Gulf of Guinea the allied nations must identify, support and strengthen the principaux interlocuteurs such as Ghana and Nigeria. This should be done with ship donations, maritime security training, logistical support and direct military assistance (standing deployments, but not as large, given that the regional forces will be strengthened). OK. Rant over.

Ghana to set up special naval units, maritime crime courts to counter piracy

The Ghanaian Navy says it is setting up special boat units to deal with maritime security challenges like piracy in order to secure the country’s new-found offshore oil and gas resources.

The establishment of the special units comes after Ghana announced plans to set up the first African special courts to deal with maritime crimes, as piracy takes root in the West Africa’s Gulf of Guinea. Ghana Navy Chief of Naval Staff Rear Admiral Geoffery Biekro said apart from protecting maritime boundaries, offshore oil rigs and pipeline infrastructure, the special boats units will also fight trans-national crimes such as smuggling, illegal fishing, weapons and drug trafficking.

Biekro said foreign partners will fund the training and equipment needs for the special naval units. He added that the Ghanaian Navy is already over-stretched in dealing with national security threats, threats to economic infrastructure and even more serious threats to the security of its newly-found offshore hydrocarbon wealth.

“We also have transnational crimes that are posing serious national security threats to the country. Apart from the economic losses, there are also human security losses, with a reduction in protein intake and impoverishing of fishing communities,” Biekro said.

He said the failure of the navy to exercise full control of the country’s maritime domain has directly led to the inability to exploit fishery resources, forcing the government to import fish annually.

Biekro said oil theft remains the major economic threat to Ghana’s maritime and national economic security due to the advent of criminal gangs which connive with local officials to steal crude oil from offshore installations as evidenced by an increase in the number of foreign tankers found stealing crude oil from offshore facilities in the country’s prestigious Salt Pond and Jubilee oil fields.

Among other national maritime security initiatives, the Ghana Maritime Authority (GMA) in August commissioned a Vessel Traffic Management and Information System (VTMIS) to improve safety and security in the country’s waters. The VTMIS is a state-of-the-art monitoring and surveillance electronic system designed to ensure effective management of maritime boundaries, the protection of maritime resources, offshore oil resources and pipeline infrastructure.

The system can track vessels 1,000 nautical miles from the country’s shores and is operated from four control centres, eight remote sensor sites along the coast and three remote base stations on Lake Volta.

Meanwhile, Ghanaian High Court Chief Justice Georgina Woods says the country will set up special courts to deal specifically with maritime crimes before the end of this year. “Off shore discovery and exploitation of Ghana’s oil and gas resources coupled with significant increase in international trade has brought to the fore the need for the establishment of maritime courts to adjudicate the many maritime cases that will come before the courts. I have therefore decided to set up maritime courts in Accra, Tema and Takoradi,” Woods said.

He said through collaborations with the Ghana Shippers Authority, three judges drawn from the High Court will be sponsored to undertake post-graduate studies with specialisation in maritime law in preparation for deployment to the three new special courts.

http://www.defenceweb.co.za/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=32332:ghana-to-set-up-special-naval-units-maritime-crime-courts-to-counter-piracy&catid=108:Maritime%20Security&Itemid=233#!

Pirate attacks in the Gulf of Guinea, July 2013

Source: Office of Naval Intelligence (unclassified)

19 July: The Vanuatu-flagged offshore supply vessel C Viking (2197 GT) was boarded at the Usari Oil Field off the coast of Nigeria. Pirates looted the vessel and destroyed equipment on the bridge before disembarking.

18 July: The United States-flagged bulk carrier Liberty Grace (28836 GT) experienced an attempted boarding attempt in the Lome anchorage area off the coast of Togo. The crew of the bulk carrier used a spotlight, fire hoses and flares to repel the boarding attempt. A patrol boat from the Togo Navy arrived after the incident.

16 July: The Marshall Islands-flagged tanker Ocean Centurion (23328 GT) was hijacked at 05:29N – 001:38 E, approximately 46nm southeast of Lome, Togo. Armed pirates in 2 speed boats approached, boarded and hijacked the tanker while underway. They took hostage all the crew members, looted personal belongings, and ordered the Master to steer towards the Togo/Benin border. The pirates disembarked and escaped via speedboat, 12nm from the coastline. Two crew members were injured during the hijacking and were transferred ashore for medical treatment. A patrol boat from the Togo Navy arrived after the incident.

15 July: The Malta-flagged chemical tanker Cotton (23248 GT) was hijacked at 00:26 S – 008:51 E, approximately 13nm off Port Gentil, Gabon while underway. Approximately 25 gunmen armed with AK-47 assault rifles hijacked the tanker and took its crew hostage. The vessel was released, with all crew safe, on 22 July.

14 July: The Gabon-flagged landing craft Renovation (940 GT) was boarded while underway off Port Gentil, Gabon. Approximately 20 gunmen boarded the landing craft, looted the crew’s personal possessions and escaped.

10 July: An anchored chemical tanker experienced a suspicious approach at 06:17 N, – 003:21 E, approximately 5.4nm southwest of Fairway Buoy, Lagos. The tanker’s armed security team fired one warning shot when the small boat came within 50m of the vessel, causing the boat to depart the area.

7 July: Gunmen boarded a supply vessel at 04:24 N – 007:03 E, in the vicinity of the New Calabar River, Nigeria while the vessel was underway. The captain, chief engineer and a deckhand were reported to have been taken hostage.

5 July: An anchored bulk carrier was boarded at 06:26 N – 003:23 E at Lagos, Nigeria. Armed men were spotted by the boatswain who alerted the duty officer. The boatswain was wounded by gunfire before other crew members came to his assistance. The gunmen escaped by speedboat. The injured crew member was hospitalized for treatment.

Pirates hijack tanker in Gulf of Guinea, 24 hostages

While we’re still focused on piracy along the East African coast (and rightly so… let’s not take our eyes off that ball) we should be paying increased attention to piracy in the Gulf of Guinea – West Africa’s own “Pirate Alley.” International support must be provided to local, poorly-equipped navies. They cannot win this fight alone.

Pirates Hijack Tanker Off Gabon as Shipping Risks Spread

Pirates have hijacked an oil products tanker with 24 crew on board off the Gabon coast, the vessel’s operator said on Wednesday, as a surge in such attacks in West Africa’s mineral-rich Gulf of Guinea threatens regional shipping.

The pirates are thought to have boarded the Malta-flagged Cotton tanker, carrying a partly loaded cargo of fuel oil, on Monday near Port Gentil, Gabon, in the first reported attack in that region in the past five years, Turkish operator Geden Lines said.

“The company is in contact with the families of the 24 Indian crew members on board and the appropriate authorities have been contacted,” Geden Lines said in a statement.

The Gulf of Guinea, which includes Nigeria, Ghana and Ivory Coast as well as Gabon, is a major source of oil, cocoa and, increasingly, metals for world markets. International navies are not actively engaged in counter-piracy missions in the region.

“The attack occurred around 200 nautical miles (NM) further south than the previous most southerly attack, which was around 160NM southwest of Bonny Island (in Nigeria) on 26 April,” security firm AKE said.

“It therefore marks a significant expansion of the geographical range of Gulf of Guinea piracy. It also demonstrates the regional nature of the illegal fuel trade, the supply of which tankers such as Cotton are generally hijacked for.”

Unlike waters off Somalia and the Horn of Africa, where ships can move past at high speed with armed guards on board, many vessels have to anchor off West African coastal nations, with little protection, making them a soft target for criminals.

http://www.maritime-executive.com/article/UPDATE-Pirates-Hijack-Tanker-Off-Gabon-as-Shipping-Risks-Spread-2013-07-17/