Ghana is implementing a vessel traffic management and information system (VTMIS) to provide electronic surveillance and monitoring of the entire coast of the country.
This is to prevent potential risk of piracy and armed robbery on the high seas. The system, according to the Deputy Minister of Transport, Ms Dzifa A. Attivor, was to serve the needs of the maritime industry by becoming a centre for information gathering and sharing to alert industry players to potential hot spots.
The deputy minister made this known at the 10th meeting of the Board of Governors of the Regional Maritime University (RMU) in Accra last Friday.
The meeting was used by the five-member countries of the RMU, currently chaired by The Gambia, to take stock of the performance of the University, discuss critical matters and take decisions that would further enhance its growth and development.
The Ghana Maritime Authority last year signed a contract with EL TEL Corporation Network based in Finland for the supply and installation of the VTMIS.
In addition to helping to check the shipment of narcotics and illicit drugs, truck weapons and ensure the safety of navigation and protection of the marine environment from pollution, the VTMIS is also equipped with sensors which provide information on weather conditions at sea for coastal management purposes and facilitate search-and-rescue operations in case of maritime distress at sea.
The project is being funded by BNP Paribas, a bank in the United Kingdom. Pirate attacks on the West African coast have increased sharply, raising fear that the region could become, like Somalia, a threat to shipping.
One hundred and two incidents of piracy and armed robbery were reported in the territorial waters of West Africa in the first quarter of 2012 alone.
Last year, Nigeria and Benin had reported 22 piracy incidents by August, according to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB).
Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, which stretches along the coasts of a dozen countries from Guinea to Angola, has escalated from low-level armed robberies to hijackings, cargo thefts and large-scale robberies over the past eight months.
Ms Attivor, therefore, urged authorities in the transport industry to adopt appropriate strategies and intensify measures aimed at combating the increasing spate of piracy and armed robbery in West Africa.
She said the government had provided an initial $204,000 out of $1.7 million for the construction of a 2,000-seater auditorium for the RMU. She commended the rector and the management of the University for initiating the RMU Satellite Programme which aims at taking the university closer to beneficiaries in the member countries.
The Chairman of the Board of Governors of the RMU, Mr. Francis A.L Mboge, noted that with the oil find in the Gulf of Guinea and its accompany industrialization, there was the need for the intensification of the level of maritime education and training at regional institutions such as the RMU.
He observed that for the RMU to herald itself as a model for quality education in sub-Saharan Africa, it needed both logistical and financial support.
To that end, while urging member countries to meet their obligations to ensure the university achieved its aim, he also pledge the Gambian government’s commitment to the university, adding that a hostel block being financed by The Gambia would soon be completed.
There were messages from the governments of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Cameroon and the Maritime Organization of West and Central Africa (MOWAC), each pledging unflinching support for the growth and development of the RMU.