West Africa piracy threatens regional trade plans, says Ghana minister

Somali region once riddled with pirates sees peaceful power transfer

PHOTO CREDIT: PRI

Piracy in the waters off West Africa threatens plans to bolster regional trade, Ghana’s defence minister warned Wednesday, as navy chiefs discussed efforts to secure the troubled waters.

The Gulf of Guinea is the most dangerous stretch of sea for pirate attacks in the world, according to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB).

The IMB said 62 seafarers were taken hostage or abducted in the area in the first half of 2019, accounting for 73 percent of kidnappings and 92 percent of hostage-takings at sea worldwide.

Earlier this month a group of ten Turkish sailors were kidnapped by alleged pirates off the coast of Nigeria.

“The threats to maritime security and safety transcend borders and have the propensity to affect international trade hence a threat to one coastal nation is a threat to all nations; coastal or landlocked,” Ghana’s minister for defence Dominic Nitiwul told a major maritime conference in Accra.

“The sea is the super highway for global trade and Africa’s quest for a Continental Free Trade Area cannot be successful without a secured maritime domain.”

The two-day gathering in the Ghanaian capital — which included a delegation from the US navy — also focused on illegal fishing, oil thefts, and human and drug trafficking.

“Today piracy and armed robbery in the Gulf of Guinea continue to pose a significant threat to regional and international shipping,” Ghana’s navy head Seth Amoama said.

“Threats including illegal oil bunkering, kidnapping for ransom, illegal fishing and drug trafficking are common across our oceans, transnational crimes not only threaten national peace and stability they also come at great cost to the economies.”

African nations this month officially launched a landmark trade agreement, hailed as a historic step towards bolstering commerce across the continent.