The inaugural Maritime and Surveillance Conference, taking place at the Accra International Conference Centre in Ghana, starts today and runs until 20th March. Attended by naval, government, corporate and military personnel from Ghana and fellow African countries, it is set to be a significant annual event for West Africa.
Lead sponsor of the event, Paramount Group, Africa’s largest privately owned defence and aerospace business, called for ‘African Solutions to African maritime insecurity’. James Fisher, Chief Executive of Paramount Naval Systems says, “Through regional and in-country integration and a strong African shipbuilding industry, West Africa can address the safety of its shores and support economic growth in the territory. Ghana is leading the way in this regard and by doing so, will continue to bolster its naval capabilities to benefit the continent as a whole.”
According to the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF), piracy, including illegal fishing, off the West African coastline has amplified, costing the shipping and offshore industry more than $1 billion per year respectively and has led to an immediate need for African navies to join forces and restructure their strategies to include modernization and development of multi-purpose vessels for high risk zones.
“Bearing in mind that 90 percent of trade in Africa is seaborne; the most imminent threat comes from the sea in the form of piracy. As a result, we need to establish closer regional cooperation, including sharing of intelligence and streamlining operations,” says Fisher.
While much emphasis is placed on the necessity to protect shores, there is also a need to ensure the navy is adequately equipped to carry out other key roles, including surveillance and patrol, disaster and humanitarian relief operations, monitoring of fishing activities and assisting civil authorities such as Ghana Police Service and Port and Harbour Authority efforts. “Here, collaboration within each country and its various departments is essential,” says Fisher.
Following on Paramount Group’s recent acquisition of Nautic Africa and its recent launch of Paramount Naval Systems, the business is set to double its workforce by 2015 and deliver the ultimate vessels in the most cost effective manner. A 42m Trimaran was developed in direct response to an obvious need in the African market to provide a highly efficient, multi-role vessel. It offers low speed patrolling and can comfortably reach 40 knots in the harshest of conditions.
“With these unique requirements of the Ghanaian navy, the solution is not to always seek international solutions, but to provide African solutions that are more relevant. The legacy of gifted vessels has cost the region dearly and we simply don’t have the luxury of operating and maintaining vessels that are inefficient and do not meet our requirements,” adds Fisher.
“The development of a strong African shipbuilding industry means it is possible for African nations to find regional centred solutions to address the challenges we face. Ghana is playing an important role here and due to its workforce, infrastructure and capacity it is well positioned to develop strong regional structures for the West coast”, says Fisher.
“In order to stimulate global demand for Africa’s naval solutions and protect national resources, it is essential to invest in modern maritime assets. African navies need to respond to terrorist and criminal threats with the necessary resources to be a step ahead in the line of defence,” concludes Paramount’s Fisher.
These capabilities can serve as the driver of long term economic development, boosting industry, creating thousands of jobs and bringing billions of dollars of foreign investment, which will assist West Africa fast-track its efforts to meet the Millennium Development Goals.