EU donates 30 boats, forensic equipment to West African Countries 

The European Union has donated various security hardware including 30 Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats, RHIBs and forensic equipment to the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS in the fight  against maritime crime and other security challenges.

The boats and equipment were provided under the EU-funded ECOWAS project tagged The Support to West Africa Integrated Maritime Security, SWAIMS project, a multi-component, regional initiative implemented in all 15 ECOWAS countries.

This was disclosed at a high-level maritime security seminar convened by ECOWAS in Abuja under the framework of the European Union-funded Support to West Africa Integrated Maritime Security project.

The equipment, estimated at €5 million, is expected to help security agencies in Nigeria and 11 other coastal ECOWAS states in combating maritime.

The other benefiting countries are Benin, Cabo Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea-Conakry, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Senegal and Togo.

The Head of ECOWAS’ Regional Security Division, Colonel Abdourahmane Dieng, observed that maritime insecurity has been one of the most persistent and intractable threats to maritime communities and economic prosperity in West Africa.

According to Dieng, turning the tide against maritime insecurity is a collaborative effort that no single country or region can tackle alone.

He said, “For this reason, ECOWAS, in conjunction with the Economic Community of Central African States formulated the Yaoundé Code of Conduct as a foundation for broad-based regional maritime security along the entire Gulf of Guinea.

“Cognisant of this problem and its ramifications well beyond West Africa, ECOWAS launched its Integrated Maritime Strategy in 2014 with parameters for the development of the blue economy premised upon a coherent security framework.”

Coordinated Response
Dieng however said that West African countries requires a whole of coordinated response to tackle the scourge of attacks, piracy and armed robberies against the Vessels.

“For that we have developed an ECOWAS integrated maritime strategy around five pillars to ensure security in the fifteen member states within ECOWAS maritime domain.

“And also reinforce our capacity in terms of managing our maritime environment and also developing our capacity in terms of blue economy, and also develop our culture in terms of maritime.

“We are receiving support from our partners, the main partners coming in is the European Union and today we are also here together with SWAIMS to try to capacitate the member states.

“Today, all the Member States are represented by their relevant agencies and also representative to discuss draft an agreement for the sharing of the Rigid Inflatable boats.

“And also try to develop the modalities of the way to capacitate the member states to be able to use them today,” Dieng explained.

Gulf Of Guinea
The EU Senior Coordinator for the Gulf of Guinea, Ambassador Nicolas Martinez, said the EU is a committed partner in the Gulf of Guinea region and would continue to provide extensive and targeted assistance to strengthen the critical features of the Yaoundé security architecture while cementing the long-standing relationship between ECOWAS and the EU.

SWAIMS Representative, Dr. Axel Klien said that the Seminar was part of a wider programme to support Maritime security in the ECOWAS region.

Klien said that the Rigid Hull Inflateable Boats would be provided to Navy and coast guards of all coastal ECOWAS Member States and the provision of equipment to the maritime operation centers.

This he explains will help to curb maritime crimes and piracy which has ravaged the coastal lines of ECOWAS Countries.

“There are different types of Maritime crimes, there are piracy and armed robbery, there are also illegal fishing, and there is the trade in illicit goods.

“So against all these crimes, the coat guards, the police, the law enforcement agencies, the prosecuting services, they need to be provided with equipment.

“What we are talking about today here is providing to ECOWAS, with funding from the European Union are thirty digital inflatable boats that can go out into the sea and catch the perpetuators.

“And also the forensic equipment and communications and other equipments that will help the maritime centers coordinate these operations.

“If you look at the numbers of piracy incidents in these regions, you will find that all the different efforts buy Navies and Coast Guards and international partners have been successful in reducing the numbers.

“So we need to build on that success by strengthening the security system that is in place at the moment.

“International cooperation is critical and here is why ECOWAS is playing a valuable role for its multinational coordination centers, the exchange of information and the coordination of expenses,” Dr. Klien said.
Training and Maintenance

The SWAIMS Team Leader, disclosed that the boats and the forensic equipments would be supplied by Portugal’s Camões working closely with the Portuguese Navy, which would also provide related training and maintenance.
“In financial terms, the delivery of RHIBs and forensic equipment worth more than €5 million is the most significant component of the SWAIMS project,” he explained.

Besides Camões, other SWAIMS implementing partners are Institut de sécurité maritime interregional in Côte d’Ivoire, Regional Maritime University in Ghana, ECOWAS’ Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

Ambassador Joao Almeida, President Camoes Institute, who lauded the programme said the institution was excited to have been charged by the European Union to implement the project.

Almedia express optimism that the boats and equipment when handed over will achieve its purpose of combatting all forms of maritime crimes in the region.

“We have been charged by the European Union to be the implementors of the project that we are going to have here.

“We are going to discuss how to go ahead with the MOU among the 12 states of ECOWAS,” Almedia said.
The boats and equipment which are expected to significantly enhance the capacity of beneficiary countries to enforce the rule of law in their territorial waters and adjoining exclusive economic zones will be supplied by 2024.

Confidence Okwuchi

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