The Acting Vice-Chancellor, Regional Maritime University (RMU), Dr Jethro W. Brook Jr., says the Gulf of Guinea has recorded a significant decline in Maritime incidents in the last two years.

He said, for instance, the number of incidents reduced from 132 in 2020 to 74 in 2021 and further to 41 in 2022.

Similarly, the number of crew kidnappers have also been reduced from 136 in 2020 to 90 in 2021 to 35 in 2022.

He said this was achieved through a strong commitment and collaborative efforts by countries in the Region and support from international partners to training programmes such as the ECOWAS integrated Maritime Strategy (SWAIMS) in areas of equipment.

Dr Brooks Jr. made this known at the opening of the Regional Maritime Operational Training Course dubbed: ” Maritime Affairs and Security Course.”

The six-weeks course aimed at building the capacity and competencies of staff and personnel of maritime focus agencies and institutions across the West Africa Region in combating crimes in the Gulf of Guinea.

The Course, which started on January 23, is expected to end on March 3, 2023.

Participants were drawn from various security agencies from Benin, Cote d’ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria and Togo.

Dr Brooks Jr. said these incidents include robbery, kidnapping, violent armed boarding, and hijack.

He said with these incidents with support from the European Union, SWAIMS was launched in 2016.

It is to improve regional governance and legal framework, prosecution and adjudication of Maritime crimes, law enforcement, operational capabilities, regional training and response to the threats and transnational cooperation.

He said while the Maritime piracy continued to decline in the region, criminal networks were increasing their gains in other transnational organised crimes.

These include illegal bunkering and oil theft, IUU fishing, drug trafficking, smuggling and other illicit activities.

Dr Brooks Jr. said the third edition of the Course had, therefore, been packaged and would deliver with the objective of the ECOWAS Integrated Maritime Strategy focus.

He assured partners of RMU’s commitment to delivering quality and tailored-made operational training in support of the regional fight against criminality at sea.

Daniel Appianin, the Deputy Director General of Ghana Maritime Authority, said the good news was the past year had seen some positive developments regarding maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea.

“It is the lowest since 1992 even though violence against seafarers remains a real threat,” he said.

He said according to the International Maritime Bureau, out of the 90 global piracy and armed robbery incidents recorded between January and September 2022; 13 have been reported in the Gulf of Guinea region, compared to 27 over the same period in 2021.

He commended the EU for its consistent support to ECOWAS in promoting maritime affairs and combating maritime crimes in the Gulf of Guinea region.

The Deputy Director General said the decline in the number of reported incidents in West African waters should be welcomed, but this progresAs was likely to be short-lived unless “we all work together to maintain and improve the current status.”

He charged participants to make the most of the training since it was a critical way of dealing with this menace of piracy, armed robbery, and other maritime crimes within our waters.

Mr Augus­tus Addy Lamptey, Project Coordinator, said the modules for the training include introduction to Maritime Security Environment, Maritime Security Functional Area, Legal and Policy Frameworks for Advancing Maritime Security, Blue Economy and Maritime

Environment and Maritime Crisis Management.

Others are Fisheries Sector Security and Governance, Managing Complexities of Safety and Security, Maritime Safety and Yaounde Architecture Information and Incidence Reporting Systems.