Maritime Security Conference Kicks Off in Ghana
Africa's largest annual maritime security conference kicked off in Ghana this week amid a sharp rise in piracy and armed robberies in the Gulf of Guinea over the last 12+ months.
Hosted by the Ghanaian Navy and Air Force in Accra from July 6-8, the International Maritime Defense Exhibition and Conference (IMDEC 2021) has brought together several West African Chiefs of Naval Staff and government leaders such as the Vice President of Ghana, Alhaji Mahamudu Bawumia, alongside experts from intercontinental law enforcement agencies and the private sector as escalating maritime security threats continue to impact waterborne commerce at a time when the industry in Africa was already weathering the economic shocks of the COVID-19 outbreak (a recent report by UNCTAD estimated the drop in Africa’s exports at -35%).
These scenarios stifled West African trade and transportation and highlighted a readiness gap in African maritime infrastructure across the continent at large, forcing an industry-wide rethink of modern maritime security and sustainability, said global aerospace and technology company Paramount Group, a sponsor of the event. They have underscored an urgency behind fostering greater innovation and Pan-African collaboration and a need to embolden resiliency in the face of a myriad of threats, the company added.
Eric Ichikowitz, senior vice president of Paramount Group, said “As the world reeled from the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic, often unreported was the landmark year for piracy and the rise in threats to maritime security. With nearly 200 incidents of piracy having taken place in 2020 alone, the highest number of total piracy attacks over the last three years, it is now more important than ever that African navies and the maritime industry come together at IMDEC, to engage in the necessary, constructive discourses to reinforce Africa’s primary gateway to the global marketplace.
“Over 90% of maritime kidnappings worldwide last year were reported to have taken place in the Gulf of Guinea. This is a staggering statistic that specifically impacts foreign direct investment, intra-African trade and our blue economies, representing the future potential of Africa’s maritime and coastal waters.
“We are proud to support our hosts, the Ghanaian Navy and Air Force, by sharing best practices and showcasing innovative, localized solutions to the threats facing Africa’s maritime industry. Furthermore, we are looking forward to spotlight breakthroughs in emerging counter-piracy operations primed to better safeguard the 6,000-kilometer Gulf of Guinea coastline for the preservation of our continent’s vibrant blue ocean economies.”
In the venue’s second rendition, IMDEC 2021 will consist of panel discussions, breakout sessions and VIP exhibition walk-throughs of Ghana’s Air and Naval bases, as well as private vessel tours to further display the advanced capabilities of Ghana’s Naval and Air Force fleets, with the nation’s navy having recently celebrated its 60 anniversary.
According to Paramount Group, IMDEC serves as a timely opportunity for the hundreds of attendees participating to gain firsthand knowledge, share their product offerings and discuss the potential for improving the effectiveness and versatility of marine vessels, mitigating the effects of COVID-19 on future maritime security operations and trade, implementing new technologies and commercial solutions to adapt to present-day challenges, localizing production and enhancing mechanical repair and overhaul (MRO) services across the Gulf of Guinea through strategic investments and overviewing interagency approaches to greater regional cooperation.
Ichikowitz Expects IMDEC 2021 “will foster newfound dialogue and best practices in how to expand the physical assets under African navies’ commands, as well as our continent’s ability to coordinate joint naval activities and inter-agency information sharing, to the benefit of the Gulf of Guinea and beyond.”