Next steps in tackling maritime insecurity in Ghana. Insights from a meeting of the maritime security community organised by the AMARIS project.
Tackling maritime insecurity in order to enhance the blue economy, increase ocean health, but also to strengthen blue justice, continues to be one of the major challenges for today’s governments. Much attention has been given to these ocean challenges in countries of the African continent.
For many observers, Ghana has emerged as an African role model for what can be done to address maritime security. As a major port state, rich in offshore fossil resources, located in West Africa and part of the Gulf of Guinea region, Ghana has made significant efforts. It has also received substantial support from the international community and hosts important regional initiatives, such as the Regional Maritime University.
The Analyzing Maritime Insecurity in Ghana project (AMARIS) has studied the maritime security work in Ghana over the past two years. AMARIS is a collective research project carried out by the CEMLAWS Africa, KAIPTC, UGHANA, and University of Copenhagen in association with the SafeSeas network on maritime security. It is funded by the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs administered by DANIDA.
In April 2022, AMARIS discussed some of its key findings with Ghana’s maritime security community at an event held in Accra hosted by CEMLAWS Africa. Representatives from over 20 organisations, governmental agencies, non-governmental organizations, and international donors participated. The event featured four panels, and 24 speakers gave short presentations. The event was extensively covered in the national news. It allowed to raise attention for what the current challenges are, but also demonstrated the next steps that Ghana should take.
The opening session featured welcome remarks from the organisers (Prof. Christian Bueger (UCPH&SafeSeas) and Dr. Kamal-Deen Ali (CEMLAWS Africa), followed by introductory speeches by the Ghana Maritime Authority, KAIPTC, the Danish Ambassador and the Speaker of Ghana’s Parliament. Speakers re-emphasised their strong commitment to address maritime security, flagged the different challenges that the maritime environment is facing, but also that crucial steps are taken in the country such as the finalisation of the National Integrated Maritime Strategy (known as NIMS).
The next panel, chaired by AMARIS member Prof. Kwesi Anning (KAIPTC) focused on threats and challenges in Ghana’s maritime domain. In the keynote presentation, AMARIS researcher Dr. Anna Mensah provided an overview of the landscape of challenges Ghana is facing, drawing on AMARIS policy reports (available here). Haruna Osman from the Narcotics Commission, Noemie Simon from the Environmental Justice Foundation, Charles Osei from the Marine Police, and Sam Ayelazono from the Ghana Navy gave short presentations on the main challenges they currently see.
Piracy often grabs the headlines, but the actual picture of crimes that need attention is wider. Substantial issues, such as illicit fishing or a wide range of smuggling activities need addressing. This became clear in Dr. Mensah’s presentation and the panelists demonstrated the impact of different crimes. As the panelists argued, more attention to the drivers of criminal activities at sea are needed. Greed and poverty, lack of attention and information sharing, but also a culture of impunity drives illicit activities. The panel also documented that, maritime actors have different concerns, which often makes it difficult for the overall maritime security community to agree on shared priorities.
The next panel focused on maritime security governance and how to make it more effective. In his keynote presentation, Dr. Kamal-Deen Ali presented the key insights from the AMARIS project. Arguing for a wide understanding of governance, that goes beyond legal procedures and emphasises accountability and inclusivity, he elaborated of the complexity of the maritime security sector in Ghana, drawing on an AMARIS policy paper. He called for more attention to this complexity and the need that each actor plays its part in a cooperative spirit. Hon. Kwame Governs Agbodza, Member of Parliament, Francis Micah from the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority, AMARIS member Prof. Ransford Gyampo from the University of Ghana, and Capt. Emmanuel Ankamah (Rtd) commented on the presentation from the perspective of different kinds of members of the maritime security community.
The panel flagged the importance of ensuring accountability in maritime security. This entails that the parliament pays close attention to key developments and enables the political will that is required. The quality of law enforcement depends on solid legislations but also effective budgeting as well. Panelist also highlighted the dangers of turf wars between the agencies – competition over authority, responsibility and resources can undermine efficacy. The National Integrated Maritime Strategy (NIMS) that is currently finalised provides a major opportunity for organising maritime governance better. It will allow agencies and other members of the maritime security community to find their roles and work towards common objectives. All panelist called for strong support to the strategy.
Like other countries on the African continent, Ghana benefits from external capacity building assistance from international actors. To deliver on its ambitions Ghana’s maritime security community needs expertise, training and resources that are often not yet available in the country. This was the focus of the third panel chaired by AMARIS member Dr. Emma Birikorang (KAIPTC). Dr. Katja Lindskov Jacobsen (University of Copenhagen) gave the keynote presentation drawing on the research of AMARIS in this area. Drawing on two policy reports, she emphasized that there is often a lack of attention to how the expertise, skills and resources developed in capacity building are used. She indicated that efficacy could be improved if this is better monitored and pointed out that there might be cases of misuse.
Dr. Eunice Konadu Asamoah from the University of Ghana, Harry Barnes from the Port Environment Network Africa, Dr. Nana Ofosu Boateng from the Regional Maritime University and Capt. Derrick Attachie from the Global Maritime Crime Programme of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime commented on the presentation. Panelists agreed that the impact of capacity building can be strengthened. They called for more attention to bottom-up thinking, concentrating efforts not only at state agencies, but also civil society and paying more attention to the long-term impact of working with local training and higher education institutions. They also pointed to the dangers of duplication and miscoordination that a lack of transparency on capacity building might cause.
The day was concluded with a summary of key points by the organizers. Prof. Christian Bueger and Dr. Kamal Deen Ali emphasized the importance of a cooperative spirit within the maritime security community. They called for strong support for the NIMS and flagged that the strategy provides a window of opportunity. Bueger also outlined some of the emerging themes that did not receive much attention so far. Drawing on a forthcoming AMARIS policy report, he argued that Ghana’s maritime security must start to pay more attention to the impacts of climate change and how it will present new challenges for maritime law enforcement or might lead to new patterns of crime. He called for more attention to environmental crimes, beyond illicit fishing, that have the potential to harm marine life significantly. Also, the protection of critical subsea cable infrastructures, such as subsea data cables vital for Ghana’s digital economy, must be placed higher on the agenda.