Kathy Gibson reports from the Maritime and Coastal Security conference in Cape Town – Since most of Africa’s navies can float small fleets of coastal craft, it is imperative that the pool resources if they hope to deal with maritime crime.

Commodore Godson Zowonoo, flag officer commanding: Western Naval Command in the Ghana Navy, points out that maritime security threats are actually national security threats. In addition, they are economic threats as well as being national and trans-national crimes that include drug running, arms running and human trafficking. Maritime crimes also lead directly to economic degradation, Zowonoo says.

The requirements of African navies include the platforms to help them do their jobs, maintenance facilities, maritime patrol aircraft, electronic surveillance equipment, maritime operations centres and a highly skilled and motivated workforce.

Frameworks and doctrines that have been formulated for African navies have been put in place by African countries, the African Partnership Station Initiative aims to make African navies highly skilled, sponsored by the US Africa Command and US Naval Forces Africa aimed at providing a safe Maritime domain and interoperability among African navies.

A lack of information sharing, however, hampers efforts, there is a non-involvement o navy staff in ministerial meetings, Zowonoo says. In addition, there is a lack of functional maritime operations centres; and also a lack of personal contact among operational commanders.

Another problem is that naval commanders to do not know their counterparts in other navies, which hampers them when it comes to hot pursuit.

There is a need to develop sub-regional maritime doctrines along with the establishment of sub-regional maritime forces.

Zowonoo proposes that African governments also invest in naval assets as well as repair facilities. They could also invest in quality training of naval personnel, he says.

“Our countries are not equally endowed with maritime forces. But the criminals hide in waters of one country and commit crimes in the waters of another. They know very well there is no co-operation between countries.”

Maritime crime is prevalent around Africa, retarding economies and development and leading to the deaths of seafarers. Sub-regional maritime forces are needed to deal with the problem. Until doctrines are properly synchronised and information sharing formalised, the steps outlined above will help sub-regions to deal adequately with maritime crime.