The Minister of Defence, Mr Dominic Nitiwul, has announced plans by the government to retool the Ghana Navy with available logistics and facilities to protect the country's marine sub-sector of the rising illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing and other related activities on the sea.
Subsequently, he explained that the Navy will soon take delivery of ships to protect both the depleting fish stock and the country's offshore oil and gas infrastructure.
Speaking to the GRAPHIC BUSINESS at the maiden International Maritime Defence Exhibition and Conference (IMDEC) on July 24 in Accra, Mr Nitiwul observed that the size of the ship fleet of the Navy has been reduced from 16 ships in the 1960’s to 10 ships today.
“It is noted, however, that the government has started retooling and re-equipping the Ghana Arm Forces and very soon, the Navy will take delivery of shippers for the protection of our maritime domain,” he said.
A study conducted recently by Hen Mpoano and Environmental Justice Foundation, both non-governmental organisations (NGOs) on fisheries resources has revealed that Ghana loses between US$52.7 to US$81.1 million annually through illegal fish trans-shipment, popularly called "Saiko."
The study also indicated that the impact of industrial trawl fleet on Ghana's marine fisheries resources had been severely underestimated.
For instance, it said that only 40 per cent of an estimated 167,000 tonnes of fish caught by fishing trawlers in 2017 were landed legally and reported to the Fisheries Commission.
According to the study, approximately 100,000 tonnes of fish were landed through Saiko in 2017, however, official statistics reported by the fishing trawlers to the Fisheries Commission was 67,205 tonnes in the same year, despite observers being present on a number of vessels.
The study claimed also that majority of trawl vessels engaged in the Saiko trade were owned by Chinese.
To address challenges on the sea, Mr Nitiwul stated that plans were far advanced to procure two offshore patrol vessels with reach and endurance capable of staying at sea for a long time.
He said the patrol vessels would be able to patrol the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of 200 nautical miles and extended continental shelf of 350 nautical miles.
“We have also signed a contract worth about US$200 million for the construction of a forward opening base at Ezinlibo, and associated patrol boats in the Western Region to give close protection to our marine domain.
“There are also plans to achieve total maritime domain awareness through satellite imagery and other maritime domain awareness solutions,” he said.
The minister observed that the Ghana Air Force and the Navy have put measures in place for joint patrols and the Air Force was refocusing its operations to the maritime domain.
He stated that the collaboration between the Navy and other agencies continue to yield positive results. The recent crackdown on activities of fuel smuggling syndicates was as a result of the collaboration with the National Petroleum Agency.
The Navy, as the lead agency for maritime security, must not rest on its oars and must continue to work closely with the Marine Police, the Ghana Maritime Authority (GMA), the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA), the Petroleum Commission and the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation and all other institutions of state.
It also needed to work with international partners such as Friends of the Nation, CARE and Oxfam in Ghana who are jointly implementing the Far Ban Bo, a fisheries governance project funded by the European Union (EU).
The project is designed to help address the challenges of overfishing and unsustainable fishing practices, including illegal, unreported and unprotected fishing, low compliance and weak capacity for law enforcement within the sector.