Research in West Africa: Ports, presentations and pictures

OOn 16 November 2018, I was invited to give a presentation to the working group involved in developing Ghana’s new integrated maritime strategy. The workshop was organised by CEMLAWS Africa in Accra, Ghana. Participants from various government agencies in Ghana attended, including the Ghana Maritime Authority and the foreign ministry.

My brief had been to provide some thoughts on maritime security issues in West Africa from the point of view of the shipping industry. That led to a very interesting discussion and some more background on security incidents that took place earlier this year, notably the kidnapping of three South Koreans from a fishing trawler registered in Ghana. Moreover, it was extremely interesting to learn more about the improving coordination between various agencies involved in maritime issues.

CEMLAWS Africa is an independent, non-profit institution based in Ghana’s capital Accra. The organisation wants to improve ocean governance and maritime security in Africa. It combines research expertise with understanding of policy  as well as practical insights to deliver comprehensive responses to issues in the maritime environment.

Longer trip to West Africa

My visit to Accra was part of a longer trip that took me to Benin, Togo, Côte d’Ivoire and finally Ghana. On behalf of Risk Intelligence, I visited the ports in Cotonou, Lomé, Abidjan and Tema where I spoke to agents, security officials and other shipping industry representatives.

Overall, I got a very good impression of security issues in and around the ports I visited. While some issues remain, there has been general progress regarding security procedures, particularly on land but also in the immediate vicinity of ports and anchorages. Governments continue to invest into infrastructure and the private sector has also made some valuable contributions. All of this will help to reap the benefits of maritime trade in the future.

Maritime security is obviously just one of many factors influencing decisions related to maritime trade. However, operating in a secure environment is extremely helpful for maritime operators as well as the oil and gas industry. Good security is a marketing factor (as I have argued before) and governments have to continue their investments in the maritime environment to stimulate growth and economic development in West Africa’s economies.