More than 60 participants from the 20 coastal Member States of the Port Management Association of West and Central Africa (PMAWCA) joined international experts for a seminar on maritime and port security, held in Cotonou, Benin, from 22 to 25 July, organized by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), in conjunction with PMAWCA.
Experts from France, the United States Coast Guard, the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the international police organization, Interpol, shared their knowledge and respective areas of expertise on a range of issues, including the practical implementation of security measure in ports, the facilitation of maritime traffic, the suppression of piracy and armed robbery against ships, dealing with illicit maritime trafficking and countering transnational organised crime.
IMO welcomed the opportunity to collaborate closely with PMAWCA as part of IMO’s continuing technical co-operation programme in the region.
“Going forward, PMAWCA will build on the issues raised in this seminar to create a network for sharing port and maritime security information, intelligence gathering and information sharing as the Association seeks to contribute towards the wider effort to strengthen maritime security,” said Mr. Michael Luguje, PMAWCA Secretary-General.
This seminar complements the maritime security assistance programme conducted by the Organization in the region, including the integrated coast guard function network project and the recent series of national table top exercises. The seminar is also an example of the spirit of cooperation outlined in the recently-signed Code of Conduct concerning the prevention of piracy, armed robbery against ships and illicit maritime activity in west and central Africa, which aims to build capacity in west and central Africa to counter piracy, armed robbery and other illicit acts at sea (See IMO Briefing 2013/23) .
Successful implementation of the Code of Conduct is expected to stimulate economic development in the member states, develop sustainable fisheries and promote the development of the maritime sector.
IMO Secretary-General Koji Sekimizu has announced the creation of a multi donor trust fund for west and central Africa to support maritime security capacity-building activities in the region.
The seminar was designed to improve the knowledge and understanding of participants with respect to port security best practices on conducting port facility security assessments, drafting port facility security plans and carrying out audits. It also aimed at providing participants with a broader understanding of the subject of maritime security in order to help them review current practices and to develop policies that will support wider national and regional efforts to strengthen implementation of the provisions of SOLAS chapter XI-2 and the ISPS Code, the Organization’s guidance related to piracy and armed robbery, as well as the newly adopted Code of Conduct concerning the repression of piracy, armed robbery against ships, and illicit maritime activity in West and Central Africa.
A further objective was to identify the specific role of the different port actors in the prevention, incident development and post-incident phases of a crisis situation. Of particular importance for such events is the exchange of views, experience and knowledge amongst participants in order to identify shortcomings in crisis communication or the potential lack of co-operation in solving maritime security-related crime.