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West and Central Africa Regional Agreements and Information Sharing

 

IMO has been involved in technical cooperation projects relating to maritime domain awareness in the West and Central Africa region for many years and established a regional presence in West Africa in 1999. IMO currently has two regional coordinators based in Côte d'Ivoire, within the premises of the Ministry of Transport in Abidjan, for west and central Africa Francophone, and in Ghana, within the UNDP offices in Accra, for west and central Africa Anglophone.  

To address the threat of Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships and other illicit maritime activities in the Gulf of Guinea, two interrelated agreements which form the basis of the IMO's technical cooperation programme for West Africa and Central, have been adopted by the countries of the region with Organization's assistance.

 

The Code of Conduct concerning the repression of piracy, armed robbery against ships, and illicit maritime activity in west and central Africa - June 2013

The Code of Conduct concerning the repression of piracy, armed robbery against ships, and illicit maritime activity in West and Central Africa, also referred to as the 2013 Code of Conduct, was developed by the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Gulf of Guinea Commission (GGC), with the assistance of IMO, pursuant to United Nations Security Council resolutions 2018 (2011) and 2039 (2012), which expressed concern about the threat that piracy and armed robbery at sea in the Gulf of Guinea pose to international navigation, security and the economic development of states in the region. For various UN Security Council documents on Piracy click here or here.

These resolutions encouraged the Member States of ECCAS, ECOWAS and the GGC to develop a comprehensive regional strategy and framework to counter piracy, armed robbery against ships and other illicit maritime activities, through regional information sharing and strategic coordination mechanisms, and to build on existing initiatives, such as those under the auspices of IMO. 

The strategy was initially endorsed at ministerial level by a meeting held in Benin, in March 2013. Subsequently, on 25 June 2013, it was formally adopted as a Code of Conduct in Yaoundé, Cameroon, by Heads of State or their representatives from 25 West and Central African countries, including 13 Presidents (Photos here).

 
 
 
 

The Code of Conduct complements and builds on the relevant security related provisions of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the Establishment of a Sub-regional Integrated Coast Guard Function Network in West and Central Africa and incorporates many elements of the Djibouti Code of Conduct, adopted in January 2009 as a framework for countries in and around the Western Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden to counter piracy in that region.

In contrast to the Djibouti Code of Conduct which focuses primarily on piracy, the West and Central Africa strategy contains a comprehensive regional maritime security framework to counter not only piracy and armed robbery against ships, but other illicit maritime activities as well, such as Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing, drug smuggling, etc. Making it much broader in scope, since it addresses a wider range of illegal activities.

More specifically, through the Code, its signatories agree to cooperate to the fullest extent possible on the prevention and repression of piracy and armed robbery against ships, transnational organized crime in the maritime domain, maritime terrorism, IUU fishing and other illegal activities at sea with a view towards:

  1. sharing and reporting relevant information;
  2.  interdicting ships and/or aircraft suspected of engaging in such illegal activities at sea;
  3. ensuring that persons committing or attempting to commit illegal activities at sea are apprehended and prosecuted; and
  4. facilitating proper care, treatment, and repatriation for seafarers, fishermen, other shipboard personnel and passengers subject to illegal activities at sea, particularly those who have been subjected to violence

While it promotes regional cooperation, the Code also recognizes the principles of sovereign equality, the territorial integrity of States and that of non-intervention in the domestic affairs of other States. Furthermore, a successful implementation of the Code of Conduct is expected to stimulate economic development in the countries that are Party to it, develop sustainable fisheries sectors and promote the overall enhancement of West Africa's maritime sector.

 

The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the Establishment of a Sub-regional Integrated Coast Guard Function Network (the IMO/MOWCA MoU) – July 2008

In cooperation with the Maritime Organization for West and Central Africa (MOWCA), the IMO developed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the Establishment of a Sub-regional Integrated Coast Guard Network in West and Central Africa, also referred to as the IMO/MOWCA MoU, which was adopted in Senegal in July 2008.  To date, it has been signed by 16 of its 20 coastal member States and provides a framework to promote regional maritime cooperation and a stable maritime environment as well as the peace, good order and prosperity of West and Central Africa.

MOWCA is comprised by the following Member States: Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Cape Verde, the Congo, Cote d'Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Liberia, Mauritania, Nigeria, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo.

MOWCA Countries.gif 

The goal of the Network is to initiate joint efforts to safeguard human life, enforce laws and improve the security, safety and protection of the environment, otherwise referred to as 'coastguard functions'. Being responsible for implementing these coastguard functions, national agencies are required to coordinate their efforts effectively in order to  strengthen law enforcement activities vis-à-vis, among other things, the suppression of piracy and armed robbery against ships, the prevention of IUU fishing and countering the trafficking of drugs, weapons and people. 

To achieve this end, a phased approach to national level capacity building is required, to foster cooperation within and amongst States of the region, hence IMO's programme of maritime security table top exercises, conducted in the region since 2012, under the auspices of the IMO/MOWCA MoU and the 2013 Code of Conduct, as part of Organization's overall strategy to strengthen Maritime Security in West and Central Africa and aimed at Maritime Authorities at the national level.

 

Inter-regional Coordination Centre (ICC)

The IMO Secretariat assisted ECCAS, ECOWAS and GGC in establishing the ICC, in accordance with the mandate established through the Declaration of the Heads of State and Government of Central and West African States on Maritime Safety and Security in their common maritime domain, approved along with the adoption 2013 Code of Conduct. On 5 June 2014, the three regional organizations signed the Additional Protocol to officially establish the ICC (Press Release), which is based in Yaoundé, Cameroon.

The ICC will provide a means for establishing cooperation, coordination and communication between Member States of the three regional organizations at the strategic level, including exchange of information on a range of issues such as best practices and collaboration on capacity building, as well as contributing to countering piracy, armed robbery and other illicit activities at sea. Additional information on the work of the Centre is available on the ICC's website.

 

Maritime Trade Information Sharing Centre Gulf of Guinea (MTISC GOG)

Established by the Oil Companies International Marine Forum (OCIMF) as a pilot project, the MTISC-GoG came into operation in October 2014.

The MTISC-GOG was located in the Regional Maritime University in Ghana and aimed to establish an affordable and sustainable regional maritime information sharing centre within the Gulf of Guinea which was fully supported by regional states and all relevant stakeholders. Aside from providing operational advice and situational awareness to merchant ships in the region to reduce the risk of unlawful acts against mariners and ships, the MTISC-GOG's multi-national watch keeping team also provided support to masters and companies which were victims of acts of piracy and armed robbery during and post incident.

On 15 June 2016, the MTISC-GoG closed following the successful conclusion of the pilot project.

 

Marine Domain Awareness for Trade - Gulf of Guinea (MDAT-GoG)

The French and UK authorities, taking into account their respective experience and the role of the former MTISC-GoG in the region, launched a new contribution to the maritime information network in the Gulf of Guinea by means of a virtual reporting centre.


The new France/UK Centre, called Marine Domain Awareness for Trade – Gulf of Guinea (MDAT-GoG), commenced operations in June 2016. MDAT-GoG is operated by the navies of France and the United Kingdom from centres in Brest, France, and Portsmouth, United Kingdom.  MDAT-GoG can be contacted as follows: 

email: watchkeepers@mdat-gog.org

telephone: +33(0)2 98 22 88 88

Calls will be answered either in Brest or in Portsmouth.

At its ninety-eighth session, the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC 98) considered the under-reporting of incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships in the Gulf of Guinea. The Committee noted that the information provided by ships to the MDAT-GoG when transiting West African waters was intended to help build a common maritime picture between countries in the region and to support actions and interventions by regional navies in response to piracy attacks.

MSC 98 approved a circular on the reporting of incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships in the Gulf of Guinea which is available here.