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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.

 

Regional Information sharing centres

Two regional centres have been established in order to facilitate cooperation between the West and Central African coastal states in particular, in line with the provisions of the IMO/MOWCA MoU and the 2013 Code of Conduct.

In consultation and cooperation with the Organization's Member States from the region, the IMO Secretariat continues to work towards ensuring the effective coordination between the activities of the Maritime Trade Information Sharing Centre Gulf of Guinea (MTISC-GOG) and those of the Gulf of Guinea's Interregional Coordination Centre (ICC). The two centres complement each other in implementing the 2013 Code of Conduct in particular, with the ICC being the strategic level body for regional coordination, including maritime domain awareness, and the MTISC-GoG focusing on incident reports by merchant ships, information sharing and situational awareness. 

 

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

Established by the Oil Companies International Marine Forum (OCIMF), the MTISC-GoG became fully operational in October 2014 with the launch of a new website, along with guidance on how to report to the centre. Since April 2014, the centre has seen a steady increase in vessels reporting, with an average of over 500 vessels reporting per month as of November 2014.

The MTISC-GOG which is located in the Regional Maritime University in Ghana, aims to establish an affordable, sustainable and enduring regional maritime information sharing centre within the Gulf of Guinea that is 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 provides support to masters and companies victims of acts of piracy and armed robbery, during and post incidents.

The MTISC-GoG is a vital resource for the shipping industry and constitutes a significant regional contribution to the implementation of the 2013 Code of Conduct, as it also plays a key role in the sustainable development of the maritime sectors of the countries in and around the Gulf of Guinea.

 

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.

 

MTISC-GOG and the ICC

The MTISC-GOG established by the shipping industry and the ICC established by the countries of the West and Central Africa region, have a significant role to play in implementing the 2013 Code of Conduct, with the former focusing primarily on situational awareness related matters and the latter on regional cooperation, coordination and communication at the strategic level. To this end, collaboration and communication between the two centres is essential.