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Strengthening Maritime Security in West and Central Africa


Strengthening Maritime Security in West and Central Africa

Pursuant to United Nations Security Council resolutions 2018 (2011) and 2039 (2012), the 28th session of the IMO Assembly, held at IMO Headquarters from 25 November to 4 December 2013, unanimously adopted resolution A.1069(28), supporting the Organization's ongoing work to prevent and suppress piracy, armed robbery against ships and other illicit maritime activity in the Gulf of Guinea. Since the resolution's adoption, IMO has continued its efforts to assist the countries of West and Central Africa in ensuring that its objectives are met.


Download a copy of the new brochure describing IMO's activities in West and Central Africa.  Click here for the French and Spanish versions.

​​WCA brochure title page.jpg

Technical cooperation

To achieve this end, the IMO provides assistance to Member States from the region, in the process of implementation of two interrelated regional agreements:

1.    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, is a comprehensive regional maritime security agreement adopted in Yaoundé, Cameroon, in June 2013 by Heads of State and Government or their representatives from 25 West and Central African countries;

2.    the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the Establishment of a Sub-regional Integrated Coast Guard Function Network in West and Central Africa, also referred to as the IMO/MOWCA MoU, which was adopted in Senegal in July 2008 and has been signed by 16 of its 20 coastal member States.

IMO's technical cooperation activities in the West and Central Africa region, conducted under the auspices of IMO resolution A.1069(28), the 2013 Code of Conduct and the IMO/MOWCA MoU, focus on:

  • Training
  • Capacity Building
  • Developing legislation
  • Information Sharing
  • National organization

For a list of the most recent Maritime Security activities conducted at national and regional levels by IMO, in West and Central Africa and other parts of the world, please refer to our Assistance & Training webpage.


  Delegates from Sao Tomé​ and Principe and Liberia with an expert from the US Coast Guard during a workshop session in B​enin
Regional activities in cooperation with other UN Agencies, development partners and Regional organizations

In order to assist in the implementation of the 2013 Code of Conduct and the IMO/MOWCA MoU, subject to the availability of funds, IMO undertakes regional and sub-regional training activities for Member States with a view to exchanging best practices, building confidence and nurturing cross-border cooperation on prevailing challenges.

In some cases, IMO conducts joint activities in the region, in cooperation with other UN Agencies and development partners, including, among others, the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), the United Nations Office for West Africa  (UNOWA), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the World Customs Organization (WCO). Through these joint activities knowledge is shared on the respective areas of expertise on a range of issues, including the practical implementation of security measures 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.

Furthermore, on matters of Maritime Security, piracy and armed robbery against ships, and other illicit maritime activities, the IMO works closely with regional organizations such as the Port Management Association of West and Central Africa (PMAWCA); the Maritime Organization for West and Central Africa (MOWCA), which oversees the regional implementation of the IMO/MOWCA MoU, as well as the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Gulf of Guinea Commission (GGC), which are the three organizations charged with jointly overseeing the regional implementation of the 2013 Code of Conduct.

Examples of the above-mentioned joint activities include the regional seminar on Maritime and Port Security, held in Cotonou, Benin, in July 2013, and the regional seminar on Stowaways in West and Central Africa, held in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, in March 2014.


Africa-to-Africa approach

IMO is a firm supporter of applying lessons learned for other initiatives in Africa, for example the Djibouti Code of Conduct. As a result in September 2015, the Organization, in cooperation with the NATO Maritime Interdiction Operational Training Centre (NMIOTC), organized a training course on criminal investigation - including investigation of piracy acts and other criminal activities - whereby law enforcement officials from signatory States to the 2013 Code of Conduct and from IMO's Djibouti Code of Conduct, jointly received training and shared their experiences. For additional information on this activity click here.

   Panel discussion on the prevention of stowaway cases at the regional seminar in Côte d'Ivoire

IMO Table Top Exercises in West and Central Africa

The IMO Table Top Exercises are a crucial component to the Organization's overall strategy to strengthen maritime security in West and Central Africa. They are part of a phased approach that focusses on capacity at the national level and provide an invaluable opportunity to assist Member States from West and Central Africa in identifying gaps and inconsistencies in their prevailing maritime security strategies.

The exercises are aimed at senior level personnel with decision-making authority from relevant Government departments, including, but not limited to, the national Maritime Administration, Port Authorities, Search and Rescue, Foreign Affairs, Finance, Office of the Attorney General, Defence, Intelligence, Police, Navy, Customs and Border Agencies, Immigration, Aviation, Fisheries, Environment. More specifically, the exercises seek to:

  • Promote a multi-agency, whole of government approach to maritime security and maritime law enforcement issues
  • Highlight the need for an integrated approach to maritime law enforcement, including the suppression of piracy and armed robbery against ships
  • Stimulate discussions and demonstrate the need for co-operation amongst government departments as well as other agencies and stakeholders
  • Identify how IMO or other development partners can best support a Member State's efforts to enhance its coast guard function capabilities for improved maritime security, safety and environmental responses  

To achieve its stated objectives, exercises present a range of evolving scenarios to determine respective roles, responsibilities, processes and procedures, and how these may develop, both with respect to routine business and during an incident, which require multi-agency involvement.  The scenarios vary in complexity, from basic challenges to multifaceted ones, with the aim to enable relevant senior officials acting as a national maritime security committee, to enhance their collective decision-making abilities. 

By the end of the exercise, both IMO and the host country have a reasonably accurate picture of where IMO (in partnership with other agencies where appropriate) could potentially offer technical assistance. 


The expected outputs of the exercises include:

  • Development of a national maritime strategy
  • Development of a national maritime security strategy
  • Revival or creation of a national maritime security and facilitation committee
  • Development of national maritime security plans and procedures

Since 2012 the exercises have been conducted in Angola, Benin, Cabo Verde, the Republic of Congo, Cote d'Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, The Gambia, Ghana, Equatorial Guinea, Liberia, Mauritania, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo. IMO plans to deliver the exercises to other countries in the region, including Cameroon, Guinea, Guinea Bissau and Sao Tomé and Principe, in due course.

Following the highly successful pilot table top in Accra (July 2012), Ghana has revived its National Maritime Security Committee and IMO is now collaborating with the Ghana Maritime Authority (GMA) towards the establishment of their national maritime security strategy. 

Also as part of IMO's overall Strategy for implementing sustainable maritime security measures in West and Central Africa, the Organization implements a comprehensive technical assistance programme in the region and is in the process of embedding carefully selected experts in a number of countries that have expressed a clear interest and commitment to regulate and secure their maritime domains.



The majority of IMO's maritime security activities in the region are funded through the West and Central Africa Maritime Security Trust Fund, which is a multi-donor voluntary fund. Financial contributions may be made by Member States of the United Nations or IMO, organizations, institutions or private individuals to support technical cooperation and capacity building initiatives. Member States and intergovernmental organizations with which the IMO has relations and non-governmental organizations with consultative status are also able to support the efforts of IMO by providing in-kind support.

So far IMO has received generous contributions towards the Trust Fund from the Governments of Norway, the United Kingdom, Nigeria, the People's Republic of China, Japan and Angola. The Fund remains open for donations to assist the Organization in the delivery of technical cooperation and capacity building initiatives.

WCA Trust Fund Donors.PNG 

 Table Top Exercises