Secretary General, IMO, Kitack Lim

The International Maritime Organisation IMO has told countries in the West and Central African sub-region that one of the surest ways to end the current state of insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea region was the full implementation of the Yaounde Declaration of 2013.

Also called the Code of Conduct Concerning the Repression of Piracy, Armed Robbery against Ships and Illicit Maritime Activities in West and Central Africa, the code which was signed by 22 West and Central African states in June 2013, provides the framework for intra-regional commitment to increased cooperation and capacity building to combat piracy and strengthen the region’s maritime security. It also seeks to tackle maritime crimes in its widest sense.

Secretary General of the IMO, Kitack Lim, who spoke at the just concluded three-day Global Maritime Security Conference GMSC organised in Abuja by the Federal Ministry of Transport and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency NIMASA, in conjunction with the Nigerian Navy, noted that collaboration among member states of the region was crucial to ending the scourge of insecurity in the region.

Represented by the Assistant Secretary General of the organisation, Lawrence Barchue, Lim assured that the IMO will continue to support the efforts of the Economic Community of West African States ECOWAS, the Economic Community of Central African States ECCAS and the Gulf of Guinea Commission towards the development and adoption of a comprehensive Joint Regional Maritime Strategy to effectively fight piracy and related transnational criminal activities in the region within the framework of the Yaounde Declaration.

He however said that the successful implementation of the Yaounde Code of Conduct will depend on information sharing, adding that the Inter-Regional Coordinating Centre, which was formally opened in Cameroon in September 2014 provides a framework for establishing cooperation, coordination and communication among the member states of ECOWAS, ECCAS and the GGC at the strategic level.

It was gathered that other partners in this course, especially the shipping industry has also provided useful updated guidance, one of which is the guidelines for ship owners, operators and masters for protection against piracy and armed robbery in the Gulf of Guinea region (version 3, June 2018) to be read in conjunction with the Global Counter-Piracy Guidance for companies, masters and seafarers.

Lim also disclosed that the IMO last month hosted a roundtable meeting at its headquarters in London with industry representatives including NIMASA and IMO officials involved in maritime security, assuring that everyone involved is committed to working collaboratively to find solutions.

“Underpinning all the work on maritime security is interagency, regional and international cooperation, and development of national and regional maritime security strategies.

“Nigeria as convener and host of the GMSC, sits at the heart of the Gulf of Guinea. This region is noted for huge oil and gas deposits, large mineral reserves and abundant fisheries as well as food and cash crops. These, combined with a geographically strategic location for shipping movements, make the region a vitally important part of the global economy”, the IMO –scribe said.  

  He therefore commended the Nigerian government for its efforts and commitment, as typified in the convening and hosting of the conference towards eradicating piracy and other maritime crimes in the region, saying that the theme of the conference: ‘Let’s cooperate to manage and secure our waters’ was apt and time, which implies that all hands must be on deck to fight the scourge.