IMO Secretary-General Koji Sekimizu has welcomed the signature by 22 States of the Code of Conduct concerning the prevention of piracy, armed robbery against ships and illicit maritime activity in west and central Africa. The Code was adopted formally by the Heads of State meeting in Yaoundé, Cameroon, on Tuesday (25 June), attended by 13 Heads of State from west and central African countries (Photos here).
The Code was signed in Yaoundé by Ministers of Foreign Affairs or other delegates, bringing it into effect for the 22 signatory States: Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Chad, the Congo, Cote d'Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sao Tome and Principe and Togo.
“I am fully committed to assisting western and central African countries to establishing a workable, regional mechanism of co-operation for enhanced maritime security. Maritime development is an essential component of African development and maritime zone security is fundamentally important,” Mr Sekimizu said, noting that the Code incorporates many elements of the successful Djibouti Code of Conduct, which has been signed by 20 States in the western Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden area, and the existing Memorandum of Understanding on the integrated coastguard function network in west and central Africa, which was developed in 2008 by IMO and the Maritime Organization of West and Central Africa (MOWCA).
Mr. Sekimizu also called on countries to provide contributions for a new trust fund to be established by IMO for the implementation of IMO Projects for maritime security for western and central Africa. The new multi-donor trust fund will support an expanded programme of capacity-building activities in west and central Africa, to better enable the Organization to work with Member States, United Nations agencies and other international and regional development partners for the benefit of safe, secure and sustainable development of the African maritime sector.
The new Code was developed by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and the Gulf of Guinea Commission, 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. These resolutions encouraged the States of ECOWAS, ECCAS and the Gulf of Guinea Commission to develop a comprehensive regional strategy and framework to counter piracy and armed robbery, including information sharing and operational coordination mechanisms in the region, and to build on existing initiatives, such as those under the auspices of IMO.
IMO has assisted ECOWAS, ECCAS and the Gulf of Guinea Commission in the drafting of the Code, which was initially endorsed at ministerial level by a meeting held in Benin in March 2013.
Signatories to the Code intend to co-operate to the fullest possible extent in the prevention and repression of piracy and armed robbery against ships, transnational organized crime in the maritime domain, maritime terrorism, illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and other illegal activities at sea with a view towards:
(a) sharing and reporting relevant information;
(b) interdicting ships and/or aircraft suspected of engaging in such illegal activities at sea;
(c) ensuring that persons committing or attempting to commit illegal activities at sea are apprehended and prosecuted; and
(d) 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.
Whilst promoting regional co-operation, the Code recognizes the principles of sovereign equality and territorial integrity of States and that of non-intervention in the domestic affairs of other States.
IMO has been involved in technical assistance projects relating to the maritime field in the 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 for west and central Africa (Francophone) and Ghana for west and central Africa (Anglophone).
More recently, IMO has been conducting a series of “table top exercises” aimed at developing and promoting a multi-agency, whole of government approach to maritime security and maritime law enforcement issues in States throughout the region. The initial pilot exercise was held in Ghana in August 2012 with similar exercises being conducted in the Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, the Gambia, Liberia, Senegal and Sierra Leone.
Funding for this work has come from IMO’s global maritime security capacity-building programme, with particular support from the Governments of Norway and the United States of America.
In relation to piracy off the coast of Somalia and in the wider Indian Ocean, 20 States have signed the Code of Conduct concerning the Repression of Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in the Western Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden (Djibouti Code of Conduct), which was adopted in 2009. IMO is also involved in the implementation of that Code, with funding from the IMO Djibouti Code Trust Fund, which has received donations from Denmark, France, Japan, the Marshall Islands, the Netherlands, Norway, the Republic of Korea and Saudi Arabia.