The increasing spate of pirate attacks in Ghanaian territorial waters on fishing vessels is forcing the local tuna industry to collapse, as Korean vessel owners are threatening to deflag and relocate to Senegal with their craft. The insecurity has also led to the withdrawal of a Norwegian research vessel that has been conducting analysis in our waters.
Another de-motivating factor is the alleged astronomical vessel licensing fees being slapped on the fishing vessels.
Information gathered by The Chronicle reveals that within a spate of two months, two Ghanaian flagged fishing vessels suffered pirate attacks.
It would be recalled that on June 24, 2020, FV PANOFI FRONTIER, belonging to Panofi Fisheries, was raided and six persons (five Koreans and one Ghanaian cook) were kidnapped. They were released after one month following a diplomatic intervention, and as to what went into their being freed had not been communicated.
On August 28, 2020, yet another Ghanaian flagged fishing vessel, FV AP 703, owned by BSK Marine, was attacked by pirates in Ghana’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and two Koreans, Captain and Chief Engineer were kidnapped.
The investigation further revealed that on that fateful day, about 110 miles off the coast of Keta, the kidnappers attacked the vessel and seized the two Koreans, and escaped in the direction of the Niger Delta, south east of Nigeria. The navies of Ghana, Togo, Benin and Nigeria, which embarked on coastal patrols, could not locate the pirates.
The incidence of piracy in the eastern half of Ghanaian waters is becoming too frightening, and with the Koreans, this is reportedly forming the basis of their intention to relocate to Senegal, where both waters and fees for vessel licensing are moderate. It is said that whereas Ghana charges $135 for every gross weight tonne of a fishing vessel, the same tonnage attracts $20 in Senegal.
The Chronicle, a few months ago, carried investigation into the effect of a non-functional Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) operated by the Fisheries Commission. The system which, via contracted satellite, provides information on Ghanaian flagged fishing vessels across the world by way of imminent pirate attacks, drug and human trafficking activities, has not been active close to a year now.
The reason for the system, which sends an instant signal to the base in Tema and at the same time to aircraft and world navies indicating positions not functioning, is because of faulty transponders, which would cost just 17,000 Euros.
The Executive Director of the Fisheries Commission, Dr Arthur Dadzie, when contacted by the paper, expressed absolute worry over the increasing pirate attacks in our, otherwise, safe waters. According to him, the security agencies were intensifying collaboration with the world navies for attention to the sub-region.
The Fisheries Commission boss suggested the deployment of snipers on our registered vessels to ward off any such attacks as an interim measure to contain the situation until a permanent solution is found.
On the cost involved if snipers have to be drafted onboard, Dr Dadzie stated that it was better than the traumatic experience of kidnapped persons, in addition to the huge sums of money paid as ransom.
Effort made by this reporter to contact the National Security Minister, Mr Kan Dapaah, for his reaction to the invasion of our waters by the pirates proved futile, as he failed to pick up calls put through to his mobile phone.