The United States is continuing with its commitment to support governments in West Africa in their fight against piracy and other illegal activities in the Gulf of Guinea. In the latest step, the U.S. government donated two USCG cutters to the Ghanaian Navy.
After a significant decline in piracy incidents over the last two years, the Gulf of Guinea is witnessing an increase in piracy including activities further offshore and moving into new areas such as the coast of Ghana and neighboring Cote d’Ivoire. The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) reported five piracy incidents in the first quarter and nine in the second quarter of this year. Out of the 14 cases, 12 were classified as armed robberies including those in the anchorage in Ghana, and two as acts of piracy in the Gulf.
The process of donating the two ships, Protector class patrol boats built by Bollinger Shipyards, started in 2020 and involved training for the crews and sea trials in Ghana’s waters. With a maximum speed of 25 knots, the ships can accommodate a crew of 12 and can be at sea for about three days. They were commissioned as the GNS Faidoo and GNS Amoama.
The Ghanaian Navy will deploy the two former U.S. Coast Guard cutters to increase high seas patrols, contributing to the security of the Gulf of Guinea. In particular, the vessels will help deny pirates, traffickers, and other criminals the use of the sea for illegal activities.
Apart from piracy, the Ghanaian Navy will also use the boats to tackle illegal fishing that is threatening the country’s fishing industry due to the unprecedented increase of international trawlers operating just off the coast of Ghana. Research has shown that fisheries in Ghana account for more than two-thirds of the country’s fish production as food and employ or support up to two million people. Many of the fish stocks however are close to collapse through overexploitation, especially stocks such as sardinella that are a staple food for Ghanaians.
The vessels arrived in Ghana in June and were commissioned last week (Ghana Navy)
“Piracy and illegal fishing pose a persistent threat to Ghana’s prosperity,” said Virginia Palmer, U.S. Ambassador to Ghana at the commissioning event of the warships at the Naval Base in Sekondi on September 9. “These 86-foot ships will help the Ghana Navy increase patrols to address these threats.”
Last month, Ambassador Palmer also announced that the U.S. would provide more the $6 million for construction, equipment, and training of the Ghanaian Navy. It is part of a broader $24 million the U.S. is providing over five years to help Ghana’s Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture. It will be used to install electronic monitoring systems on trawlers licensed to fish in Ghana and to designate marine protected areas that restrict fishing and other activities to protect fragile ecosystems and species.
In addition to the donation of the cutters, the U.S. is also providing two 38-foot Defender-class boats to Ghana’s Special Boat Squadron within the Ghana Navy along with trailers, spare parts, and training. The U.S. is providing broad support to countries in West Africa and increased its support to Ghana after China donated four patrol boats to the country in October 2017.