MOWCA: We are keeping busy and building momentum – says Dr Adalikwu

21 June 2022

by Oru Leonard

The Secretary General, Maritime Organisation of West Africa (MOWCA), Dr Paul Adalikwu has said his team is doing all that is necessary to reposition the Organisation.

In a chat with the editorial team of News Dot Africa, Dr Adalikwu stated, “We are keeping busy here and building momentum. I just presented a paper at an event this morning.

“In this case, I had the need to attract support from AfDB and assist the Sierra Leone Port Authority develop a Port Master Plan, assist the Maritime Administration build up capacity and in general use the Blue Economy in cleaning up the coast line, create jobs for women and youth amongst other things.

“Part of my commitment after election into office in Accra is to embark on a familiarization tour of member states, engage with them, share my strategic vision in repositioning MOWCA and outline my roadmap to advance the organization in line with its mandate after 10 years of inaction.

“Also to understand the peculiar issues of each member state as my new leadership seeks to appreciate their challenges and work to assist them in building their capacities, attract support from the International Maritime Organization, World Maritime University and other critical stakeholders to member states.

Recently he attended a Regional Workshop and Strategic Dialogue organised by ICC and UNDOC on “Strengthening Collaborative Frameworks for Coordination of Maritime Law Enforcement Training in West and Central Africa”

The workshop took place at Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, 14 – 16 June 2022


I am honoured to be invited to the UNDOC – ICC workshop on collaboration for law enforcement training in West and Central Africa, in the framework of the Yaoundé Code of Conduct.

2. It gives me the opportunity to thank the Executive Directors of ICC and UNDOC for involving MOWCA in this initiative that aims at discussing the way forward in the battle against criminality at sea. MOWCA has an agreement of cooperation with ICC and I consider that my presence here is another step toward its full implementation.

3. I am invited by the planners of this workshop to share my views with the distinguished participants on the following theme: Yaoundé Code of Conduct and Ocean Governance in West and Central Africa: Prospects for Collaboration with Maritime Organisation of West and Central Africa. All of us, would agree that the Code of conduct adopted by the Heads of State during their summit in 2013 is a key instrument for enhancing security and increasing the situational awareness at sea.

4. The summit led to the establishment of the Interregional Coordination Centre in Yaoundé with operational entities in Abidjan, Côte d’Iovire, and Pointe-Noire, Congo. An important characteristic of this architecture is the strong involvement of navies of member States, which are the maritime component of the Defense forces.

5. Before going further, allow me to introduce the organization which I head, having been elected by Ministers in charge of Maritime transport during the 16th General Assembly in Accra in July 2021. I took office in January this year and have started implementing my vision and action plans. MOWCA is a platform of cooperation among the 25 States of West and Central Africa established since 1975, aimed at ensuring the provision of maritime transport services, high on safety and security and low on pollution.

6. As developing countries, member States are strongly dependent on sea carriage of good, given that their foreign trade is essentially based on exportation of raw materials (either agricultural or mineral) and importation of manufactured good, machineries, construction equipment and cereals that are not produced locally. For this reason, the safety and security of navigation is a critical issue for the sub-region.

7. MOWCA felt very early the need to take measures to ensure the safe movement of ships in the Gulf of Guinea and the safe and sustainable exploitation of the living and non-living resources of the sea and, as a major actor of wealth creation from the sea, to prevent it from being used by criminals that threaten the economy of member States.

8. The organization assists member States to share the best practices in terms of training, legal framework, and coordination of the operations at sea of their respective law enforcement entities. This is why upon a proposal by the Secretariat General, Ministers of Transport adopted in 1999 the principle of establishing the coast guard function network.

9. It was based on an MOU adopted in 2008 in Dakar, Senegal, urging member States to establish a single institution manned with staff constituted from all law enforcement entities and put under the authority of the Minister in charge of Maritime transport. It was agreed that the staff and the equipment must be reviewed, harmonized and kept ready for any emergency situation, including search and rescue, oil spill, IUU fishing, violence against merchant ships, and trafficking and smuggling at sea.
The project was endorsed by IMO which became a key partner in the implementation, as well as by the African Union.

Suffice to reiterate that the sub-regional coast guard network envisaged and quite similar to the Yaoundé Architecture today aimed at strengthening cooperation among member States, faced with the problem of piracy, armed robbery and other unlawful acts against merchant ships, the fight against illegal immigration, terrorism, marine pollution (MARPOL), illegal exploitation of resources in the EEZ, the implementation of SOLAS, ISPS Code and SAR conventions, the protection of marine environment, as well as the implementation of the Convention on the Law of the Sea.

10. The Gulf of Guinea area was divided into 4 coast-guard zones with 4 Coordination Centres to enable timely interventions anywhere in the maritime waters of member States.

Zone I
Mauritania, Senegal, The Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Cape Verde; Coordination Centre for the zone: Dakar (Senegal);

Zone II
Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana; Coordination Centre for the zone: Abidjan (Côte d’Ivoire);

Zone III
Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea; Coordination Centre for the zone: Lagos (Nigeria);

Zone IV
Gabon, Congo, DR Congo, Sao Tomé and Principe, Angola ; Coordination Centre for the zone: Pointe-Noire (Congo);

Setting up of two (2) Main Coordination Centres for the Network of Coast Guards: Accra (Ghana) – Luanda (Angola);

The Memorandum of Understanding provides for the effective take off of activities of a zone when all the member states of the zone sign the Memorandum of Understanding.

It also provides for the functioning of the Network of Coast Guards in times of crisis and in times of peace.

However, the initiative faced delay in the acquisition of suitable equipment for performing coast-guard functions in member States, the difficult internal harmonization between law enforcement Agencies in some member States and similar arrangements sponsored by Regional Economic Communities.

11. Ladies and gentlemen, you will certainly agree with me that wherever our Defense forces are in operation against armed criminals, there is no need to engage other public entities, because coordination may become complex. But the Secretariat General of MOWCA believes that Maritime Administrations and Maritime Agencies are key players to provide back up support to forces engaged in the battle, taking into consideration the missions assigned to them. And I believe these are fields of cooperation we need to develop with the Yaoundé Architecture.

12 I would like to make further reference to the following :

1) the Maritime Intelligence

In line with their missions, Maritime Administrations rely on the crew of ships flying the flag of their respective countries, the pilots operating in their ports, the population living on the coastline, the dock workers, the ship Inspectors, and the warehouse keepers to collect information for improving the situational awareness at sea, alongside the coast and within the harbours.

This is helpful to prevent, detect and deter criminal acts.

2) the management of ship registries and seafarers records

Indeed, it has appeared in many security incidents that the perpetrators used small crafts with powerful engines in order to catch up the targets and leave the area as quickly as possible. When the registry of such boats is properly maintained and documented, and their movement put under the control of the Maritime Administration, there is a clear ground to anticipate attacks.

With regard to IUU fishing, any alien vessel can be easily detected among duly licensed vessels in the Economic Exclusive Zone of a country, based on information collected and recorded in the registry of fishing vessels.

It also appears that armed robbers and pirates seem to have the basic knowledge on navigation techniques, the use of electronic equipment on board and are well informed on their targets. Therefore, some may be unemployed seafarers and investigations may be oriented accordingly.

3) The network of maritime Agencies

MOWCA is structured in a way that enables the establishment of networks, suitable for the exchange of information.

This is the case for Harbour Masters who have a network under the umbrella of Port Management Association of West and Central Africa (PMAWCA) within which they develop brotherhood relations, know each other, and talk to each other outside the long procedures of official channels of communicating information. Heads of Maritime Administrations use a similar system which is well established at the occasion of statutory meetings of MOWCA.

4) The regional training institutions

With regard to training issues, the Regional Maritime Academy of Abidjan hosts the Interregional Maritime Security Institute with the logistical support of the European Union and the Academic support of the University of Nantes in France. Programmes include a Master’s Degree course of 10 months for management level staff and short courses of 1 to 2 weeks for operational staff.

13. Ladies and gentlemen, once again I believe that there is a wide range of collaboration opportunities between the Yaoundé Architecture and MOWCA to improve the strategy for the repression of illegal acts perpetrated at sea.

14. From the discussions we are going to have and the consultations we have planned to have between ICC and MOWCA, it is clear that we will be able to blend our efforts toward a more safe and secured navigation, vital for the economy of West and Central Africa.

15. I wish to renew my gratitude to ICC for inviting MOWCA to this workshop and to sincerely thank all the partners for their support to this initiative. I wish us all fruitful deliberations.

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