West, Central Africa states agree to form coastguard network
Twenty states from West and Central Africa have agreed to establish a coastguard network to protect shipping in the sub-region.
The adoption of the Memorandum of Understanding was made at the 13th General Assembly of Ministers of Maritime Organization of West and Central Africa (MOWCA) in Dakar, Senegal, on July 30.
The MoU provides an institutional framework for suppressing piracy, armed robbery and other unlawful acts against ships and addressing illegal fishing, drug and weapon trafficking, illegal migration, oil theft, damage to gas pipelines and maritime accident response in the sub-region. It provides guidelines for coastal surveillance, presence in the exclusive economic zones of the sub-region and enforcement of international conventions, regulations and codes — principally those of International Maritime Organization and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). It has provisions on a “right of hot pursuit” in case of unlawful acts perpetrated against ships.
Organizationally, the sub-region has been divided into four coastguard zones, each comprising five states; with four coastguard centers in Dakar, Senegal; Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire; Lagos, Nigeria; and Pointe Noire, Congo. The network has two principal coordinating centers in Accra, Ghana; and Luanda, Angola.
The MoU comes into force in any given coastguard zone three months after all the states of the zone have signed it. Eleven of the 20 coastal member States of MOWCA — Cameroon, Cape Verde, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Cote D’Ivoire, Gabon, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo — immediately signed the MoU, while the other states supporting the MoU are expected to sign within the next few weeks, the IMO said.