By Kofi Ampeah-Woode, Burma Camp

The Ghana Navy has commenced its Annual Chief of the Naval Staff’s (CNS) Conference, which aims at interrogating a critical set of questions the answers of which should define the way forward to achieve the vision of the CNS – Rear Admiral (R/Adm) Issah Adam Yakubu.

The 2-day annual conference, which is maiden to CNS R/Adm Yakubu, was held on Thursday, April 22, 2021, at the Command Mess, General Headquarters (GHQ), Burma Camp, with the Chief of Air Staff (CAS) – Air Vice Marshal (AVM) Frank Hanson as the Special Guest, the Flag Officers Commanding (FOCs), Western, Eastern and Naval Training Commands, Chief Staff Officer (CSO), Navy, Directors at the Navy HQ, and the CSOs of the Army and Air Force, as Observers.

Due to how news-worthy, thought provoking and insightful the speech by the CNS at the conference was, we deem it informative, to reproduce below, parts of the Navy Commander’s speech, for our patrons’ benefit:

This concept of the CNS’ conference was to marshal the leadership of the Navy to brainstorm to find solutions to our challenges and also plan for the future.

These conferences gave birth to the Ghana Navy’s SMART Strategy, which led to infrastructural development, improvement in the operational readiness of the fleet and the enhancement of training in the Ghana Navy.

My vision for the Ghana Navy is to maintain a modern, robust Naval Force, capable of defending Ghana against seaborne threats, and ensuring the safety and security of the maritime domain, while maintaining the time-tested traditions of the Ghana Navy.

THE STRATEGIC CONTEXT

The COVID-19 pandemic, which has affected nearly every aspect of life and maritime security, has not been immune to its impact. The continuous spread of the virus throughout the sub-region, has taken a toll on healthcare systems and become the main priority of most states.

Although there is a litany of criminal activities in the Gulf of Guinea, piracy remains arguably the most visible symptom of the insecurity in the Region.

Last year, the Gulf of Guinea accounted for 95 percent of all kidnappings at sea with the actual and attempted attacks in the region, also increasing by 34 percent, from the 2019 figure of 59 to 79, in 2020, in spite of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

There have been 25 attacks so far this year, considering the fact that we are just entering the second quarter, chances are, the cases may be same or higher, by the end of the year, if no concrete steps are taken.

With about 1,500 fishing vessels, tankers, and cargo ships traversing our waters daily, criminals have easy preys, if the status quo remains.

As countries in the Gulf of Guinea re-channelled resources to dealing with the Pandemic, this opened an opportunity for the criminals at sea, to achieve a large degree of freedom of action, to terrorize ships and sea farers operating in international transit corridors and local waters of coastal states, in the Region. Our seafarers have been turned into priced commodities, to be kidnapped for ransom. The impact will reverberate for generations.

Nigeria has commenced an aggressive campaign in its waters with its $195 million Deep Blue project. This is likely to dislocate criminals to operate further offshore and in vulnerable and less patrolled waters.

As a Service, it is time to do some introspection, to see our inherent strengths, our shortfalls, the opportunities that exist in the current situation and do threat evaluation, to ensure whatever strategies we adopt, would be able to meet the dynamic maritime security environment, in the Gulf of Guinea.

The threat posed by non-traditional security challenges, including pandemics, piracy and armed robbery at sea, IUU fishing, fuel and drug smuggling and the possible use by terrorists of our waters, to further their operations, should prompt a thorough re-examination of the strategies, tactics and tools needed, to keep our waters safe.

Our Agenda 2024 Strategy seeks to examine where the Ghana Navy currently stands, and where it should be by December 2024.

Achieving Total Surveillance Coverage of EEZ. Achieving total surveillance coverage remains a strategic priority. We intend to achieve that through: increased monitoring at Maritime Operations Centres (MOCs), Enhanced Maritime Air Patrols through collaboration with Ghana Air Force, increase presence at sea, through deployment of new ships equipped with state-of-the-art surveillance equipment, develop the capabilities of Naval Intelligence Department through improved resourcing.

MODERNIZING THE NAVY

We, as strategic planners of the defence of our maritime domain, must have a clear-eyed view of both the threats facing the country and the tools necessary to defend its vital interests. We should take account of our country’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats including its geography, political stability, and standing in the Region to determine the way forward in modernizing our fleet.

What types of ships do we need? Are we going to be able to sustain them? What about the ability to properly operate and maintain them? Would they be adequate to deal with the threats that confront us? What would be their utility in the next 20 to 30 years in this fast-changing global geo-political environment? And finally, can our Government afford to acquire and provide resources for their maintenance in the face of the current economic situation?

These should tie in with the current programme to refit the Snake Class ships, and our current efforts at developing our shipbuilding and maintenance capabilities, through the construction of small boats and conducting local refit of ships.

There are two clear challenges for the modernization the Navy: standardizing a system for operations with the other Services, in particular the Air Force and pushing innovation. Addressing the first challenge demands that we develop an integrated concept of operations and Maritime Operations Centres.

The second overarching challenge for modernization, is the need to prioritize innovation. This entails empowering individuals at all levels, to bring forward new ideas and establishing a process to deliver design options, through a full development cycle in the most expeditious and cost-effective ways.

Service members have a critical role to play, in determining future priorities, since these systems and platforms will have a direct impact on their daily lives and their ability to function in operations. That is why I am pushing the local shipbuilding agenda started by my predecessor.

In this regard, I wish to commend Petty Officer Quarcoe, for coming up with a paper on streamlining our promotion courses, through inclusion of distance learning. I have charged the Director Naval Training, to study the paper and make recommendation.

It is important we prioritize innovation, by considering what our maritime security needs will be in the future. I am by this, directing the CSO, to immediately set up R&D cell at NHQ. We would resource them to study current and emerging threats to develop new strategies for consideration

LEVERAGING TECHNOLOGY FOR OPERATIONS AND ADMINISTRATIVE FUNCTIONS

In order to achieve our goal of safe and secure waters, we must focus on modernization and interoperability and ensure adequate facilities and resources, to support of our ships and Commands. We must also continue to explore the development of more Forward Operating Bases, to reduce response times.

In line with this, our priorities include the following:

  • Adopting innovative strategies to mobilize funds.
  • As much as possible, coordinating, and harmonizing projects in the various
  • Developing and resourcing more FOBs.
  • The use of drones for maritime patrols.
  • Enhanced teaching aids at training schools including the installations of simulators. In this regard, I want to commend LS Yahaya for his seminal project work at NAFTI which we are developing now to set up our own simulators.
  • Equipping the Special Boat Squadron and Diving Unit with state-of-the-art equipment for training and operations.
  • Use of satellite systems on ships for real time data exchange.
  • Adoption of electronic correspondence and mailing system. The project is at the development stage at Naval Headquarters and would soon be rolled out in the Commands.
  • Digitization of Databases. This started some years back with Personnel Administration and inventory system.

 

COLLABORATION WITH LOCAL STAKEHOLDERS AND INTERNATIONAL PARTNERS

 

Our maritime domain faces many challenges, and these cannot be reversed by Ghana Navy alone. Instead, Agenda 2024 strategy should encourage other services such as the Ghana Air Force and other maritime agencies, as well as our Regional and International partners, who are the leading beneficiaries of security in the maritime domain, to take a greater role in sustaining it.

The Ghana Navy cannot be the only force struggling to mobilize resources, to secure our waters. In line with this, our priorities include:

  • To pursue the promulgation of the draft National Integrated Maritime Strategy.
  • Launch of OP SECURE WATERS in partnership with local and international partners, with a desired end state of secured and safe maritime domain, conducive for the conduct of legitimate business, through the eradication of criminal activities at sea.
  • Secondment of senior officers to some maritime agencies.
  • Harmonized SOPs with local stakeholders.
  • Leveraging on the Yaoundé Architecture for maritime security.
  • Creation of Transit Corridors for shipping with enhanced security within the corridor.
  • Leverage on the EU’s Coordinated Maritime Patrols through enhanced collaboration

 

ENHANCING THE WELFARE OF OUR SAILORS

The objective of any welfare scheme should have at its core, the comfort of the personnel. In its broadest sense I am looking at a welfare programme where consideration is given to the maintenance of the morale of the officers and sailors: primarily to give them the peace of mind, to carry out their duties as sailors, whenever and wherever required, with the utmost possible efficiency. Improving the welfare of sailors would have to go hand in hand with efforts to modernize the Navy.

Our priorities include:

  • Improved availability of accommodation.
  • Ensure effective training and advancement through improved training and availability of opportunities for professional military education.
  • Reward merit, hard work and commitment to duty. Our special Boat Squadron have been identified as a specialized unit whose sacrifices require immediate motivation. I have therefore directed that the ratings among them should be prepared for accelerated promotion during the June promotion cycle.
  • Pursuit of mortgage and Mutual Health Insurance schemes for sailors.
  • Affiliation of courses to accredited institutions.
  • Adoption of Ghana Armed Forces Camouflage uniform as part of Ghana Navy dress code.
  • Implications on welfare of plans to recruit 250 recruits annually from 2021 – 2024.

With all these in mind the focus would be on improving the force-as opposed to simply growing it—through retention programs, for critical staff and expanded educational and retraining opportunities, which is key to creating a healthy and socially viable force.

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, I would like to re-iterate that the strategic context of the Gulf of Guinea has changed. The area is now of great interest to global superpowers and this has raised expectations of those of us charged with the responsibility to deliver security to the area.

The threats and the hazards that exist in the maritime domain, do not provide us the luxury to relax on our efforts. The gravity of these threats, necessitates the development of our Agenda 2024, which should be a collective responsibility of all of us.

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