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Business News of Thursday, 27 May 2021


Maritime Authority partners UNODC on Ghana’s draft piracy bill

Thomas K. Alonsi, Director-General of the Maritime Authority Thomas K. Alonsi, Director-General of the Maritime Authority

•The Ghana Maritime Authority is engaging stakeholders on a piracy bill to curb on sea criminal activities

•According to the GMA, the rise in sea criminal activities has initiated the need to have a piracy bill passed

•UNODC is set to provide technical and financial support for the initiative

The Ghana Maritime Authority (GMA) with the technical support of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and funding from the US Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (US INL) has held a one-day stakeholder sensitization meeting on Ghana’s Draft Piracy Bill which was held at the Golden Tulip Hotel, Accra.

The meeting forms part of the concrete steps in the roadmap being implemented by the GMA, Ministry of Justice and Attorney-General (MoJ&AG), UNODC, and other critical stakeholders towards the amendment of sections 193 and 194 of the Criminal Offences Act of Ghana, 1960 (Act 29) on piracy, to bring it in tandem with the relevant provisions of the UN Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

The Director-General of the Maritime Authority, Thomas K. Alonsi, expressed his profound appreciation to the UNODC for the technical and financial support towards the legal reform process in Ghana.

“I believe your presence here and participation in this forum will enrich the discussions. Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, please permit me to say a special thank you to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) for partnering with the Ghana Maritime Authority in this journey to align Ghana’s piracy legislation with provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and current trends in the maritime security space,” he said.

He highlighted the need for the amendment of Ghana’s existing Anti-Piracy provision, considering that its definition of piracy was obsolete and not in line with provisions of the UN Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

“Distinguished guests, this situation calls for an overhaul of our legal framework. The fact is these criminals and their international backers have the money and the motivation to exploit any lacuna in our laws. The MT Mariam incident (2016), presented Ghana with its first test case of piracy. It would be recalled that the Ghana Navy arrested the eight pirates that were onboard the MT Mariam, who had in their possession AK 47s and other weapons. The pirates were detained in Ghana, processed for court and subsequently repatriated to Nigeria,” he added.

He further stressed on the need for a reform citing the growing number of piracy incidents in the Gulf of Guinea and Ghana, which requires the existence of robust national legal frameworks to ensure the successful prosecution of piracy in the region.

“Ladies and gentlemen, as you may already know, the Gulf of Guinea has in recent years earned the undignified reputation as a “piracy hotspot”. The insurance industry classifies the region as a High-Risk Area and thus exacts exorbitant premiums from ship operators and ship owners. Increasingly, the pirates are shifting from the hijacking of vessels for their cargo especially crude oil, to the hijacking of vessels and kidnapping of the crew for ransom. The Gulf of Guinea accounted for nearly half of the forty-three per cent (43%) of all reported piracy incidents in the first quarter of 2021, according to the latest figures from the ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB),” he added

Speaking on behalf of the UNODC, Francis Omiunu commended the Ghana Maritime Authority, the Ministry of Justice and Attorney-General’s and other key national stakeholders on the concrete steps taken towards the amendment of relevant provisions of the Criminal Offences Act.

He highlighted the UNODC’s legal assessment and simulated trial undertaken in Ghana, which brought to fore key findings and recommendations on the need to amend sections 193 and 194 of the Criminal Offences Act to give Ghana the necessary impetus to tackle piracy and other maritime crime. He assured of UNODC’s continuous legal reform work in Ghana.