The Ghanaian government has granted a British private security company (PSC) the licence to have armed guards on board vessels.
From the end of June 2015, Watchwood Resources Ltd (WRL) will be able to accompany armed Ghana Marine Police aboard commercial vessels within Ghana’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and provide security services.
“We have been working on getting an agreement signed since the middle of last year and it’s just been approved,” Jonathan Stamper, director at WRL told IHS Maritime.
Ghana’s president, John Dramani Mahama, who was appointed the chairman of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in 2014 and is a key member of the Group, is expected to have significant influence on the progression of a maritime security framework for the region, which for a long time has been stagnant.
“ECOWAS has been discussing a joint strategic framework for a while, but implementation has not been forthcoming,” said Stamper.
A number of security initiatives have been implemented since the 2013 ECOWAS Summit of heads of states on maritime safety and security in the Gulf of Guinea, but nothing collective regarding on-board security.
“Until now, no armed foreign nationals have been allowed to board vessels within territorial waters, but we hope that if we can demonstrate that it is a viable option, other states in the region may adopt the use of qualified security officers,” he said.
WRL have formed a joint venture creating Watchwood Ghana Ltd (WGL), based in the port of Tema, Ghana and is made up of senior Ghanaian government representatives, British security experts and is chaired by Ghana’s commissioner of police, David Asante-Apeatu.
“We are proposing a joint team of three to four Ghanaian marine police officers per vessel with the equivalent number of trained British security officers,” said Stamper.
WGL, which is compliant with ISO9000 and international anti-bribery and corruption laws, will engage in armed maritime security training, ship risk assessments, crew anti-piracy training, and ship-to-ship security starting from the end of June.
The PSC, also currently providing training courses to the Ghana Marine Police, are compliant with BMP4 and the International 100 Series in relation to the rules for the use of force.
Despite securing a deal in Ghana, WRL is not currently planning to offer their services to the wider region. “It would be nice to go to Nigeria, but we want to get our operations up and running first,” Stamper told IHS Maritime.