Maritime Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea

Maritime Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea

Date | 28 June 2022

Tomorrow (28 June 2022), the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) will convene its 1090th session to discuss maritime piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.

Following opening remarks by Daniel Owassa, Permanent Representative of Congo to the AU and Chairperson of the Council for the month of June, Bankole Adeoye, AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security is expected to deliver statement while the representative of the Gulf of Guinea Commission (GCC) is scheduled to make presentation. The representatives of Congo, Sao Tome and Principe, Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria, Gabon, and Angola will also make statements in their capacity as members of the GGC. In addition to the representatives of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), the representatives of the Indian ocean Commission, United Nations Office to the African Union (UNOAU), and the European Union (EU) are also expected to make statements.

The last time Council considered the issue of maritime security in Africa was at its 1012th session, which was convened on 23 July 2021 under the chairship of Nigeria. In that session, Council, among others, expressed its ‘deep concern over the challenging situation in some regions and areas of Africa’s maritime security domain’. Council also condemned the ‘illegal exploitation of Africa’s maritime resources and the dumping of toxic waste in Africa’s maritime domain’. This session is expected to focus on the maritime insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea, which has overtaken the Gulf of Aden and the Horn of Africa over the past few years, turning the region into the world’s major hotspot for piracy, armed robbery at sea and other forms of maritime crime including transnational organized crime, oil and cargo theft, illicit trafficking and diversion of arms, drug and human trafficking, illegal trade and smuggling, and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU). As such, tomorrow’s session presents Council the opportunity to assess the maritime security situation of the Gulf of Guinea and explore ways and means to effectively respond to the situation. It is to be recalled that a resolution on maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea (S/RES/2634 (2022)) – co-sponsored by Ghana and Norway – was unanimously adopted by the UN Security Council on 31 May, a decade after its last resolution on the issue.

Stretched from Angola to Senegal and covering around 11,000 square kilometres (4,247 sq. miles), the Gulf of Guinea remains one of the world’s most important shipping routes for both Gulf of Guinea oil exports from the Niger Delta and consumer goods to and from central and southern Africa, accounting for 25 % of African maritime traffic. Piracy has continued to emerge ‘almost exclusively’ from Nigeria’s oil rich Niger Delta though attacks also take place elsewhere, according to Dryad Global.

Although it is difficult to establish the exact cost of maritime insecurity in the region, a recent report by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) revealed direct, indirect and opportunity costs to the region and beyond. One source claim that piracy in the region costs the coastal states some 2 billion USD a year. As UNODC’s study rightly pointed out, the cost will not be however limited to the coastal states but also ‘trickle along trade corridors to the heart of the continent’, highlighting the importance of the issue for countries beyond the coastal states.

The maritime security landscape of the Gulf of Guinea has been changing over the years. Maritime incidents are no longer restricted to territorial waters but increasingly occurring further offshore often outside of the Exclusive Economic Zones. The threat has spread outward from the shore with pirates operating over a vast region extending hundreds of miles from the coast, showing a worrying trend of increasing operational capability of pirates. While incidents have turned increasingly violent, kidnap for ransom has also become the most significant risk to commercial operations in the region. Moreover, a dangerous linkage between piracy and terrorism is also evolving in the region as the tentacles of terrorist groups operating in the Sahel is reaching to the Gulf of Guinea. In this connection, members of Council could be interested to know more about how piracy and armed robbery in the region interact with the expansion of terrorism and violent extremism as well as the resurgence of coups, and how these can impact the peace and security situation of the West and Central Africa regions.

Despite the grim picture however, the maritime security landscape of the region recorded a notable improvement in 2021 though the sustainability of such gain remains questionable. The 2021 annual report of Dryad Global, a maritime risk company, indicates that piracy off West Africa in 2021 declined dramatically with 56% drop from previous year. It further highlights that incidents of actual and attempted attacks and vessels being fired upon decreased by more than 85%. The number of vessels boarded throughout the region fell by 54% while incidents of crews being kidnapped declined by 60%.

Many attributes the decline in piracy in the region with Nigeria’s 195 million USD Integrated National Security and Waterways Protection Infrastructure, otherwise known as the Deep Blue Project (DBP), though some like the Dryad Global doubts this. On the other hand, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, United Representative at the UN, during UN Security Council meeting on maritime security in May associated the crimes decrease with enhanced international collaboration. The blue project of Nigeria, initiated in 2017 but officially launched this month, brings together a mix of special mission vessels, fast interceptor boats, special mission aircraft, helicopters, and drones to patrol the shipping lanes off Nigeria’s coast. It is to be recalled that the country passed an anti-piracy bill, the Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences Act in 2019, to stem the rising trend of piracy in the region. During the launch ceremony on 10 June, President Muhammadu Buhari stated that the Deep Blue would ‘advance the security architecture and ensure greater enforcement action in Nigerian waters and beyond’, particularly in the prosecution of suspects under the Suppression of Piracy and other Maritime Offences Act.

While the project is a significant positive development to tackle the immediate maritime security concerns in the region, the long-term success of this initiative in turning the tide against piracy is not guaranteed nor the gains of last year remain sustainable without addressing the underlying causes of piracy and armed robbery. The absence of economic opportunities and governance deficit have become major drivers of piracy and other criminal activities in the region. It is imperative that the security measures are complimented with addressing such underlying conditions if the threat is to be resolved sustainably. On a related note, it is worth noting that the UN Security Council resolution 2634 (2022) requested the Secretary-General to report on the situation of piracy and armed robbery at sea in the Gulf of Guinea and its underlying causes, including any possible and potential linkages with terrorism in West and Central Africa and the Sahel.

Another important factor to stem maritime insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea is the need to strengthening the existing frameworks and institutions created to address the security challenges in the Gulf of Guinea, as well as enhancing cooperation and coordination between the plethora of structures. In this respect, the Yaoundé Architecture for Maritime Security and Safety, a culmination of a meeting between ECOWAS, ECCAS and GGC in Yaoundé, Cameroon, in 2013, is at the centre of such mechanisms designed to address the maritime insecurity in the region. While significant progress has been made towards its operationalization and strengthening cooperation with international partners, limited capacity continues to remain a challenge for the effectiveness of the architecture. Yaoundé Code of Conduct, Africa Integrated Maritime Strategy (AIMS) 2050, African Charter on Maritime Security and Safety and Development in Africa (Lomé Charter) are also relevant instruments available at regional and continental level.

The presence of different structures and initiatives at national, regional, and international levels to address maritime insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea also raises the question of coordination. One notable development of interest to the Council in this respect is the establishment of the Gulf of Guinea Maritime Collaboration Forum and Shared Awareness and De-Confliction (GoG-MCF/SHADE) last year. The platform was created by Nigeria and the Inter-Regional Coordination Centre (ICC) – representing 21 countries in the Gulf of Guinea – to serve as a platform for navies, industry partners and other relevant stakeholders from across the Gulf of Guinea and beyond with the view to harmonising counter-piracy efforts and communication in the region. International partners such as the G7++ Friends of the Gulf of Guinea and the European Union have also stepped in to support regional efforts against piracy.

Adding to the above structures, the PSC in its last session on the theme also envisioned a naval capacity within the African Standby Force (ASF) for promoting maritime and security and safety in Africa though its practicality would remain a problem. This will be in addition to the Counter-terrorism unit which Council decided to establish within the ASF at its 960th session held on 28 October 2020.

The expected outcome of tomorrow’s session is a communique. Among others, Council is expected to express concern over the persistent threat posed by piracy, armed robbery, and other forms of maritime crime in the Gulf of Guinea. It may further express concern over the trend of the expansion of the threat posed by pirates far from the coast, as well as the economic implications of the threat on the coastal states. Council is likely to welcome the launch of Nigeria’s Deep Blue Project on 10 June 2022 and may appeal to international partners to provide the necessary support to the effective implementation of the project. It may also re-emphasize the importance of adopting a comprehensive solution to the multidimensional underlying causes and drivers of maritime insecurity in order to sustainably address the problem. Echoing UN Security Council Resolution 2634 (2022), Council may urge member states in the region to criminalize piracy and armed robbery at sea under their domestic laws, and may further call to investigate, prosecute, or extradite, in accordance with applicable international law, perpetrators of piracy and armed robbery at sea. Taking note of the decline of piracy in the region over the past year, Council may encourage coastal states to keep the momentum and sustain the gains through continued collaboration and strong coordination among states of Gulf of Guinea as well as the different initiatives and institutions including the Yaoundé Architecture, AU, ECOWAS, ECCAS, and GGC in the fight against piracy and armed robbery at the sea of Gulf of Guinea.

The state of Maritime Security in Africa

Maritime Security

Date | 23 July, 2021

Tomorrow (23 July) the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) is set to convene its 1012th session on the state of maritime security in Africa.

Following the opening remarks of the Chairperson of the PSC, Victor Adenkunle Adeleke, the AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security (PAPS), Bankole Adeoye, is expected to make a statement.

Given the increasing maritime insecurity in the continent, tomorrow’s session presents the Council the opportunity to assess the overall maritime security situation of the continent with particular focus on the Gulf Guinea, receive update on the status in the implementation of regional and continental maritime security frameworks, as well as explore ways and means to effectively respond to maritime insecurity in the continent.

As recent data demonstrates, incidents of piracy and kidnapping for ransom of seafarers continue to be major challenges along the Gulf of Guinea. According to reports of the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), the region experienced 50% increase between 2018 and 2019, and 10% increase between 2019 and 2020 in incidents of kidnapping for ransom. In 2020 alone, there were 84 attacks on ships and 135 kidnappings of seafarers. In the first three months of 2021, the region accounted for 43% of all reported piracy incidents while over 14 crew members were abducted in three incidents of kidnappings recorded within the year so far. Currently, the region is said to account for just over 95% of all kidnappings for ransom at sea. In addition to piracy and kidnapping for ransom, the region is also highly prone to other maritime crimes including armed robbery, transnational organised crime, illegal fishing, and illegal trafficking and smuggling of goods.

In addition to the increase in maritime crimes, studies also indicate the increasingly violent nature of such incidents. For instance, the use of guns was reported in 80% of kidnappings for ransom which took place during 2020. This is a sharp shift from the nature of piracy experienced in the region a few years back, which was limited to occurrences of cargo theft. Another growing trend in the nature of maritime crimes in the Gulf of Guinea is the broadening and extension of risk zones. That is, while most cases of piracy and kidnappings initially used to take place within the territorial waters of coastal States, the more recent incidents tend to take place further from shores and within the high seas – at 200 nautical miles from the coastline according to data recorded by the IMB. These trends in turn underscore the importance of strengthening international and regional efforts and collaborations aimed at addressing the risks to maritime security in the region.

Because most of the security challenges in the Gulf of Guinea previously took place under 200 nautical miles from coastline, States in the region resisted the idea of an international presence to respond to maritime security threats which were usually categorised as armed robberies as opposed to piracy. With the distance from shorelines highly increasing and the nature of crimes also getting more volatile, the incidents in the Gulf of Guinea are nowadays prompting comparisons with piracy in the horn region, along the coastline of Somalia. Although shipping companies operating in the region are growingly showing support for international responses, it is more likely that Gulf of Guinea States would prefer continued support from the international community to boost their capacity in averting threats to maritime security instead of handing over the responsibility to outside entities.

While reflecting on possibilities of new international responses is important, it is also essential to emphasise the importance of effective implementation of existing regional frameworks such as the Yaoundé Code of Conduct and the African Charter on Maritime Security, Safety and Development in Africa (Lomé Charter) in order to effectively address maritime security challenges in the region. At its 858th session dedicated to the same theme, the PSC focused on the finalisation, signature and ratification of the draft Annexes to the Lomé Charter. The upcoming session presents Council the opportunity to follow up on the status of the draft Annexes which are basically aimed at incorporating within the Charter, all relevant AU structures, particularly those relating to economic mandate and were not involved in the development of the Charter. The pilot case of the European Union (EU)’s Coordinated Maritime Presences (CMP) concept, launched at the meeting of the Council of the EU on 25 January 2021 is also one of the most recent efforts representing international collaboration to address maritime security challenges in the Gulf of Guinea. The CMP establishes the Gulf of Guinea as a Maritime Area of Interest (MAI) and aims to support coastal States in addressing challenges which undermine maritime security and good governance in the region.

At the national level, it is also crucial to properly identify and take timely measures against the root-causes of piracy and other maritime crimes including poverty, high rate of youth unemployment, poor governance, lack of education, and weak law enforcement. In addition to locally addressing the underlying causes of maritime crimes, States in the region also need to harmonise their domestic laws with regional and international standards. In this regard, Nigeria’s anti-piracy laws (such as the Suppression of Piracy and other Maritime Offences Act of 2019 which prescribes stringent punishments against crimes committed in the maritime domain) and the initiatives such as the Deep Blue Project (launched in 2019 with the central goal of addressing insecurity and criminality in Nigeria’s territorial waters) could serve as lessons for more mobilisation of similar enterprises across the region.

It is also important to pay due regard to the economic impact of maritime insecurity and the constraints it imposes to the flow of trade and investment. As the Gulf of Guinea continues to growingly be regarded as one of the most dangerous shipping routes and insecure maritime environments in the world, the risk to economic development in the region, as well as the continent at large, also increases. Particularly with 90% of trade to west Africa coming by sea, the region’s economy is largely affected by concerns of maritime security. Not only is there a likelihood for the region’s reputation as a dangerous route to ward off potential traders, the increasing level of insecurity also inevitably results in the rise of business costs and increase in price of goods and services. While this has the potential to eventually devastate the economy of coastal States in the long-run, it also directly affects the livelihood of populations in the region. Hence, it is essential for response mechanisms crafted under any national, regional or international initiatives to take account of the economic aspect of maritime insecurity in the region.

The outcome of tomorrow’s session is expected to be a communiqué. In addition to reflecting on the security concerns along the Gulf of Guinea, Council may remark on the importance of strengthening Africa’s continental capacity to respond to security threats in the maritime domain, including through taking solid steps towards the implementation of the 2050 African Integrated Maritime Strategy. Council may also call on member States in the Gulf of Guinea to fortify their efforts through, among others, information sharing; interdicting suspicious ships; and apprehending and prosecuting suspected criminals in line with the Yaoundé Code of Conduct. It may also encourage littoral States to allocate sufficient funds for building up local and regional response mechanisms against maritime security threats. Having regard to the growing trend in further offshore incidents of maritime crimes in the Gulf of Guinea, Council may also stress the need for a more integrated regional approach towards addressing the challenges. Council may also note the low level of ratification of the Lomé Charter and urge member States that have not yet done so, to sign and ratify it (as of 2020, only two of the 35 AU member States that have signed the Charter have ratified it). The AU Commission may also be requested to take the necessary steps towards the finalisation of the draft annexes to the Lomé Charter.

State of implementation of the decisions of the Lomé Summit on Maritime Security and Safety 

Maritime Security

Date | 16 July, 2019

Tomorrow (16 July) the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) will hold a session on the state of implementation of the decisions of the Lomé Summit on Maritime Security and Safety held on 15 October 2016. The session is expected to review the development of Annexes to the African Charter on Maritime Security, Safety and Development in Africa, Lomé Charter.

The agenda item is being tabled by Togo as the chair of the month and champion of Maritime Security, Safety and Development in Africa. The Office of the Legal Counsel is expected to brief the PSC. The briefing will update member states on the level of ratification of the Lomé Charter. It is also expected to provide an update on the development of the annexes.

As pointed out in the 682 PSC ministerial session the development of the annexes is aimed at including the relevant AU structures, particularly those with economic related mandate, which were not initially involved in the development of the charter. In this respect, the AU Assembly at its extraordinary summit in October 2016 tasked the African Union Commission (AUC) to: ‘[T]ake all necessary measures in order to convene Extraordinary session of the relevant Specialized Technical Committees(STCs) which were not involved in the elaboration process of the Charter namely: the STCs on Trade, Industry and Minerals, STC on Transport, Infrastructure, Energy and Tourism, STC on Monetary Affairs, Economic Planning and Integration and any other relevant STCs to enable them to consider issues falling within their respective mandates and submit their contributions to the African Charter, in the form of annexes’. The 682nd session of the PSC reiterated this request.

As a follow up to this, the AUC convened in January 2017 an ad hoc experts’ group, which after series of meetings and working closely with the AUC legal office, developed draft Annexes. The process for the finalization of the annexes envisaged that after the annexes were submitted for consideration of the joint meeting of the relevant STCs and incorporation of the inputs of the joint STCs, draft Annexes would then be submitted to the Justice and Legal Affairs STC which would consider and submit the draft Annexes to the Assembly for adoption. Despite  the  fact that the AU Assembly envisaged this process to be concluded  by  July  2017,  the  process  has  as  yet  to  be  finalized.

It is to be recalled that the Strategic Task Force for the implementation of Africa’s Integrated Maritime (AIM) Strategy met in 2018 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to consider and validate the Draft Annexes to the Lomé Charter.

Central to the elaboration of the annexes is the need for full coverage in the Lomé Charter of the developmental aspects of the marine space through the contribution and participation of the economy and development structures of the AU. Blue economy is a key sector for the majority of Africa countries, 38 of 55 are coastal states and more than 90% of Africa’s imports and exports are transported by sea. Agenda 2063 recognizes that Africa’s Blue economy, which is three times the size of its landmass, as a major contributor to continental transformation and growth. Yet, Africa has as yet to properly make use of the potential of its marine space and resources. The 834 PSC session, reiterated the centrality of ‘effective management of Africa’s Blue Economy, in order to ensure that it significantly contributes towards promoting sustainable development, creates employment and improves the general well-being’.

In this regard the Lomé Charter is a groundbreaking instrument given that it’s the first continental legally binding framework that advances blue economy as well as maritime security agendas. The Charter by focusing on the linkage between blue economy and maritime security it also provides relevant definition of key terminologies and the common rules for the governance of the marine space of Africa.

The progress update is expected to provide a timeframe and highlight the outcome of the deliberations that took place at the Task Force level as well the continuing consultations with the various STCs until the subsequent submission of the annexes to the Assembly. In light of this, the briefing may also provide details on the role of the Task Force and other policy units in the subsequent steps.

Despite the recognition of the huge developmental role of the sector and the normative development efforts, the ratification and domestication process of the Lome Charter has been slow. The Lomé Charter requires that the treaty shall enter into force 30 days after the deposit of the 15th instrument of ratification. The slow pace of ratification thus far shows the need for a clear strategy for promoting ratification by AU member states. This may require establishment of a task force of member states and the AU Commission tasked with the development and implementation of such strategy.

Given the multidimensional nature of the issues addressed in the Lomé Charter and the role of various STCs, there is also a need for clarifying a coherent approach for ensuring implementation of the Charter. Tomorrow’s session in addition to providing update on the development process of the annexes, it may also address the institutional harmonization aspect. This has been particularly highlighted in the PSC 682 session, which called for a ‘follow up mechanism, in particular within the Commission, given the cross-sectoral and multidimensional nature of issues relating to Maritime Security and Safety and Development’.

In terms of effective and coherent approach, the 834th session underlined the need for harmonized and coordinated operationalization and implementation of existing legal and policy frameworks relating to the blue economy; including AU 2050 Africa Integrated Maritime Strategy (AIMS), the Revised African Maritime Transport Charter and the Lomé Charter. It further urged the Commission ‘to expedite the finalization of the draft annexes to the Lomé Charter’.

It is also expected that the developments of the annexes are taking place within the broader 10-year implementation plan of Agenda 2063, which envisages the establishment of African Centre for Blue Economy by 2025. The AUC institutional reform also anticipates, from 2021 onwards, the inclusion of a dedicated maritime component in the agriculture, rural development, blue economy and sustainable development department of the AU Commission.

Pursuant to its last session the PSC may follow up on the outcomes of the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference meeting held in Maputo, Mozambique, in May 2019.

At the production of this ‘Insight’ the form of the outcome of the session was unknown. The PSC may call for clear timeline for finalizing the annexes. The PSC may further note the low-level ratification of the Charter and may, beyond and above calling on member states that are yet to ratify the Charter to do so, request the AUC to develop (and report to the PSC) clear strategy for promoting ratification. It may also call on the accelerated operationalization and implementation of other complementary policy and normative instruments including the 2050 AIMS and the Revised African Maritime Transport Charter towards addressing maritime threats and strengthening regulatory frameworks. It may also call for strengthened enhanced regional and international cooperation for enhanced monitoring and control.

Briefing on the nexus between maritime security, safety and development of the blue economy in Africa

Maritime Security

Date | 21 March, 2019

Tomorrow (21 March) the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) is scheduled to receive a briefing on the nexus between maritime security, safety and development of the blue economy in Africa.

Deputy foreign minister of Kenya is expected to brief the Council. AU Commission Peace and Security Department will also make a statement. Additionally, statements are also expected from invited participants including Seychelles as the Champion for the Development of the Blue Economy in Africa, representatives of Regional Economic Communities/Regional Mechanisms (RECs), Norway, Canada, the European Union and United Nations.

The briefing will take place in two parts. The first part is open to both PSC members and the representatives of invited countries and organizations. The second part involves only PSC members.

As indicated in the concept note Kenya circulated for the session, the main objective of the session will be to examine trends, progress and challenges of maritime security and safety in Africa. It also seeks to formulate steps in addressing the security threats and risks and to collectively work towards realizing the commitments of developing the blue economy.

The intervention by Kenya is anticipated to provide an overview and update on the major outcomes of the Global Sustainable Blue Economy Conference held in Nairobi from 26-28 November 2018. The first ever such global event on the blue economy, the conference highlighted the necessity of multilateral cooperation as a pre-requisite for the realization of the development potentials of the blue economy. Such multilateral cooperation, among others, provides the platform for the creation of a secure maritime domain as the foundation for value addition to the sustainable development of the blue economy in terms of trade, tourism, fishing industry and transport. Accordingly, the issues raised at the conference in these respects include maritime security and safety and regulatory enforcement. The outcome report underlined the importance of regional cooperation and the role of multi-stakeholder approach to effectively respond to maritime issues. The report explicitly discusses the need for strengthened implementation of and compliance with regional and international regulatory frameworks.

This session seeks to build on and takes forward these various themes highlighted in the Blue Economy Conference. In terms of regional cooperation on the Blue Economy, it is worth noting that the blue economy is recognized as the next frontier for the economic transformation of the continent in Agenda 2063. If one considers the fact that 38 of the 55 African countries are coastal states covering vast ocean territories of an estimated 13 million km² and having a maritime industry worth over USD $ 1 trillion per year (as pointed out in the concept note for this session), the potential for growth in an atmosphere of effective international and regional cooperation and regulation and secure maritime domain is very high. As this continental framework put it ‘Africa’s Blue economy, which is three times the size of its landmass, shall be a major contributor to continental transformation and growth’.

While this is not an area on which the AU been engaged in for a long time, it has established key legal and policy instruments in recent. The first continental instrument is the 2050 Africa’s Integrated Maritime Strategy (2050 AIMS) adopted in 2014. The strategy provides further guidance on the nexus between security and development within the maritime domain. The framework is also developed to complement the PSC protocol article 3 in developing a common defense policy and to address the maritime security challenges. With its focus on addressing threats to maritime security, the strategy is more defensive in its orientation than developmental.

In a development that underscored the heightened policy interest with increased attention to the development of the maritime domain for socio-economic benefits, the AU in October 2016 convened an Extraordinary Summit on Maritime Security and Safety and Development in Africa in October 2016 in Togo. The Summit sought to strategize on mechanisms for strengthened protection of seas and oceans and to utilize maritime space for the development and transformation of the continent. As its major outcome, the Summit adopted the Charter on Maritime Safety and Security and Development in Africa (Lomé Charter).

Going beyond these normative instruments, provisions are made in AU plans for putting in place a dedicated structure within the AU institutional setup. The10-year implementation plan of Agenda 2063 envisages the establishment of African Centre for Blue Economy by 2025. Under the reformed structure of the AU Commission, from 2021 for the first time, there will be a dedicated maritime component in the agriculture, rural development, blue economy and sustainable development department of the AU Commission.

This session is also an opportunity for a follow up on the PSC’s first session on maritime security. The PSC at its 682nd meeting, held in 2017 at a ministerial level underscored the important role of RECs/RMs, the need to put in place appropriate follow up mechanism, the finalization of the draft annexes to the Lomé Charter.

The consideration of maritime security together with or in relation to the blue economy has the advantage not only of shifting the focus from security threats and defensive policy approaches to immense economic growth potentials of the marine resources. The interest in the exploitation of the potential of the blue economy will help mobilize the necessary investment and development of capacities for maritime security and safety.

There are however a number of issues that would be of interest to the PSC session’s deliberations. One of the issues is the mapping of the major threats to maritime security and safety and their manifestations for designing responses tailored to the specific nature and form of the threats in the various maritime zones of Africa. The threats in the maritime domain that the PSC identified at its 682nd include piracy, illegal,unreported and unregulated activities including fishing, drug and human trafficking, and terrorism. Maritime governance and environmental protection also constitute important issues for the development of the blue economy.

Additionally, security challenges that are encountered are mainly supranational, requiring regional efforts and responses. The Lomé Charter remains a critical instrument of such strategic efforts. The PSC refers to it as an ‘instrument to promote peace and address the safety and security threats in Africa’s maritime domain’. However, to date only Togo has ratified the Charter. Indeed, Togo as Champion of maritime security has interest as a PSC member on this issue of ratification of the Lomé Charter and finalization of the annexes to the Charter.

As noted above, sustained development of the blue economy necessitates a secure maritime domain. However, the report of the Nairobi conference pointed out that the ‘inadequate collaboration among stakeholders in maritime security sector compounded by overlapping or uncoordinated institutional mandates and lack of or weak law enforcement capacities’ are critical challenges to ocean governance.

Other issues for the PSC to address during this session include the articulation of the approach that best suits the mandate of the PSC in continuing its engagement on this theme and the norm-to-implementation gap. In these respects, the implementation of the 2050 strategy may in particular be one of the key areas of discussion during the briefing. As it was indicated in the outcome of the Nairobi conference, partnership and regulatory measures as well as implementation frameworks are among the top ten commitment priorities identified by the participants.

The form that the outcome of the session was unknown when this ‘Insight’ was finalized, but is expected to be a communiqué. The Council may underline the importance of addressing existing and imminent threats in the maritime domain to ensure the realization of Africa’s blue economy development. To this end the PSC may call on the implementation of international and regional instruments including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the 2016 Lome Charter and 2050 AIMS in order to address maritime threats and crimes and to enhance regulatory enforcement. It may provide concrete steps in securing maritime areas for economic development by strengthening monitoring and control systems through regional and international cooperation. The PSC could also articulate the approach that best suits its mandate for it to carve out meaningful role in pursuing this theme further.