Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) recently shared his praise for the 22 states that signed the Code of Conduct aimed at preventing piracy of merchant vessels. The Code of Conduct was signed at a conference in Yaounde, Cameroon on June 25th. 13 heads of state from West and Central African countries were in attendance.
The 22 countries that signed include Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Chad, the Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sao Tome and Principe and Togo.
The code is very similar to the successful Djibouti Code of Conduct, which was signed by 20 states in East Africa, the Middle East and Asia, in order to curtail piracy in the Indian Ocean and surrounding waters.
Of the signing, Sekimizu said, “I am fully committed to assisting western and central African countries to establishing a workable, regional mechanism of co-operation for enhanced maritime security. Maritime development is an essential component of African development and maritime zone security is fundamentally important.”
The states in Central and West Africa also have a Memorandum of Understanding, established in 2008, that helps integrate coast-guards from various countries, creating a shared maritime domain awareness up and down coasts.
The Sec-Gen also encouraged countries to contribute to a new trust fund established by the IMO to fund IMO implemented security projects in Central and West Africa. This fund will focus on maritime security capacity building projects that will help the IMO liaise more closely with nations in the region.
The new Code of Conduct was developed jointly by the Economic Community of West African States, the Economic Community of Central African States and the Gulf of Guinea Commission. Collectively, all three bodies share concerns about the effects of piracy and cargo and oil theft off of their coasts. The three bodies joined together in encouraging all signing states to focus on developing a comprehensive and cooperative strategy to put an end to piracy.
Specific steps will include information sharing, joint training exercises, and even operation cooperation in counter-piracy missions. This will all be initiated under the guidance of the IMO.
The Code does recognize the importance of sovereignty in territorial waters, and does mention non-intervention in the domestic affairs of other nations.
Much of the funding for this particular project came from the IMO’s global maritime security capacity-building program, which is supported strongly by Norway and the United States, both of whom have a vested interested in the health of the international shipping industry.