Posted on April 16, 2018 by Ashleigh Cowie

At least 14 tuna fishing companies have halted operations in Ghana over fears that the crew will be attacked by pirates.

There has been an upsurge in pirate attacks in the region since March this year.

The area has seen 5 pirate attacks int he last 3 months, whereas between 2013 and 2017, the number of attacks stood at only 11.

Concerns were heightened on the 26th March this year when 3 Korean sailors were on board Ghanaian-flagged fishing vessel Marine 711, when they were hijacked by pirates in the Volta Region.

Through fear of being attacks, and as a mark of solidarity with their counterparts, all 14 tuna fishing companies in the territorial waters have put a stop to fishing activity. They are said to be waiting for “positive assurance from the Ghana Navy that the vessels and their crew will be safe at sea”.

This will impact over 30 vessels, which are currently anchored off the harbour. The crews will not take the vessels out without support from the Navy.

The President of the Ghana Tuna Association, Mr John A. Farmer, added that the country risked losing between $5 million and $10 million in April alone if the vessels did not return to fishing.

“As we speak, the kidnapped sailors are yet to be rescued and we do not know what the Ghana Navy is doing about it. This incident has, no doubt, created fear and panic among local and foreign registered tuna vessels".

He expressed the fear that the halting of activities could extend to industrial trawlers. There are currently 90 industrial trawlers operating in the country’s territorial waters.

Ghana is said to earn about GH¢500 million, equivalent to some $120 million, annually from tuna exports to the European Union (EU) market.

Rescue Mission

Although South Korea is reported to have deployed a warship to Ghana’s territorial waters in search of the kidnapped Korean sailors, the Ghana Navy is yet to disclose its plans to rescue the kidnapped sailors.

A source close to the Korean Embassy in Accra told the Daily Graphic that the warship had already been deployed from Somali waters and was expected in the Gulf of Guinea this week.  

The pirates, according to the World Marine Company Limited, owners of the Marine 711, had not yet demanded a ransom in return for the release of the abducted sailors.

Other Approaches

A merchant ship was surrounded by three speedboats carrying armed pirates off the coast of Takoradi on March 8, this year.

It was reported to be in position 03°55N 001°14E 155°/65NM from Takoradi, Ghana when it was approached. the men on board the speedboats were said to be wearing camouflage clothing and carrying weapons.

The MDAT-GoG advised vessels transiting the country’s coast to exercise extreme caution in the region.

Piracy and armed robbery in the Gulf of Guinea have become an established criminal activity and are becoming an increasing concern to the maritime sector.

An ICC-IMB report notes 11 separate pirate attacks off the country’s coast between 2013 and 2017.

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