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Ghana alongside other African Union member states have adopted and signed the new charter on maritime security, safety and development. In an extraordinary summit held in Lome from 10th-15th of October 2016, Heads of State and Governments have adopted a new charter that will lead the way in the safety and security of oceans within the African region. The document commits all member states not only to protect their environment, but also to supress crime on the sea as well as the trafficking of human beings, weapons and drugs.

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The New M&TD exclusively interviewed Madam Sylvia Asana Dauda Owu, deputy chief executive officer of the Ghana Shippers Authority (GSA) upon her return from Lome. Quizzed on the background of the adoption of the new charter, she explained that, there was the need to safeguard the oceans and rivers of the region thus the AUs decision to bring to force this very important charter.

"The African Union has decided to come out with a charter called the Maritime Security, Safety And Development Charter that will govern the way we as African countries manage our oceans and rivers, in terms of making sure that there is security and safety and at the same time looking at the resources that abound in our oceans and how we can tap into these resources and still sustain its growth" She said.

According to the Deputy CEO, activities on the oceans within the region are increasing and there was the need to protect the many benefits which we derived from it including trade. She further explained that, lack of security and safety on our oceans mostly had implications that eventually culminates in high cost of doing business with vessels that have to invest extra in security if they felt our oceans were not safe for doing business.

"The AU felt there is the need to have a charter that will be accepted by all countries because whether we like it or not there is the growing need to make sure that our oceans are safe, make sure there is security along the oceans, make sure there is no piracy or terrorist activities and other vices that will affect the way we operate within our oceans and even trade with other counties. When your oceans are not safe there is the tendency that when vessels are calling at the port they will be cautious and even add on to cost because they think there is the need to put on additional security on their vessels and this can affect the way we do business" she expressed.

Madam Asana expressed confidence in the charter in that, all relevant stakeholders have been brought on board to make sure that the charter received the necessary attention it deserved. According to her heads of state have viewed all the necessary recommendations and have put pen on paper to adopt the charter. She further hinted that the charter did not only focus on security and safety but also on development. Madam Asana intimated that Ghana was more interested in the developmental aspect of the charter since she has already led the way in maritime security.

"In recent times the world as well as the AU has been talking about the blue economy which talks about how we can tap into the resources in the ocean and also sustain its development. The meeting had to look at the draft charter and make recommendations to the ministers and the ministers in turn also make a recommendations to the Heads of State to agree or otherwise. Our Head of State was there and agreed that the charter should be adopted and signed whiles we take our time to add the developmental aspect of the charter because currently the charter looks only at the safety and security aspect but there is also the need to look at the developmental aspect of it. The deadline is July next year so we can have a complete charter and document that will govern the way we monitor our oceans".

"I must say that the security in this country is very strong regardless of us not ratifying this new charter. Ghana as a country, we have in place a very strong system as far as maritime security is concerned, we are on top of issues. We have in place vessel tracking systems and this covers a wide area of our waters including our neighbouring countries. So when it comes to security and safety, we are on top of our game" she stated. Questioned on when the charter will come into full force looking at our system of governance, Madam Asana was confident that our system of doing things will not come in the way of the charter being enforced although it was going to take some effort from the Ministry of Transport to ensure that the charter is ratified and domesticated.

"The charter is not in force here in Ghana but it also depends on where you are coming from. For the francophone countries, once it is adopted and signed it comes into force but for us as a country our way of doing things is different so we have to take it to parliament for it to be accepted and domesticated. The Ministry of Transport will decide the way forward" she expressed. According to Madam Owu, Ghana will have to present a position paper to the AU in its next meeting in order to add on to the proper adoption of the developmental aspect of the charter and this will have to be done by a special team of technical men and women who will come out with the necessary recommendations for Ghana to present to the AU.

"We need to come up with a position paper and this will be done by a Specialised Technical Committee, they will sit and look at the document and see the areas which we should factor as far as the developmental aspect of the charter is concerned. So we have to work seriously in that manner, so that come next year July we will have in place a document to add on to the general document to make our input when it comes to the developmental aspect of the charter" The new charter will also see to the curbing of illegal fishing on the west coasts which has been its bane for several years. Coastal states of West Africa that take 20 percent of their maritime revenue lose about $1.3 billion each year due to illegal fishing according to the Justice Foundation.

Source: All Africa