ACCRA, GHANA - The Gulf of Guinea is a hot spot for illegal activities, which affect global trade and security. This week a conference in Ghana's capital, Accra, seeks solutions to overcome issues that plague the region. Experts say collaboration will be the focus of a seaborne law enforcement effort.
On board the USNS Carson City, which is visiting Sekondi, in Ghana's Western Region, Admiral James Foggo thanked the American crew, telling personnel how important its role is in building partnerships and bringing security to the Gulf of Guinea - a coastal region of West and Central Africa.
The ship arrived for a port visit Sunday as part of the U.S. Navy's effort to support African navies in anti-piracy, small boat maintenance and marine law enforcement. Personnel from Spanish, Portuguese and Italian forces are also part of the collaborative mission.
Alongside naval leaders from other nations, Foggo toured U.S., Ghanaian and Nigerian vessels at the port of Sekondi.
"Our interest in the Gulf of Guinea is helping our African partners and friends legitimize and control the sea lines of communication that lead to the ports of Africa. Ninety percent of their commerce travels by those sea lines of communication. There is a lot of activity that is legal, probably more legal than illegal. We want to stop the illegal activity, it takes away from their tax base, their profitability and detracts from their economy," Foggo said.
But for success to endure, Foggo said there is a need for more emphasis on arresting, charging and prosecuting those committing illegal activities in the Gulf.
"There has got to be some kind of deterrence or punishment applied in order to keep people from doing this in the future, otherwise if they go into a detention facility or jail and they get out, they just go back and do it again," he said.
Foggo is the commander of U.S. Allied Joint Force Command Naples, U.S. Naval Forces Europe, and U.S. Naval Forces Africa.
The Accra conference is focused on tackling threats from illegal fishing, piracy, kidnappings for ransom, illegal oil bunkering and drug trafficking in the Gulf of Guinea.
Commander Veronica Arhin, a spokesperson for Ghana's Navy, says the goal of the meeting is to get as many experts and navies together to address security in the Gulf of Guinea.
"Collaboration between the navies in the Gulf of Guinea is extremely important because crimes or insecurity is transnational, it can move from one country to another, so there is a need for us to have that collaboration, such that if a ship has a problem in another country's waters or there is a piracy attack and the pirates move to another country, there could be that communication. And the navies around the various countries could come together to fight such crimes," said Arhin.
Those ideas are endorsed by Ahmed Tabsoba, who grew up in Ghana and is now an American citizen in the U.S. Navy.
Tabsoba has been stationed in Naples where the U.S. works with its 28 NATO allies. He was back in his home country, traveling with Admiral Foggo.
"We live in a world that you cannot predict what is going to happen next, so it's really good to always build this relation[ship] and make sure we are there to help if something happens," Tabsoba said.
The two-day International Maritime Defense Exhibition and Conference ending Thursday brings together 25 countries represented by speakers and exhibitors who hope to find ways to collaborate on solutions to the region's challenges.