Opening of the National Maritime Strategy Development Workshop

Remarks by Ambassador Robert P. Jackson

Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre

Rear Admiral Faidoo,

Major General Akwa,

Other Distinguished Visitors,

Government officials,

Conference participants, colleagues in the U.S. delegation,

adies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for inviting me to open this workshop. As many of you know I was credentialed as Ambassador to Ghana less than a month ago. It is my utmost pleasure to be here today at the beginning of my Ambassadorship to speak about maritime security and strategies, issues that are critical in this region and beyond.

As I look around the room today here at the Kofi Annan Centre, I note with approval the presence of my uniformed and civilian colleagues representing your various national agencies. I am reminded of a something said by that great Ghanaian diplomat who has lent his name to this facility:

“You can do a lot with diplomacy, but with diplomacy backed up by force you can get a lot more done.”

I am delighted that we gather here this week to look at joining our military, civilian, and diplomatic energy—with the purpose, as former Secretary General Kofi Annan said, to get things done.

And there is no shortage of things to get done.  As a previous Ambassador to Cameroon, and having served in Senegal and Cote d’Ivoire, I am no stranger to the region’s maritime challenges. Certainly you are even more aware of these dangers. Piracy; oil bunkering; trafficking of narcotics, weapons and persons; and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing are just a few of the issues that plague the region. These evils hurt the environment, economies, governments and most importantly the citizens of each of your nations. Maritime criminals know no boundaries.

Maritime security does not stop at one nation’s Exclusive Economic Zone, Territorial Waters, or coastline. These threats are relentless and will go to precisely the location that is not watched or patrolled, at sea and ashore.

The title of this workshop is the “National Maritime Strategy Development Workshop”. I believe that national maritime strategies are the cornerstone of our plan to defeat the threats we face.

Development of these strategies is often easier said than done, however. A maritime strategy needs to be well informed by all those with maritime equities, including higher level strategic guidance. A strategy needs to cut across ministries and agencies to coordinate efforts. A strategy should have clear and defining roles for organizations and, if required, we should consider doing away with extraneous organizations.  In short, development of a maritime strategy is a difficult whole-of-government task that must be led from the top but implemented at every level.

The United States looks for opportunities to partner with countries when appropriate. For example, here in in Ghana, we recently agreed on a plan under the Security Governance Initiative to partner with leadership to broaden strategic maritime capabilities. One of the primary goals will be to develop a national maritime strategy. Our civilian organizations seek training opportunities with port officials, fisheries officers, and maritime law enforcement agencies.

The United States Coast Guard has partnered to implement, conduct, and approve the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code Port Facility Security Assessments, ensuring that Port Facility Security Plans are fully implemented, and tested. These plans include implementing access control procedures, requiring positive identification of all personnel entering port facilities at all times, implementing measures to account for all personnel in port facilities, searching a specified number of persons and vehicles entering the port facilities on a consistent basis, implementing procedures to properly monitor port facilities, implementing a training program to ensure port security personnel are familiar with the policies and procedures outlined in the Port Facility Security Plan, and implementing a program to ensure drills and exercises are carried out at specified intervals.

The United States also seeks to assist through military programs, such as:

  • Africa Partnership Station,
  • Africa Maritime Law Enforcement Partnership, and
  • Exercise OBANGAME EXPRESS.  [Oh-ban-ga-may express]

In fact, I think we have worked with most of the countries in this room to execute these programs successfully.

Looking forward, the maritime commons can and should be a place for opportunity. The sea can bring economic prosperity, facilitate transportation, and feed local populations. African nations are coming together to address maritime issues head on. With the development of the Yaoundé Code of Conduct and subsequent initiatives, you are taking a stand against those that seek to do harm to Africans as well as to Americans and others. In that context, I want to underscore the importance of the inauguration of the Interregional Coordination Center for Maritime Security in Yaoundé, Cameroon, last year, as well as Angola and Togo’s leadership in organizing conferences bringing together partners who ply the seas in the Gulf of Guinea. We are strengthening partnerships—I note an excellent example in the recent tracking of pirated vessel MAXIMUS.

Workshops such as this are never long enough or frequent enough to address matters as serious as maritime security. I encourage all of you to make the most of your time here. Each of you will approach these issues from a different perspective. At this workshop you have the chance to further partnerships, learn from others, and to share your knowledge as well. Then you will have the daunting task to return home and take action. I ask that you move actively once this conference is over so we are not just discussing problem—we are finding and enacting solutions.

Together, you are the future for maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea. The voices in this room cut across regions, countries, and agencies, and together they can resonate into powerful action.

Thank you for your attention.