Maritime Security and the Fight Against Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea – First Seminar Held in Lomé, Togo

Togolese security experts were discussing the rapidly growing number of armed robberies along the coast of Togo, as well as diverse problems concerning maritime security in this area

The first of an organised series of seminars by the Africa team concerning “Maritime security and the fight against piracy in the Gulf of Guinea” took place in Lomé, Togo, from 21–24 October 2013. The seminar was aimed at different high-ranking individuals and institutions involved with questions around the maritime security in Togo – in particular the Navy, the Maritime Gendarmerie, the Harbor Administration in Lomé, the Ministry of Transport, the Ministry of Security, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, as well as the Ministry for Cooperation, the Judiciary (including, among others, the Cour Suprême as well as the Department of Public Prosecution) and the Transport-worker’s Labor Union were present. In addition to the transfer of knowledge, the seminars were also aimed at strengthening communication between the different institutions in order to sustain a consistent national strategy in the long-term in the area of maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea.

The experts of the Max Planck Foundation focused on specific core areas, such as the basic principles of the law of the sea, while also highlighting, through the discussion of real-life cases, the different strategies concerning the fight against piracy. The participants showed a high interest level in the ensuing lively discussions and took the initiative to illustrate, through short presentations, both their own activities and the specific challenges for maritime security in their respective sectors.

On balance, armed robberies on the sea, specifically in Togolese coastal waters, are a much more frequent problem in Togo than piracy in the legal sense, which is limited to incidents on the high seas. This is due, in large part, to the fact that incidents occur mainly in Togolese waters during the transfer of freight between cargo ships. In the end, the participants agreed that armed robbery constituted only one threat among many to maritime security. Further dangers arise from both gun and drug smuggling, illegal immigration, illegal fishing, environmental concerns, as well as crew health and safety issues.