Coastal States, especially those abutting the Atlantic Ocean, have been urged to vigorously enforce the framework guiding shipping standards and work to improve maritime safety to help eliminate sub-standard ships in the region.
With an estimated 90% of African imports and exports conducted by sea transport, the issues of maritime safety and marine pollution are critical and deserve all the attention they can garner, the Vice President of the Republic, Vice President Mahamudu Bawumia, has underscored.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the Third Ministerial Conference of the Abuja MoU on Port State Control for West and Central African Countries in Accra, Dr Bawumia stated:
"We are here today because we share a common interest and a common purpose. We are all coastal States endowed with huge marine natural resources. With this blessing, comes a responsibility to protect our marine environment from pollution caused by decades of loose maritime rules and the use of sub-standard ships.
"Today, about 90% of world trade is carried by sea transport and it is indeed vital to the functioning of the global economy. The bulk transport of raw materials and the import/export of affordable food and goods to sustain the global economy would simply not be possible without shipping."
Vice President Bawumia continued, "It is also important to mention that as maritime trade increases, environmental concerns affecting marine life is also on the increase; and the 'green pressure' on ships continue to mount. The debate on environmental issues has for the past been how international shipping and the maritime community can contribute to sustainable development.
"It is my belief that enhancing our efforts as member States to effectively implement the Port State Control measures, ensuring ships' compliance with International maritime instruments, will go a long way to help in addressing the UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14. It enjoins to 'conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development'".
Citing the theme for the conference: "Tightening the net- Regional cooperation to eliminate sub-standard shipping", Vice President Bawumia said considering the vast maritime opportunities in Africa, promotion of seaborne trade is fundamentally important to sustainable economic growth as outlined in the African Union's 2050 Integrated Maritime Strategy (AIMS 2050).
He urged member States to cooperate effectively in the compliance and enforcement of the Port State Control regime adding,
"I encourage member States to tighten their nets when carrying out Port State Control Inspections in order to ensure that all ships that call to do business at our ports are seaworthy and operate in accordance with the standards and regulations relating to maritime safety, security and marine environment pollution prevention."
The Memorandum of Understanding on Port State Control for West and Central African Region, generally referred to as Abuja MoU, is one of the 9 regional MoUs and 1 national MoU established pursuant to IMO Resolution A.682(17) of 1991. It was established on 22nd October 1999 as an inter-governmental organisation comprising of the Maritime Administrations of countries abutting the Atlantic coast of Africa.
Representatives of Maritime Administrations from Angola, Benin Cape Verde, Congo Republic, Cote d'Ivoire, Gabon, Togo, and The Gambia are attending the Accra Conference.
Others are from Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Nigeria, Sao Tome and Principe, South Africa and hosts Ghana are also taking part in the conference.