GARBORONE, Botswana — .
The MMCCs is one of many planned as a part in terms of the ECOWAS Integrated Maritime Strategy to coordinate joint patrols, naval drills, training programs and intelligence sharing among the naval forces of the Gulf of Guinea Pilot Zone E.
Located in the Atlantic Ocean off the coasts of Nigeria, Niger, Benin and Togo, Pilot Zone E is considered the hotbed of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.
The new MMCC was set up in Cotonou, Benin, and will be used to coordinate joint maritime security drills and operations activities with two other in Gulf of Guinea sectors. One is which are Zone F, which includes Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The other is Zone G, which groups together Cape Verde, the Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Mali and Senegal, which will also be linked to security operations covering the entire Gulf of Guinea region.
A resolution calling for the establishment of regional maritime security coordination centers was adopted at a June 2013 ECOWAS summit held in June 2013 in the Cameroounian capital Yaoundé to discuss a common policy to respond to the security threats posed by piracy in the gulf.
ECOWAS Ccommissioner for Ppolitical Aaffairs, Ppeace and Ssecurity Salamatu Hussaini Suleiman said the region wants coordinated response to piracy. in the Gulf of Guinea:
"Over the past years, the ECOWAS region, particularly in the Gulf of Guinea, has seen piracy and various other criminal acts. The heads of states and governments approved a strategy for combating that menace and part of that strategy includes setting up maritime zones
"The first one we are piloting in West Africa is the Zone E. ...This comprises Nigeria, Niger, Benin and Togo. There will be a regional coordinating center and an inter-regional coordinating center," Suleiman said.
All MMCCs operating in the Gulf of Guinea will relay information to the main ECOWAS maritime security intelligence fusion cell, the Inter-regional Coordinating Center, which was launched in Yaounde, Camerooun, in September last year.
Commenting on the development in an analysis article published by his organizsation, regional maritime security expert Barthelemy Blede of the Senegalese-based Institute for Security Studies (ISS) said the new MMCCs are indeed welcome but very little will be achieved as long the West African navies charged with leading anti-piracy operations continue to lack essential equipment like patrol boats and maritime patrol aircraft.
"The international community and actors in the maritime industry must increase support for these efforts. Assistance should go beyond the writing of strategies, training courses and simulation exercises. The region also needs to increase its material resources in terms of naval assets and maritime aviation capabilities if it is to respond appropriately to brutal maritime attacks.
"With the inauguration of the Zone E coordination center, ECOWAS is taking a decisive step in implementing its [aims].EIMS. However, it should not stop here and it is imperative that all the beneficiaries of maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea provide continued support," Blede said. "This will greatly assist West African states in freeing themselves of the threats posed by pirates and other criminals who operate in their maritime domains."," Blede said.
Despite receiving assistance and training from international partners, including the China, the US, the European Union and Japan, most West African navies still operate near-obsolete naval ships, naval defense systems and specialized maritime aircraft. The navies also lack the essential radar and remote surveillance systems needed to monitor their vast maritime domains.
Last week, a meeting of the Council of the European Union resolved to support the Gulf of Guinea Action Plan for 2015-2020 as submitted by ECOWAS by continuing to cooperate with partners in combating piracy and other maritime crimes, such as which include piracy, armed robbery at sea, illegal fishing, smuggling of migrants, and trafficking of human beings, drugs and weapons.
"The Council stands ready to assist West and Central African coastal states to achieve long lasting prosperity through an integrated and cross-sectoral approach, linking the importance of good governance, rule of law, and the development of the maritime domain to enable greater trade cooperation," "The Council invites [ECOWAS] the HR and the Commission, in close consultation with Member States, to start implementing the Gulf of Guinea Action Plan.. in close cooperation with the region itself, and key international partners. In this regard, it looks forward to the appointment of an EU Senior Coordinator for the Gulf of Guinea," the EU said in a March 16 communique issued March 16.