Four West African countries have launched a joint operation to combat maritime crimes in the Gulf of Guinea, one of the most dangerous waterways in the world.
The operation, dubbed ‘Op Safe Domain II’, was inaugurated on Monday, September 11, 2023, at Cotonou Port Naval Base in the Benin Republic. The operation is a collaborative effort to enhance maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea, which is plagued by piracy and other illicit activities.
The operation is sponsored by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and aims to pool resources, share intelligence, and coordinate patrols among the four countries . The operation is also in line with the Yaoundé Code of Conduct and the ECOWAS Integrated Maritime Strategy, which divide the Gulf of Guinea into three maritime zones: E, F, and G.
Zone E, which comprises Nigeria, Benin, Togo, and Niger, was established as a pilot project in 2013 and has been leading the way for regional cooperation. The operation is expected to improve the safety and security of the maritime domain of Zone E and lay the foundation for further joint and combined operations.
The Gulf of Guinea has been a hotspot for piracy and armed robbery at sea for years. According to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), 95% of global kidnappings at sea occurred in the Gulf of Guinea in 2020. The region also faces threats from illegal fishing, smuggling, human trafficking, and terrorism.
The four countries involved in the operation have expressed their commitment to work together to address these challenges and protect their maritime interests. They have also called for more support from regional and international partners to enhance their capabilities and coordination.
The operation is expected to last for two weeks and will involve naval vessels, aircraft, and personnel from the four countries. The operation will also be monitored by the ECOWAS Maritime Multinational Coordination Center (MMCC) in Cotonou .
The operation is seen as a positive step towards achieving a more secure and prosperous Gulf of Guinea for the benefit of all stakeholders. It is also hoped that the operation will serve as a model for other zones and countries in the region to emulate and cooperate.