A new project which will boost security and the safety of maritime routes across seven African countries in the Gulf of Guinea was announced by the European Union.
The Critical Maritime Routes in the Gulf of Guinea Programme (CRIMGO) will help governments across West and Central Africa to improve safety of the main shipping routes by providing training for coastguards and establishing a network to share information between countries and agencies across the region.
Announcing the project, Development Commissioner, Andris Piebalgs, said: "Without security, development can never properly reach the people it needs to. That's why our new project, which will help to boost transport security in Western Africa, is so crucial. By making the waters safe, we are helping to boost trade and growth and provide more opportunities to make a living, which these countries so desperately need."
The project will be rolled out from January 2013 in 7 African coastal states: Benin, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Nigeria, Sâo Tomé and Principe and Togo.
The Gulf of Guinea currently accounts for 13% of oil and 6% of gas imports to the EU. However, piracy and armed robbery, as well as drug, arms and human trafficking, pose a real threat to the security of the region. In Nigeria alone, some 98 cases of piracy, armed robbery at sea and marine pollution were recorded between 2008 and 2012.
At present, the region suffers from a lack of coordination between coastguards, as well as between regions. There is also currently no common standard for maritime training, and weak conditions for information sharing between the countries involved.
The EU will provide €4.5 million for the CRIMGO project under its Instrument for Stability.
Other partners in the project include the France Expertise International (FR), the Direction de la Coopération de Sécurité et de Défense (FR), the Direção-Geral do Polítca do Mar (PT), the Fundación Internacional y paralberoamérica de Administración y Políticas Públicas (ES), the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (UK), the Satakunta University of Applied Sciences (FI), the International Maritime Safety Security Environment Academy (IT), and the Szczecin Maritime University (PL).
The Critical Maritime Routes Programme:
The focus of the Critical Maritime Routes programme is on the security and safety of essential maritime routes. Its objective is to increase maritime security and safety; thereby helping to secure shipping and trading lines of communication. In the long term, the programme aims to improve maritime governance. The programme started in 2009 and is trans-regional, with activities concentrated in South East Asia, the Western Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Guinea. Since the start €16 million have been allocated to these activities.
The Instrument for Stability:
The Instrument for Stability (IfS) is a strategic tool that links security and development. The main objective is to support measures aimed at safeguarding or re-establishing the conditions under which the partner countries of the EU can pursue their long term development goals.
The Instrument complements existing EU geographic and thematic instruments and policies, Common Foreign and Security Policy actions, regional and international organisations and bilateral programmes carried out by EU Member States. The Instrument brings added value as it fills gaps where geographical or other development instruments cannot be used; and can be used to address trans-regional threats to security, which cannot be done through traditional development instruments.