Maritime crimes: Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Niger begin ‘Op Safe Domain II’

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“Operation Safe Domain II” has been started by the Republics of Nigeria, Benin, Togo, and Niger to combat piracy and marine crimes in the Gulf of Guinea.

Commodore Aniedi Ibok, Director of the Multinational Maritime Coordination Centre Zone E, outlined the program’s goal of boosting maritime security via regional cooperation for prosperity during his remarks at the program’s opening on Monday. According to News Agency of Nigeria, the event runs from September 11 to September 15 at Cotonou Port Naval Base.

The Gulf of Guinea was split into two regions in 2013 by the Yaoundé Code of Conduct, with the Regional Centre for Maritime Security in West Africa in charge of the western region and the Regional Centre for Maritime Security in Central Africa in charge of the eastern region.

2014 saw the creation of maritime zones E, F, and G under the ECOWAS Integrated Maritime Strategy. Zone E, which had already been formed as a test project, sparked the creation of further zones.

The goal of the Joint Maritime Operations and Patrols, according to Ibok, is to maintain continuous, coordinated, and joint control over Zone E for maritime safety and security. He went on to say that the operation is supported by ECOWAS and the Zone E Member States because there are so many illegal marine operations taking place in the Gulf of Guinea and West African waterways.

“These security issues put the zone’s economic growth in jeopardy and threaten local coastal communities’ and seafarers’ overall way of life.

As a result, he added, “the operation will aid in eliminating the adversary in whatever form they manifest.”

Ibok claims that the goals of the patrols and joint operations are to review the SOPs, pool the resources of the state’s parties, and make the marine resources interoperable.

He added, “The goals will also operationalise the right of hot pursuit as defined by the rules of engagement, multilateral and bilateral memoranda to secure the maritime area of the ‘Maritime Zone E’.”

The director stated that the chosen plan will include information gathering and sharing, marine and aerial surveillance, as well as operational unit intervention as necessary.

“This approach will increase security and safety in the Zone E maritime area through operational patrols and a constant military presence at sea.

Through capacity building in maritime law enforcement operations, intelligence sharing, and technical assistance, among other things, it will also increase cooperation between fleets and other maritime actors in Zone E countries.

This will undoubtedly serve as the framework for more joint and combined operations, he declared.

Ibok recalled that similar resources were provided by the Zone E navies during the execution of “Op SAFE DOMAIN I” in November 2021.

One of the operation’s successes was the improvement in how member states, maritime stakeholders, and partners in the zone obtained and shared daily and weekly intelligence information.

“The productive capture and prosecution of pirates on the Chinese fishing trawler FV HAILUFENG 11 and other vessels of significance, including STI SOHO.

He added, “The operation also resulted in the attacks being thwarted and TOMMI RITSCHER and MAXIMUS with their team being released.

Ibok added that the objective of Operation SAFE DOMAIN II is to curtail the activities of pirates and marine criminals by carrying out normal law enforcement operations at sea. Three ships and a helicopter for patrol and observation will be used in the operation, which will span 105,746 square nautical miles of ocean.

“I am confident that member states, the zone, and regional organizations will continue to support all initiatives to combat maritime crime while maintaining collaborative operations for the sub-region’s improvement.

In the Gulf of Guinea, particularly in Zone E’s seas, maintaining the combined operation and patrols will improve protection of people and property, he said.

Brig.-Gen. Fructueux Gbaguidi, the chief of the defense staff for Benin, appealed for assistance from the neighboring nations, claiming that the nation has been plagued by piracy issues.

The four nations have united to create a powerful force to combat piracy and marine crimes because of this.

According to Gbaguidi, “Op Safe Domain I” was founded in 2021 thanks to the cooperation of these nations, and “Op Safe Domain II” was launched in 2023 as a result of the operation’s success.

He expressed his gratitude to the four nations’ leaders for working together to make the operation a success.

As a result, the Brigadier General remarked, “we have been able to realize our objectives of safeguarding our waterways and checkmating the operations of pirates and sea crime in our maritime domain.

The need of international cooperation in the battle against piracy was emphasized by Captain Jean Le’on Olatoundji, Chief of Naval Staff of the Benin Republic. He claimed that “Op Safe Domain II” is a demonstration of the member nations’ combined resolve to combat the threat of piracy in the maritime domain.

I have every faith that the crews will complete this noble job successfully, the CNS declared.

The issue of sea blindness is gradually being eliminated from our minds, according to Commodore Richard Shammah, Director of the West African Regional Maritime Security Coordination Centre.

“Countries are now recognizing the significant economic value that the sea provides to their varied economies.

Therefore, a secure maritime domain is necessary for our economic growth at sea.

“This operation is required so that we can have a maritime line of communication and trade, and since no one nation can complete it by themselves, cooperation is required.

The aims and goals of this collaboration must be accomplished, he prayed, because doing so will help our fleets’ capacity to grow.

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