Ghana has ordered two 46 metre patrol vessels from China’s Poly Technologies Incorporated as part of a larger drive to modernise its navy. The vessels will be used to combat piracy and increase maritime security off Ghana’s coast once they are delivered before yearend.
According to Ghana’s defence minister Lieutenant General Joseph Henry Smith, the vessels form part of the drive to modernise Ghana’s navy as it is not able to defend the country’s exclusive economic zone.
In September 2008 Ghana signed a US$39.86 million contract with Poly Technologies Incorporated (PTI) for the two vessels. Construction began at China’s Quigdao Shipyard in May 2009 after PTI received an initial US$8.48 million payment. The boats, named Chemle and Ehoo, were launched on April 1 this year and commissioned during a visit to Beijing by Smith in June. Smith said he appreciated the assistance of the Chinese government and PTI in supporting Ghana’s armed forces.
The two vessels are being funded by Ghana’s Ministry of Food and Agriculture whose minister, Kwesi Ahwoi, was quoted as saying that, "for the first time in our history, Ghana is acquiring patrol boats to be dedicated to fisheries surveillance in our waters, which would go a long way to enhance and ensure national fisheries governance."
Both Ehoo and Chemle will carry 14.5 mm and 12.7 mm machine guns and will have a complement of 30 personnel.
In July last year Jane’s reported that Ghana’s Navy plans to acquire ten new vessels over the next two years. Ghana is also expanding its Naval Dockyard in the southwest of the country. Poly Technologies is building another two 46 metre patrol vessels for Ghana under a separate contract. Janes believes Ghana has ordered two 62 metre patrol craft from South Korea for delivery by July 2013.
On January 21, Ghana’s navy commissioned a refurbished Sea Dolphin-class fast-attack craft donated by South Korea. The vessel, GNS Stephen Otu, is being joined by two fast attack craft from Germany. In 2008 the US government gave Ghana three ex-Coast Guard Defender class boats and another four in March last year and in December last year the Ghana Navy received six new speedboats.
"We have constantly been reviewing our measures to safeguard our waters, most importantly to protect our oil installations,” Smith told Reuters last month.
"We are aware of the increasing piracy attacks in our neighbourhood and we are very much prepared to face any such attacks."
Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea is not on the scale of that off Somalia, but analysts say an increase in scope and number of attacks in a region ill-equipped to counter the threat could affect shipping and investment. For instance, Cameroon blamed piracy for part of a 13 percent drop in oil output in 2009.
Other maritime problems include piracy and drug trafficking. The United Nations estimates that US$1 billion worth of cocaine, destined for Europe from Latin America, passed through West Africa in 2008.
Ghana’s Navy is relatively small, with 2 000 personnel, according to the IISS’s 2011 The Military Balance. It operates two 1940s-era Balsam class vessels previously operated by the US Coast Guard, four fast attack craft built by Lurssen (two PB 45 Dzata class and two PB 57 Achimota class vessels) and a single PB Mk III inshore patrol boat that was transferred from the US Navy in 2001.
Ghana is also strengthening its air force and recently ordered two Airbus Military C295 transports, an Embraer 190 and two Diamond DA 42 surveillance aircraft which will presumably be used for maritime patrol, especially safeguarding Ghana’s offshore oil assets - the country becoming a major oil producer in the region after beginning production in December last year.