The International Maritime Organisation (IMO), was yesterday asked to assist countries with considerable transportation activities on their inland waterways, such as the Volta Lake, to reduce the fatalities of unavoidable accidents.
Professor Christopher Ameyaw-Akumfi, Minister for Habours and Railways, who made the call said, the assistance was of considerable importance to the government due to the perennial boat accidents on the Volta Lake with its resultant loss of human lives and property.
Professor Ameyaw-Akumfi was opening the first Search And Rescue (SAR) conference to be held in West Africa by the Ghana Maritime Authority (GMA) in Accra.
The conference was to create an effective SAR system to deal with maritime emergencies and enhance maritime safety and security in the sub-region as well as establish a framework of cooperation among the five countries attending the conference. Maritime experts from Ghana, Liberia, Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea, Sierra Leone and IMO Representatives are participating in the three-day conference.
Professor Ameyaw-Akumfi noted that though the essence of the IMO-SAR programmes were to establish search and rescue facilities within the territorial waters of the African Coast, it was pertinent to consider issues relating to inland waterways as they contributed to establishing an effective Maritime Rescue Coordinating Centre (MRCC) for the Liberia zone under which Ghana fell.
African countries were zoned into five areas for the establishment of MRCC to coordinate search and rescue in collaboration with national SAR authorities within the framework of the SAR convention. The other four are Nigeria, Kenya, Morocco and South Africa.
He said currently, search and rescue operations in Ghana were conducted by agencies like the Navy, Airforce, National Disaster Management Organisation, the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority, Ghana Civil Aviation and the Meteorological Services Agency under the coordination of the newly created GMA.
He said the Ghana Telecom with the assistance of government had installed Coast Radio Station equipment in Accra which was compliant with the Global Management Distress and Safety Systems (GMDSS) for the receipt and communication of distress messages.
Professor Ameyaw Akumfi said while accident prevention had been the major goal of the IMO, it had also concentrated efforts on developing integrated global systems to respond to shipping emergencies and that the “Florence Conference” held in 2000 had helped African countries to provide prompt assistance.
He urged the governments of the participating countries to accede to the SAR convention and the Florence Resolution to create the necessary regulatory framework to implement the regional SAR plan.
Mr Magnus Teye Addico, Secretary General of the Maritime Organisation for West and Central Africa (MOWCA), said the organisation was to facilitate effective sub-regional co-operation for the implementation of SAR and other maritime safety conventions, codes and regulations.
He called for proactive actions in the handling of maritime safety and security issues and regular surveillance of the coast and inland waterways as well as the provision of better-equipped river crossing ferries to ensure safety of passengers and reduce accidents and incidents.
Mr Issaka Peter Azuma, Director-General of the GMA, said the public advocated a Legislative Instrument (L.I) to regulate the shipping industry and that the GMA had initiated action for Parliament to approve the L.I. for effective regulatory activities of shipping agents.
He appealed to key operators in the industry not to take undue advantage of the absence of the requisite subsidiary legislation to introduce abusive practices in the industry.
Mrs Gladys Asmah, Minister for Fisheries, Mr Ben Owusu Mensah, Director General for Ports and Harbours Authority and Mr John S. Morlu, Commissioner of Maritime Affairs of Liberia, were of the view that participants should ensure that agreements put in place were made to work rather than leaving them to be a "white elephant."