GPA holds annual maritime security exercise

GPA holds annual maritime security exercise

By Cherno Omar Bobb

The Gambia Ports Authority (GPA) in pursuance to the applicable requirements of the International Ship and Port Facility (ISPS) Code last Thursday held its annual maritime security exercise at the Banjul Port.

The annual exercise is designed to ensure the Gambia Ports Authority’s adherence to national and international maritime regulations while enhancing security protocols. The maritime exercise saw the GPA simulate exercises on a situation of a suspected drugs on-board a ship lying and anchoring, as well as a fire outbreak and evacuation of staff.

The main objectives of the exercise were to test pertinent aspects of the port facility, assess security threat handling and emergency response, as well as identify best practices, gaps and mitigation strategies.

As a critical hub for international trade and commerce, the ports play a vital role in the movement of goods and serves as a gateway for economic prosperity and with the responsibility comes the need for effective contingency planning to address any potential emergency situation that may arise.

The simulation exercises were conducted in partnership with the Gambia Navy, the Drug Law Enforcement Agency of The Gambia (DELEAG), the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA), The Gambia Fire and Rescue Service (GFRS), The Gambia Maritime Administration (GMA) and other stakeholders. 

Mam Pateh Dampha, port facility security officer and simulation coordinator, explained that the exercise was meant to test the efficiency and effectiveness of the Gambia Ports security plan to threats such as piracy, terrorism, illicit drug trafficking, IUU fishing among others.

He described terrorism as a global security threat and illicit drug traffic as a trans-national organised crime.

He, however, noted that the contemporary maritime threat is illicit drug trafficking which is also a societal menace that should be addressed.

“Drug trafficking is real and the biggest percentage of drugs trafficking is by sea,” he stated, noting that it is therefore important that they do not only prepare themselves on it but also sensitise the maritime community on drug trafficking menace and its negative impact on society.

Ousman Saidyba, head of public affairs and drug demand reduction for the Drug Law Enforcement Agency of The Gambia, described the issue of drugs as a complex persistent phenomenon affecting nations.

He noted that there is evidence in the UNODC drug report that most of the drugs shipped in large quantities are usually trafficked through sea and therefore commended the management of GPA for the exercise.

He acknowledged that West Africa faces the challenge of being very close to South America, noting that the biggest threat West Africa is faced with is mother ships coming in and anchoring offshore and using smaller boats to traffic drugs.

Saidyba highlighted that tracking drug trafficking requires collaborative efforts because drugs do not exist in isolation.

He described drug trafficking as the most lucrative form of illicit trade, highlighting that a kilo of cocaine smuggled to a Middle Eastern country is sold for at least 80,000 Euros.

Lieutenant Commander Fara Jobe, officer commanding Naval Command, emphasised that the safety and security of ‘our port is important’, saying once in a while it is important that such simulations are organised.

He added that since The Gambia has a single port with a single entry, it is good to strengthen its security because once there is a threat within the sub-region, The Gambia will be affected.

Famara Jarju, maritime security officer for the Gambia Maritime Administration, also described the Banjul Ports as the epicentre of the Gambian economy, adding that they therefore want to ensure that it is compliant with the ISPS code as well as to ensure that it is one of the most competitive ports within the region.

Kulay Manneh, harbour master for the Gambia Ports Authority, outlined that the exercise provides them valuable insights into their emergency response capabilities, communication protocols and overall readiness to handle potential fire incidents and also highlighted the importance of regular training and collaboration among various stakeholders in the maritime industry.


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