Ghana, on Monday, moved a step further to tighten its maritime  security which has been fraught  with many challenges since the country gained independence, by introducing three new Amendment Bills on the floor of Parliament for consideration. The proposed Amendment Bills include the Ghana Maritime Authority (Amendment) Bill, 2011, the Ghana Maritime Security (Amendment) Bill, 2011, and the Ghana Shipping (Amendment) Bill, 2011The Ghana Maritime Authority (Amendment) Bill, 2011 seeks to empower the Minster of Transport to make regulations for the imposition of charges, fees and levies, to ensure that there are sufficient resources to fund the activities of the Authority to meet its objective in the marine industry.

The sector Minister, currently, is not explicitly granted power in the Ghana Maritime Authority Act 2002, Act 630 to institute charges, fees and levies to run the activities of the maritime industry.

That of the Ghana Maritime Security (Amendment) Bill, 2011 seeks to provide security for mobile offshore and onshore installation units, now that the country has discovered oil and gas in commercial quantities.

The third bill, the Ghana Shipping (Amendment) Bill, 2011, seeks to extend the scope of application, by amending the definition of Ghanaian waters to include the waters within the 500 miles safety zone generated authority, and also introduce administrative mechanisms for the publication of information such as maritime safety for the purpose of disseminating critical information to enhance the maritime industry, and the public at large.

The new bills, according to movers of the motion, when passed into Acts, would position Ghana as the hub of maritime business in the sub-region, since it would afford the Ghana Maritime Authority to adequately fund its activities, whilst creating a serene marine environment devoid of piracy and armed robbery for players in the industry.

With the discovery of oil and gas in commercial quantities, Ghana stands the risk of being a target of pirates, and a victim of other unscrupulous deals in the maritime industry.

Administrative challenges, coupled with inadequate logistics and human capacity, has been a source of worry for the Ghana Maritime Authority over the years.

Members of Parliament (MP) from both sides (Majority and Minority), aware of the debilitating challenges in the maritime industry, did not hesitate to speak with one accord in supporting the motion of the three new Amendment Bills, which were introduced and read on the floor of the House for the second time.

“In broad terms, the role of the Ghana Maritime Authority has expanded, which includes; advising on the new policy guidelines, with elation to specific matters which have hitherto not been regulated. For example, there is the need to establish relevant approval and permit processes for insurance, to enable ships access to the designation areas in relation to our Jubilee Field.”

They also need to establish procedures for the inspection of vessels and offshore installations to ensure safety and protection of the marine environment, in fulfillment of the Ghana Shipping Act, 2003.

It is very necessary for the laws to be amended, to enable the Authority to embark on all these functions,” noted the New Patriotic Party (NPP) MP for Agona West, Samuel K. Obodai, who doubles as the Ranking Member for the Committee on Transport.

The National Democratic Congress (NDC) MP for Bia, who doubles as the Chairman of the Committee on Transport, Michael Coffie Boampong, observed that the aforementioned bills, when passed into Acts, would provide a safe marine environment that would enhance the operations of the Ghana Maritime Authority, regulator of maritime business in the country.

In spite of the unanimous support the bills received, the First Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Edward Doe Adjaho, was quick to point out an anomaly in the Ghana Maritime (Amendment) Bill, 2011.

According to him, the offense named in the Ghana Maritime (Amendment) Bill was not defined, despite prescribing penalties in the said amendment bill. For example, the offense of marine pollution, security and piracy, which call for 15,000 penalty units, was not defined in the Ghana Maritime (Amendment) Bill, 2011.

He, therefore, demanded answers from the sector Minister, Alhaji Collins Dauda, who, in turn, assured the House of addressing the issue at the Committee’s next meeting.

The NPP MP for Ayirebi/Ofoase, David Oppong-Kusi, pleaded with the House to make sure that “at least, there is some sort of Ghanaian ownership in the maritime industry,” whilst considering passing the three amendment bills into Acts.

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