A fibre glass boat with storage facility on the shores of Goa, India

Ghana’s continued quest to  protect its forest cover has taken a new dimension, as authorities   in both fishing and forestry sectors have stepped up efforts towards finding alternative boats for the wooden boats currently being used on the various water bodies across the country.

A special delegation drawn from the various sectors in the marine and forest industries are currently in India on a one week visit to inspect boats made from fibre glass (Fibroglass), as an alternative for the wooden boats used in Ghana. They left the shores of Ghana on Monday, October 17, 2011, and are expected to return on Monday, October 24, 2011.

The 23 contingent is made up of District Chief Executives (DCEs) and fishermen from some fishing communities along the Volta Lake and coastal areas of the country, private lake transport owners, civil servants from the Fisheries Commission, senior technicians, and representatives from Zoil Services Ghana Limited, and an official from the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO).

The idea, according to initiators of the programme, is to protect the depleting forest cover, while saving lives on the various water bodies in the country.

Ghana’s 8.2 million hectares of forest reserve a century ago, has declined to a current 1.5 million hectares. That means, about 90% of the country’s forest cover has been depleted, while the remaining 10% is still under pressure.

To avert the trend, Zoil Services Ghana Limited, which is currently engaged in an afforestation exercise and also protecting the country’s coastal heritage, in partnership with the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, is pursuing the fibroglass ambitious project as an alternative to the wooden boats.

The delegation was met on arrival by officials of KS Group, a local company that is into agriculture, small scale enterprise, food processing, waste management, power transmission, infrastructure development, roads, and railways & ports among many others.

The Group has huge presence in Africa, and is currently in partnership with ZoomLion Ghana Limited for various developmental projects.

Prof. Harish C. Narula explaining a point to the delegation at the design room of Fibroplast Marine Pvt Limited

To have an introspect of the fibroglass business, the delegation was taken to Fibroplast,  a leading Indian boat manufacturer and marine solutions, to inspect samples of boat products made from fiber glass.

The delegation met officials of the company, led by its Chairman, Harish C. Narula, who briefed them on best fishing practices around the world, and how fiber glass boats could be replicated in Ghana. They were also given the opportunity to make suggestions as to what type of boats will meet their demands.

A 30-minute power point presentation was made by the company to highlight some of its manufactured products, the specifications they are working with, which crop of people are using their products, as well as achievements made in the boat building business.

According to Narula, the idea of the fibre glass boat was borne out of the Tsunami disaster which claimed thousands of lives in December 2004.
“After the Tsunami in December 2004, Fibroplast developed the latest design – Fibreglass fishing boats, while maintaining the features and stability of the traditional wooden boats.”

The Chairman of the Fisheries Commission, Mike Akyeampong, commenting on the visit, said “The fishing industry is being abused, and we are at the steering wheel of our destiny. Therefore, there is the need to strive hard to address the numerous challenges that we are facing in the fishing industry. Replacement of our boats with more efficient ones like the fibre glass boats will help save lives and cut down cost.”

The Volta Regional Manager of Zoil Services Ghana Limited, Anthony Adzomani, in an interview with The Chronicle, said the initiative being pursued was identified by his outfit following a research it conducted that “there is an adverse effect on boat manufacturing, using wood on our forest in Ghana.”

According to him, there was the need for alternative wooden boats, because of the depleting nature of the country’s forest cover.

“We need to preserve our forests. We have to diverse our wooden boats to the use of fibre glass boats, and that is why Zoil Services has brought these boat owners to India to see for themselves, and also make their own specifications to suit their operations.”

He appealed to the fisher folk to embrace the idea of using the fibre glass boats, and consider the amount of wood lost each time a boat is made. “They should embrace the concept fully,” he added.

NiiAbiala II, Chorkor Chief Fisherman, known in private as Iddrisu Kotei Neequaye, also, in an interview with The Chronicle  applauded the efforts being made by Zoil Services to find alternative boats for the wooden boats currently being used all over the country.

He appealed to the government to enforce all existing laws in the fishing industry, with regards to the new technology it was currently pursuing.

“It is about time the government takes it seriously in replacing the wooden boats with fiber glass boats to save our forests from dying,” he added.

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