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Sunday, April 14, 2024

GPA, others manifest capabilities to tackle maritime security threats

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By Omar Bah

The Gambia Ports Authority  conducted a simulation exercise on Thursday to test the response capabilities of the Navy, DLEAG, NDMA, and Fire Services to respond to piracy, terrorism, illicit drug trafficking, pilferage, and IUU fishing.

Thursday’s exercise, which focused on drug trafficking, aimed at enhancing the security of ships and port facilities by detecting and forestalling acts that pose threats to maritime security.

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A simulation on drug seizure at sea and fire emergency evacuation at the port was held to test the effectiveness of the port’s response plans.

Addressing reporters shortly after the exercise, the port facility security officer who coordinated the exercise, Mam Pateh Dampha, said following the September 11 attack, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) perceived some threats to ships and port facilities, and to address those threats, an International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPES) code was established.

“These measures provide the framework through which ships and ports can cooperate to detect and deter acts that pose a threat to maritime security. This calls for responding to security threats, such as having a security plan to exercise. And that’s what we are doing today. The purpose is to test the effectiveness of our security plan,” he said.

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He said the exercise is relevant because the biggest drug trafficking is by sea. “It is important that we prepare ourselves on that and then sensitise the maritime community on that so that they understand drug menace and its impact on society,” he said. He said tackling drug trafficking requires more urgency because the proceeds of drug trafficking could be used to finance piracy or terrorism.

Dampha extolled the management of the port for its readiness and willingness to comply with the ISPES code.

Lt. Commander Fara Jobe of the Naval Command said the creation of awareness is paralysing.

“When we talk about the port, it’s important to talk about our security. To exercise this kind of scenario once in a while is very important, especially the evacuation of personnel,” he said.

He said maritime safety and security threats are usually transnational because the sea is open, adding that the capacity to patrol waters is a challenge for all nations.

“This is why nations are together to work and make sure that there is security and safety in navigation or whatever activities we do at sea. Drug trafficking, irregular migration, and human trafficking are challenges in West Africa. So, it’s important that we exercise our men that go to sea,” he added.

The Operations Director at the NDMA, Momodou B. Ceesay, congratulated the GPA for organising the simulation exercise.

He said the simulation exercise, by its definition, is about testing the response capacity of institutions, and “we have seen a lot of skills demonstrated, but equally, we have seen challenges that, as a country, we needed to solve.”

Ceesay buttressed: “The two scenarios being simulated today are very important for this country, considering the fact that we have seen a lot of drug peddling in the waters. We have to prepare because drugs make our youth very vulnerable. We have also seen efforts to strengthen the national capacity to respond to emergencies, and we will do that with the port authority and other institutions to reinforce each other to ensure that the country is resilient to some of these disasters.

Ousman Saidybah of the DLEAG said that when it comes to drugs, it is evident that most of the drugs that are shipped into the country are from the sea. He outlined that the simulation clearly demonstrates that there is strong coordination between the country’s security institutions.

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