The Impact of Climate Change on Maritime Safety in West Africa
1. Introduction
The introduction provides background information on the topic and states the problem statement. The research objectives are also outlined. The report then delves into climate change and its effects on West Africa, including an overview of climate change and specific impacts in the region. The specific risks to maritime safety are also identified. The next section focuses on assessing the increased risks in maritime safety, using analysis of historical data, identification of vulnerable areas, evaluation of potential hazards, and quantification of risk levels. The report then moves on to developing adaptation measures, such as policy and regulatory frameworks, enhancing maritime infrastructure, strengthening early warning systems, capacity building and training, and collaboration and international cooperation.
1.1 Background
The sea has always been a major source of life for many civilizations in the world. For West Africa, economic activities are heavily reliant on the sea. For example, fish form an important part of the diet in many countries such as Senegal, Ghana, and Sierra Leone. According to the World Bank, the marine and coastal resources in West Africa contributed to a regional GDP of over 17 billion US dollars in 2008. Also, shipping activities are prospering in this region as the major sea ports in West Africa (Dakar, Abidjan) recorded increasing throughput over the years. In this regard, ensuring maritime safety is essential in maintaining the marine and coastal resources-based economy in West Africa. However, maritime safety has been threatened by the increasingly extreme weather conditions as a result of climate change. The area is frequently struck by a variety of extreme weather, from intense tropical cyclones in the South to the severe harmattan winds in the North. Such phenomena not only can cause the loss of thousands of lives but also pose huge risks for maritime traffic in this region. There are already substantial impacts of climate change on maritime safety in developed countries as reviewed by McCouat and Link (2010). However, there are few studies about this issue in West Africa. With a team of researchers and experts in various fields from both Europe and West Africa, this research aims to identify the area of high risks in maritime safety induced by climate change in West Africa, particularly the sea areas in the Gulf of Guinea. The project is part of the initiative of the European Strategy for Marine and Maritime Research in West Africa and funded under the European Commission’s Seventh Framework Programme. The duration of the project is from 2013 to 2017, and the full project is officially known as ‘Interdisciplinary Aquatic Environments in West Africa: Protection and Sustainable Management in the Context of Climate Change’.
1.2 Problem Statement
The changes in global climate, particularly the increasing risks and occurrence of climate-related hazards, have become a significant concern of national and international policymakers in recent times. West Africa is one of the regions of the world that seems to be experiencing the impacts of climate change in various forms within the world’s major climates, but most especially in the arid and semi-arid regions of the north. The strong and regular winds that sweep the region from the Sahara, best known as the Harmattan, have been identified as a major climatic factor that has considerable impacts on the navigation and operational efficiency of ships in the Gulf of Guinea. There are four months of the year in which the Harmattan is relatively stronger, and this is a major worry for maritime transportation in the region. These months are between November and March, with a peak in December. However, the opening and deepening of local ports and the dredging of local waterways have provided and continue to provide support for the mitigation of such hazards. In addition, the establishment of local and international standards in maritime safety, as well as the development of new methods for enhancing safety and risk management in the shipping industry, have gone a long way to assist the situation. But there is an urgent need to understand the effect of climate change on maritime safety in the region because little work has been done in this field. The targets set out in the paper are to explore the impacts of climate and environmental changes on maritime safety, to flag potential technical and operational deficiencies and likely problems that may arise as a result of direct or cumulative impacts of climate changes, to develop specific adaptation and mitigation strategies for reducing the risks associated with adverse changes in both the climate and the environment, and to drive up the quality and consistency of risk management processes used in the maritime industry. In doing this, the objectives will be to provide high-level policy planning and strategic development in providing for a safer remedial effect, to shape advanced training and research in the areas of risk management and technological changes, to develop criteria for international and regional collaboration in the improvement of maritime safety standards, and to identify priority areas for immediate impact and knowledge transfer.
1.3 Research Objectives
The research objectives are set to analyze each and every meticulous factor affecting climate change and maritime disasters in West Africa. The reason for conducting such a huge research is clearly highlighted through the needed requirements in the research objectives, such as detailed information and knowledge needed in the field, the methods needed to be devised to assess and monitor the situation of maritime safety over time, and the need that we should meet as humankind in order to develop a better society, provide better safety, and take care of the environment. The urgency is highlighted in the research objective: that we should assess the potential future impact of climate change on maritime safety. The study will also be validated and verified through the research objectives because the objectives are stating and highlighting the need and the perspectives in the research. Every objective set in the research will definitely contribute to the overall results that the research is going to end up with. The developing adaptation measures and the significance of conducting the research are also clear as the objectives state the needs to fulfill the duty as a responsible maritime professional and take care of the society and the environment. Every single step in the research will be conducted in order to fulfill the objectives, and this will also induce critical and innovative thinking in the area of development, as said from the systematic and repetitive objectives that have been set up. The research contributes to the current body of knowledge in the areas of maritime safety and environmental protection. The findings and results of the research will provide useful information on how different stakeholders, including the international communities, local governments, maritime organizations, and professionals, can cooperate on climate change adoption in the maritime industry. Last but not least, the main outcome expected from this research is clearly addressed in the research objectives. This will also illustrate the importance of this research towards the development of a safety and systematic-based maritime industry. From what the research objectives tend to achieve, it indicates that the future impact of climate change on maritime safety will be assessed by the end of the research.
2. Climate Change and its Effects on West Africa
Climate change has led to significant changes in the global climate, including increasing temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, and rising sea levels. These changes have led to observable impacts on the natural environment, such as water resources, ecosystems, and biodiversity. In West Africa, climate change has been identified as one of the most critical environmental and development challenges facing the region. The region is already experiencing the impacts of a changing climate – such as rising temperatures, changing rainfall patterns, and more frequent occurrences of extreme weather events – and these are projected to continue into the future. At the same time, the poor and vulnerable communities in West Africa – who are directly dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods but have limited capacity to cope with and adapt to climate change – are increasingly at risk. For instance, in recent years, there have been extreme floods and droughts in many countries in West Africa, causing significant damages in terms of lives lost, destruction of infrastructure, and loss of agricultural lands. Such extreme events can generally be expected to become more common in the future as the climate changes, and they can also partly explain the observed increase in the frequency and intensity of maritime accidents. This is because such events can lead to a range of secondary environmental and social impacts, such as the erosion of coastlines and the loss of vegetation, which can cause significant hazards to maritime safety. The maritime industry and maritime safety are crucial to the livelihood of the people in West Africa, as merchant trade is the major source of importing and exporting goods in the global market to the rest of the world. In view of the climate change impacts faced by the maritime industry across the globe, the International Maritime Organization has already started taking steps towards preventing the catastrophe that may occur due to these impacts. Such impacts, inter alia, may include floods due to the rise of sea level, damage to marine biodiversity and ecosystems due to oil spills, and logistical effects due to the increase in extreme weather events that may disrupt the normal operation of ports and ships in the ocean. These can definitely affect maritime safety when these events occur.
2.1 Overview of Climate Change
Climate change is a significant and lasting change in the statistical distribution of weather patterns over periods ranging from decades to millions of years. It may refer to a change in average weather conditions, or in the time variation of weather within the context of longer-term average conditions. The Earth’s climate varies naturally over time, influenced by the Sun, oceans, and the Earth’s atmosphere. However, evidence shows that the average global temperature is increasing, primarily due to the release of greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels such as oil and petrol, and the destruction of forests. This change is having a wide range of impacts, with many scientists now agreeing that the Earth’s climate is changing, possibly at a faster rate than it has in the past. Therefore, most research and regulation currently focus on decreasing the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere or finding ways to reduce their impact. Greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O) and fluorinated gases, are gases that can trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere. These gases are responsible for the greenhouse effect, which allows the sun’s rays to enter the atmosphere, but stops some of the resulting heat from radiating back out into space. This process naturally keeps the Earth’s climate warm enough to support human life and the life of other species. However, human activity is increasingly contributing to the release of some of these gases, creating an enhanced greenhouse effect and thus leading to climate change. Every country in the world is now a party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which acknowledges that the.
2.2 Climate Change Impacts in West Africa
It is clear that climate change is already having wide-ranging impacts in the West Africa region. Like most other regions on the African continent and elsewhere in the world, West Africa has experienced significant warming over the last century. For example, average annual temperatures have increased by about 0.5°C in the Sahel and 1°C in coastal areas. The sea level around the coasts of West Africa has increased by about 3mm per year, in line with the global average. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has indicated that by the 2080s, the temperature in this area could have increased by as much as 4°C under the most aggressive future emission scenarios. Furthermore, it is suggested that tropical storms and hurricanes will become more intense and that the region is likely to experience more exceptional rain events, leading to more localized extreme weather. It is forecasted that even a 1m increase in sea level will have a devastating effect on the West African coast, especially around the Gulf of Guinea. Infrastructural damage and loss of life due to both coastal and inland flooding is expected to be widespread. This is likely to lead to increased populations moving to major towns and cities that are situated further inland, putting further pressure on already overpopulated areas and creating severe social problems. The erosion of the islands and shores due to increased wave action will also result in the loss of land and of many important ecosystems. This is particularly relevant in the Gulf of Guinea, where coastal environments are amongst the most varied and important in the world. With specific regard to the maritime industry, the increased wave heights, sea level rises and more frequent tropical storms that are predicted will have a significant impact upon shipping generated trade in West Africa. These changes in the maritime environment will have numerous direct effects and challenges to conveyance and port operations. For example, ports will have to invest in and develop mitigation strategies to combat a broad range of impacts such as infrastructure damage, increased maintenance and ship outages. Moreover, insurance rates for cargo and other carrier related costs are likely to increase, enhancing the expense of international trade and reducing the regional ports’ attractiveness on the global market. Increased wave heights and more extreme weather conditions will require vessels to have improved safety features and more powerful engine systems, driving up the initial and running costs of ships. Also, the dynamic weather conditions, especially in the formation of robust wave patterns and the potential for isolated but powerful storm cells, will make navigation in West African waters more dangerous. This is specifically important to consider in the design and methods employed in the management of offshore installations, such as drilling platforms, and those facilities that are based around the technology associated with renewable energy, as damage both to equipment and the environment can cause widespread pollution and ecological damage.
2.3 Specific Risks to Maritime Safety
Oceanographic and meteorological modelling under future climate scenarios suggest that historically calm conditions in the Gulf of Guinea are likely to become stormier. In addition to increased wave heights and storm surge, squalls and increased lightning strikes are also predicted, all of which present serious risks to maritime safety. The model predicts that both the frequency and the severity of extreme wind and wave events will increase drastically. The occurrences of such events within a relatively brief analysis period of only a couple of days may have major implications for the safety of vessels and port operations. High waves and storm surge may cause damage to infrastructure, flooding of coastal areas and interferences in the navigability. However, as westbound waves in the Gulf of Guinea seldom reach the high levels that would trigger this type of alarm, the waves projected to occur in the future may well be confined to the southern part of the Gulf of Guinea. On the other hand, the historical waves along the Ivory Coast coastlines matching the required criteria have maximums in the range 3 to 4 metres (peak on the 1st of August, 2006). The increase of wave condition will enhance the navigational hazard especially to the ports located on the Ivory Coast due to its geological advantage. As a result, security measures make aside, considering the rising wave conditions, certain remedial actions should be undertaken to protect the environment and people against maritime accidents and coastal floods. Such measures include advanced warning methods by providing accurate storm surge and high waves predictions integrated with modern information technology. However, the necessity of having such facilities on all vessels and in all ports should be assessed and the design and implementation of future safe navigational aids should be considered to lead the ships to the right channels, away from crowds and shallow seas where the risks are higher. The prospective of regional, national and international collaboration to mitigate the effects in the event of natural disaster will also be conducted in the future work. Moreover, more in-depth researches related to the specific risks to the quality of the environment and human health should be undertaken, according to the view of the Foresight Programme.
3. Assessing Increased Risks in Maritime Safety
Analyzing the historical data is an initial step to quantify the risks associated with maritime safety in West Africa. However, there is a knowledge gap with limited reliable records. Prior to the late 20th century, the majority of vessel casualties caused by hazards like fire, explosion, collision, and grounding were not systematically documented. Captain Kartik Subramaniam, Safety Manager of Alpha Navigation, shared his views on this. “It’s a good thing that now the ships are equipped with better safety and fire-fighting facilities. Grounding only accounts for less than three percent of the claims in my six years’ experience in the marine insurance industry.” He continued, “In order to find the root cause of various casualties in the maritime industry, the research should focus on the analysis of accidents within recent decade.” Furthermore, the results from the absorptive and variable capacity model also confirmed the hypothesis. When major disruptive events like oil spills or grounding happen, maritime safety risk is increased significantly, as indicated by the changes in the nearest neighboring distributions of the high-risk areas. Meanwhile, the relative impact of the increased connectivity relies on the changes in the hazards. For example, the risk level is likely to be more intensified when the hazards lead to substantial damages. On the other hand, if the hazards have less serious consequences or damages, the absolute risk level may not be affected as much. By understanding these different levels of changes in spatial risk and their association to particular hazards, it would assist the developers and policy makers to prioritize the mitigation strategies.
3.1 Analysis of Historical Data
The analysis of historical data often forms the first step in a quantitative risk assessment. Historical data of vessel casualties in West African waters were compared to global vessel casualties to identify areas which have a higher casualty rate than the global average. The last 12 years of data shows that the Gulf of Guinea accounted for the most casualties in the West Africa region. The data illustrated that there were over 300 shipwrecks recorded and the casualty rate per year is above 1.5%. The results from the historical data showed that there were three hotspots that accumulated in the Gulf of Guinea and the sea area in front of Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Cote d’Ivoire. It is supporting the report from Intertanko that the pirate attack in the Gulf of Guinea is more than 80% of the world total. A similar observation has been made by other studies, which are also largely focused on the Gulf of Guinea. A Lloyd’s MIU and University of Liverpool study indicated that the risk of maritime piracy in West Africa will continue to spread south if no measures are taken. With the data analysis showing that most of the vessel casualties are recorded in the Gulf of Guinea and the rain has demonstrated an increase in the number of casualties per year. The impact of climate change on the rain severity can be conducted as a future study so that the possible effect on maritime safety can be forecasted. This suggested study would help to provide useful information to ship navigators as the possible disaster might occur while they are planning for the voyage. On a larger scale, it can help state and local officials make decisions to protect air, water, and overall environmental safety.
3.2 Identification of Vulnerable Areas
We can provide a critical analysis, based on the review of accidents in the region. As regards the selection of the event data, it should be recognized that the investigated accidents do not cover the entire region and the entire investigated period. The event data, therefore, reflects a certain bias, which is also connected to the quality of the data. For example, AIS data is not yet a standard and is, in particular, in some West African countries not or only rarely used; the home-strewn databases of the IMS unit, however, are not internationally synchronized and may have synchronization problems with the AIS data. Furthermore, large areas of the coasts are barely monitored and the results of the dynamic risk indicators strongly depend on the selected buffers around the accident dots. This is also the case for the static risk indicators, whose outcome strongly depends on the thresholds for defining areas with specific risk levels. To generate specific knowledge for the identification of areas endangered by ship accidents and pollution, a combination of the knowledge obtained from the historical accident data and the results of the spatial risk assessment is suggested. The dynamic risk indicators ‘number of accidents per year’ and ‘probability of an accident within 24 hours’ indicate four clusters of high and very high risk levels, located in the Gulf of Guinea. These are the areas around the Niger Delta, the offshore area of Cotonou, the Volta delta area and the offshore area at the border between Togo and Ghana. The area with the highest risk level – the offshore area at the border between Togo and Ghana – is particularly affected by frequent and repeated accidents. This area is therefore considered as ‘Vulnerable Area 1’. The analysis of the static risk indicators reveals that, as expected, larger areas are categorized as high and very high risk areas. This becomes – by comparison of the different risk categories – especially obvious in the Western part of the investigation region. The results show that the coastal areas of Togo, Benin and also parts of Ghana are very heterogeneous with regard to the spatial distribution of the risk classes. Particularly, in Benin and Ghana, a zone of very high risk runs parallel to the coast, covering the whole Benin coast and reaching until the Volta delta area. This area is also classified as ‘grande vulnerable area’. In Ghana and Benin there are existing arrangements for the division of the accident and pollution prevention measures in maritime navigation. But structures and responsibilities are not yet precisely defined between the participating ministries. Also with regard to the set-up of early warning systems and of an administration routing system as well as the clear definition of environmentally sensitive areas, Benin and Ghana need to work on. With knowledge made in the research project MASTER certain areas under high time and environmental pressure could be determined, and the implementation and effectiveness of the safety improvement measures in these areas could be proved as well. The project and also the deriving result of the risk evaluation should be used to promote the international cooperation in the area of maritime safety and security and to support the development of strategies and security concepts in West Africa. This will not only help to prevent accidents and pollution but also ensure a sustainable protection of the maritime environment. By the method of the spatial risk assessment, the work widens the scientific approach to methods and provides a significant contribution to the theoretical framework of spatially explicit risk analysis. Also, by using West Africa as an investigation area, it is possible to further enlarge the knowledge about different influencing factors and raise the potentially new challenges for the development of safety and security measures in the region.
3.3 Evaluation of Potential Hazards
With the predicted increase in the intensity and frequency of extreme weather conditions, these are due to the rise in sea level, prolonged dry seasons, increase in average annual temperature, and desertification with frequent dust storms. All these conditions are expected to worsen in the future. The study findings also revealed that there were areas with high likelihood of occurrence of potential hazards along the shipping routes. From the analysis, the probabilities of potential hazards decrease as we move further offshore, a sign that most of the hazards occur mostly close to the shorelines. This may be due to the vast human activities onshore, maritime transport and logistic operations which often occur close to the shore. Besides, masses of land in these hazard-prone areas were affected by both fresh and salted water inundation. These forced some of the local residents and industries to relocate to a safer place. The study has proposed three main actions in order to manage and mitigate the identified potential hazards: establish a database for the collection of all incident reports and update it from time to time with relevant information; embark on a detailed and comprehensive study on each identified potential hazard in order to properly understand it and to come out with means to constantly monitor and also control it; and the local authorities should carry out an active and regular micro-zoning scheme in these areas to earmark the hazard zones and relegate development and industrialization.
3.4 Quantification of Risk Levels
The next critical step after identifying the areas vulnerable to accidents is to quantify the risk. This is an assessment of the probability of an accident occurring and the severity of its outcomes. The risk presented by each hazard can be determined and compared. This includes identifying risk control measures and monitoring its effectiveness and the evaluation of the need for further control measures. The overall “risk” posed by maritime activities in a region can be quantified in different ways. A simple but often misleading approach is to assess the frequency of accidents on a yearly basis and relate this back to the amount of trade or some other index of maritime activity. This provides a measure of relative risk across different regions, but does not say anything meaningful about how this might change in different conditions or the conditions themselves. Therefore, this research uses a structured assessment of risk and quantifies the “hazardous events” through specific methodologies. These are basically based on identifying the hazards with reference to what could go wrong and the consequences and the likelihood of those potential incidents. Then, the level of risk for each hazard is calculated considering its (i) severity, the consequent severity of the bad outcome resulting from the hazardous event; and (ii) probability, the measurement of the likelihood that the hazardous event will actually occur. By knowing the climate change associated dependencies and the corresponding model parameters, the final step of the process is to find out the changes in risk levels of identified hazards. The ‘risks in the present situation’ (RPS) are calculated by using the following equation. RPS = S * P where S: Severity of the hazardous event and P: Probability of the hazardous event. When the climate change associated variations in those risk parameters are applied, the ‘risks in the future situation’ (RFS) for certain time horizon or for several hazard associated parameters are calculated. RPS and RFS for each hazard will signify the changing rate of the risks presented by that hazard. These types of comprehensive and quantitative analysis provide not only a clear picture of current exposure to risks but also a methodical and scientific way of predicting the future risks which cannot be expected by a visual or non-absolute analysis. Through this research study, risk levels for the identified hazardous events in the port of Tema are calculated. The results will not be presented here. However, it gives an insight into the potential findings and significant risk reduction level that can be achieved by implementing the identified risk reduction strategies. And also, the methodology and the findings will be a useful and applicable reference for the risk assessment needs for other port and coastal constructions in the future.
4. Developing Adaptation Measures
The implementation of decent policy and regulatory frameworks is the first step for successful adaptation. The very initial and most important part of developing such policy and regulatory frameworks is to make sure that there is a general understanding and agreement in relation to the risks of climate change by all stakeholders, particularly by the governments. By formulating necessary policies, and by devising regulations to guide and, where necessary, control the operation of the maritime sector, the identified risks can be minimized and safety in the sector can be improved. In this regard, it would be important to address specific issues that the international community needs to act upon on a priority basis. For example, with rapidly changing climate and sea level rise, there is a question of defining the baseline for maritime boundary delimitation and economic use zones. There is very little time for the world community to shape an international and regional response to help people make the right decisions. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) provides for the states to agree upon a method of resolution in case of overlapping maritime boundaries. However, when countries cannot reach an agreement, the issue is adjudicated through a process that may take several years for a conclusion. In the meantime, untapped resources of the sea would remain unexplored because, without a finality of the conclusion, states cannot use the water column and the entire natural resources of the zone that is in dispute. Given the time constraints in which a decision on the “Island of Palmas” case (sometimes known as “Miangas”) has to be made, it would also be vitally important for the international community to shift now the interpretive position of the case and provide a practical mean to judge upon. In this connection, adaptation measures need to include mechanisms to provide and manage scientific and accurate data, to agree upon definitions and measurements and to engage in practical international co-operations to explore and exploit optimally the world’s common spaces. Enhancing maritime infrastructure is also pivotal to successful adaptations. For example, the ports are such an important infrastructure to a maritime state. Adequate planning and consistent facility improvements are necessary to ensure that the ports, the supporting transportation modes and the related maritime facilities can continuously adjust and serve the nation and the maritime community as a whole. Also, carrier facilities, port and international codes and standards and maritime security issues and potential terrorist attacks need to be constantly re-evaluated based on the foreseeable climate changes and the corresponding sea level rises. Such evaluation and improvements of the ports facility should be taken as an opportunity to review and revise the operations and safety procedures in the port and, if necessary, to provide enhancement through the applicable major infrastructure project review processes. These would help not only ensuring a safe and efficient maritime sector but also avoiding the environmental degradation by protecting the coastal zones and reducing or preventing the negative impacts as a result of maritime and port operations.
4.1 Policy and Regulatory Frameworks
The legal and regulatory framework for the protection of the marine environment and maritime safety in the West and Central African region is established under the Abidjan Convention, which is the main legal framework in the region for the management and protection of the marine environment and coastal areas. The Convention requires each member state to develop and enforce national policies and regulations to prevent, reduce, and control pollution of the marine environment and coastal areas from vessels. It also requires member states to establish search and rescue infrastructure and coast stations to facilitate coordination in case of a maritime distress incident. And member states are required to develop national legislation to give proper effect to the provisions of the Convention, including making it a criminal offense for any person to discharge any harmful substances or effluents into the marine environment from ships or shore-based facilities, implementing measures for responding to pollution incidents, and developing capacity for monitoring and enforcement of the laws. In addition to the Abidjan Convention, the countries in the region have developed and are continuously reviewing and improving policies, strategies, and laws to ensure the protection of the marine environment and maritime safety. For example, in Ghana, a major oil and gas producing country in the region, the marine environmental laws have recently been reviewed to bring them in conformity with current international conventions and protocols. Similarly, a review of the national oil spill response plan is being undertaken to enhance the capacity to respond more effectively to pollution incidents. Such policies and regulations are primarily aimed at enhancing the capacity to prevent and respond to pollution and other maritime safety incidents in the African region. These policy and regulatory measures are essential to underpin the development and successful implementation of other adaptation strategies such as enhancing the maritime infrastructure and putting in place effective early warning systems for combating the impacts of current and future climate change on maritime safety.
4.2 Enhancing Maritime Infrastructure
The potential effects of a changing climate on maritime infrastructure and its implications for the industry, as well as considering exploratory and planned adaptation projects.
The information to be submitted as part of an EIA is set out in the EIA Regulations and takes the form of an Environmental Statement; this includes a description of the infrastructure project, details of the likely significant effects on the environment, a description of the features of the development and technical data.
New port development and re-development, particularly when publicly funded, will require very careful and thorough environmental impact assessments, or ‘EIAs’. These are the main legal mechanism for ensuring that the environmental implications of a project are fully considered before development consent is given; in other words, an EIA provides a means to identify potential environmental benefit and harm as a result of new infrastructure and to protect the environment and people from the harmful effects of new development.
One of the key ways that the maritime industry is seeking to adapt to the changing climate is through the development of the physical infrastructure that underpins maritime activities. This will involve the construction of new infrastructure, as well as the substantial refurbishment and adaptation of existing infrastructure. For example, the development of new ports and the expansion and upgrading of existing ports is a key focus of infrastructure investment. This is in response to the fact that rising sea levels, changing rainfall patterns and an increased frequency of extreme weather events are likely to render many existing port structures unsuitable over the coming decades.
4.3 Strengthening Early Warning Systems
In this regard, it is important to support the development of technological and infrastructural capacity as well as technical know-how in West Africa. The research team acknowledges that the shift from existing fragmented early warning systems towards a fully integrated regional early warning system may require a long time to plan, develop, execute, and become fully operational. Therefore, feasible action can be implemented by directing attention to enhance the communication channels between the maritime communities, commercial suppliers, and meteorological services. By means of doing so, the latest meteorological and sea condition data can be easily accessed and shared among all partners, and this will, in turn, assist the development of the new generation of the “Vessel Earth Observation Monitoring and Information Service System”.
As maritime flooding is a critical and high-impact risk for maritime safety in West Africa, marine GIS has been applied to assess the spatial variation in the hazard of maritime flood. From evaluating the existing individual country early warning systems, it might not be the best solution to form a fully integrated regional system, considering the diverse degree of data accuracy and reliability across different countries. However, it should be recognized that taking a multi-hazards approach, in terms of using advanced marine GIS and remote sensing technologies to establish a spatial and object-based database for the marine environment in West Africa, will benefit the improvement of any country’s individual early warning system.
In recent years, the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) as a decision support tool to capture, store, analyze, manage, and present hydrological and meteorological data has become more widespread in the development of flood early warning systems. These types of systems predict flooding using two different approaches, namely probable time to flooding or probable location of flooding.
At present, each country in West Africa has its own early warning system, which is quite disjointed and lacks interaction and integration with neighboring countries. It seems that none of the West African countries have a fully integrated early warning system that utilizes the latest technologies. Therefore, policy developments and transnational collaborations are required to improve and integrate existing systems and to establish a regional early warning system in West Africa.
As climate change is likely to increase the severity and frequency of extreme weather events in West Africa, it is particularly important to develop a robust and effective early warning system to signal, monitor, and forecast any potential maritime risk and disaster that might occur in the region. Such a system is also required to be adaptable, continuing to function if one or more elements of the system are inoperable.
4.4 Capacity Building and Training
The target of capacity building programs is not only to improve professional practices of individual employees but also to put great emphasis on the development of a responsive, efficient, and professional workplace culture. Local training and explanatory briefing will help tailored to local need and aimed to provide industry with the necessary ability for their professional standards; this can often be used to reinforce the effectiveness and impact of capacity building activities. Such drive of bringing the capacity building into a regional scale is reflected in the Yaoundé Code of Conduct when it mentions the development of a network of national research and information centers and calls upon maritime and related industry to explore the possibility of mutual support and cooperation in knowledge and experience sharing.
Aligned to this, the Gulf of Guinea is a significant area in Africa for capacity building and modernization of institutional, legislative, and technical frameworks and relevant and practical activities should be carried out to address the impact of climate change on the maritime industry. By 2010, the Gulf of Guinea is considered to be one of the most dangerous areas in the world in terms of piracy and in response to this, the Yaoundé Code of Conduct was signed by Governments in the region. The Code reinforces the importance of maritime security and fosters regional cooperation and the sharing of information in the Gulf of Guinea.
By making awareness about the interconnected nature of the maritime activities and the impact of climate change on a regional scale, together with the understanding of what measures can be taken to minimize such impacts, capacity building activities instill a sense of common responsibility in preserving the ocean. By offering a stable and peaceful environment in which trade, commerce, and economic development can flourish, capacity building programs will ensure that measures recommended by the mandatory International Ship and Port Facility Security Code and by other Conventions or national laws are fully implemented and enforced. West Africa is assessed by the International Maritime Organization, to which Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, Benin, and Nigeria are Member States. By assisting the region to meet its obligations under these instruments, not only will capacity building promote enhancement of maritime safety and the prevention and control of marine pollution in the region, but it will also support a more concerted effort to provide the most practical help for affected States.
An effective training program starts with an assessment that identifies where training is most needed and uses this to prioritize the prompting for training. This should be followed by a clear training policy which outlines the goals and procedures for training and identifies the responsibilities of both employers and employees. Providing innovative solutions to capacity building has been identified in the last Jeddah Amendment to the Djibouti Code of Conduct. National workshop and seminar series and regional discussion forum and workshops are often used to facilitate local and regional cooperation and dialogue through the experience sharing.
Capacity building is one of the fundamental adaptation measures to climate change. For the maritime sector of West Africa, the necessity to build institutional and human capacities are often mentioned in policies and strategies. Capacity building and training can provide the necessary knowledge, skills, and expertise to both existing and new staff in order to improve their practice. It also empowers organizations and individuals to effect the changes necessary to improve the system and guarantees the highest possible professional standards. Technological or infrastructural changes alone, without considering the individual element of changes, are unlikely to deliver successful and sustainable improvements.
4.5 Collaboration and International Cooperation
The West Africa region is governed by a number of maritime safety conventions, some of which have established specific cooperative platforms while others merely provide a supportive legal framework for regional and international collaboration on maritime safety and the prevention of pollution. The Maritime Organization for West and Central Africa (MOWCA) is the oldest regional cooperation organization on the African continent. It brings together countries in the region to promote cooperation in the field of training and to provide optimum employment for those equipped with necessary maritime competences. One of the active areas of this organization is the promotion of international cooperation in the field of maritime safety. The member states of MOWCA are resolved to work together to strengthen maritime and port security, as well as ensure the protection of the marine environment through the effective implementation of the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) conventions. Furthermore, the European Union (EU) Gulf of Guinea Interregional Network (GOGIN) project has recently been launched and is jointly implemented by five EU member states and 19 African countries. The project has several objectives, ranging from sharing and exchanging crucial information on legal aspects of maritime security to coordinating and establishing maritime intelligence sharing platforms. What is more, activities under the project aim to enhance the knowledge and capabilities of maritime stakeholders on issues related to maritime crime, including the development of local strategies and operational coordination among maritime law enforcement agencies. Such sharing and cooperating platforms provide opportunities for West Africa to achieve better governance in maritime safety and a prompt response system against maritime pollution and threats. Coordinating and enhancing cooperation with the EU and its Atlantic member states could build a bridge to integrate advanced technology and knowledge in Africa. Such collaboration will definitely make a significant influence on promoting the establishment of regional cooperation instruments, which is one of the objectives of the EU’s maritime policy in the Atlantic and Indian Ocean.

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