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Cameroon Adopts Maritime Security Law to Fight Gulf of Guinea Piracy

Gulf of Guinea piracy
Cameroonian forces work with U.S. Navy personnel, Exercise Obangame Express 2021 (USN)

Published Jan 1, 2023 7:45 PM by The Maritime Executive

Almost six months after the UN Security Council adopted a text compelling Gulf of Guinea countries to criminalize piracy and armed robbery at sea, Cameroon has adopted a law on suppression of piracy and general safety of maritime navigation within its waters.

President Paul Biya signed the law on December 27, making Cameroon the second country in the region to enact a national legal framework on suppression of piracy and maritime offenses. Nigeria was the first after it adopted a similar law back in 2019.

The law is a critical milestone in the Gulf of Guinea's maritime security, with Cameroon’s national maritime authorities empowered to punish any illegal activities threatening safe navigation within its territorial waters.

Notably, the law takes a harsh stance to offenses related to piracy, terrorism onboard ships, pollution of waterways and financing acts of piracy. For all these offenses, the sentence is life imprisonment if a conviction is successful. Fines range from $16,000 to $4 million depending on the crime.

While Cameroon’s territorial waters have remained relatively safe, a few incidents of piracy recorded since 2019 prompted the government to take action. The primary goal has been to guarantee security of ships at the Doula anchorage, mainly using local armed guards onboard vessels. The legal framework now in place should act as a credible deterrent to pirate gangs.

Most importantly, as Gulf of Guinea piracy evolves into other maritime offenses such as oil theft, countries in the region are encouraged to strengthen their national capacities in maintaining maritime security. Hence, Cameroon’s move to harmonize a national legal framework for prevention of piracy and armed robbery at sea is a step in the right direction.

Indeed, regional frameworks such as Yaoundé Code of Conduct have been instrumental in curbing piracy. However, a shift to national approach is even more effective.

“It is amazing news for Cameroon and the entire region. It will surely come in handy as Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) region works to adopt their Supplementary Act for the Transfer of Piracy Suspects,” commented Dr. Ifesinachi Okafor-Yarwood, a maritime security specialist based at University of St. Andrews, Scotland.