An admiral in the Nigerian Navy told attendees at a conference on Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) that the nations in the area of the Gulf of Guinea (GoG) on the west coast of Africa have a need for 20 offshore patrol vessels (OPVs). OPVs are generally smaller than corvettes but have the ability to patrol far from shore.
The Gulf of Guinea Commission (GGC) was established in 2001, with its headquarters based in Angola. The GGC includes the eight nations of Angola, Cameroon, the Republic of Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Sao Tome and Principe.
Rear Adm. D.J. Ezeoba, former chief of training and operations for the Nigerian navy and presently the chief of administration at defence headquarters (DHQ), told delegates at the IQPC 4th annual OPV Asia Pacific Conference in Singapore that the GGC nations must work together for their collective security and called for the eight nations to acquire OPVs.
The Gulf is an area rich with resources, including vast oil deposits. It is also a region where the Exclusive Economic Zones of those nations overlap. So the GGC provides a platform for economic cooperation and a mechanism for conflict resolution particularly as they involve exploration and exploitation of oil and fisheries resources. “The global village in which we live in today make it very difficult to have boundaries,” Ezeoba said.
The hydrocarbon reserves in the region are not only abundant, but very low in sulphur content which makes them even more attractive. Ezeoba acknowledges there are security challenges in the region, such as piracy and illegal fishing, and that all GGC nations share a role in the collective security and stability of the region because their fortunes are tied so closely together.
The nations in the region must contend with the challenges of poverty and political instability and have limited resources to provide adequate maritime domain awareness and security by themselves.
Through “syndication of funds to drive the acquisition process,” Ezeoba said that the GGC nations need a phased and timely acquisition of OPVs through a strategic partnership.” The 20 ships should be acquired “within a five to ten year plan period,” he said.
Ezeoba said the ships could be of foreign design or construction, but that the approach should include “local content” and utilization of local shipyards to develop their local industrial capabilities. The ships might be of different sizes, capabilities and complexities. “It is not a ‘one jacket fits all sizes’ approach.”
Although he was speaking for himself, Ezeoba said the Nigerian Navy would be willing to lead the way with starting the program and ordering the first ships.
Captain Edward Lundquist, USN (Ret.) was the co-chair of the 2011 IQPC OPV Asia Pacific Conference.