Port security

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Maritime ports have a crucial role in the economy of countries which depend on overseas trade, and particularly the countries of West and Central Africa, for whom the sea is often the only access route to the international market. Unfortunately, these ports are often the target of malicious acts. In effect, the Gulf of Guinea faces a number of serious threats to its safety. Aside from illegal fishing, the four main threats to safety in the region are: the drugs trade; organised crime; terrorism and piracy.

Beyond these threats, the issue of permeability and thus port security also depends on the implementation of the security standards of the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code – the ISPS Code, developed by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). This code establishes security measures as well as the minimum level of coordination required between the various authorities and control of the implementation of the regulations. It is a comprehensive set of measures designed to enhance ship and port facility security. Each ISPS port facility must have an officially approved security plan, which must be rigorously implemented. These facilities must follow a certain number of procedures according to the security level, and must monitor their perimeter as well as the site, as well as providing for some form of control over access to the site. 

Most ports in West and Central Africa have implemented the ISPS code in their facilities and use the Geneva Code of Practice on Security in Ports, which applies to ports worldwide. The main challenge is complying with the strict ISPS rules in the long term, so as to ensure the high level of professional safety is maintained.  

It is in this context that WeCAPS – West and Central Africa Port Security, a European Union project implemented by Expertise France – was set up to support its partners to ensure the security of their port infrastructures in West and Central Africa and to support partner ports in the implementation of the ISPS rules.  The project also goes beyond the application of the ISPS code and takes a cooperative approach to implementing and/or improving port security. Best practices are shared through:

  • echnical advice 
  • ISPS training; and
  • provision of small-scale equipment.

The implementation of an appropriate ISPS policy in a port demonstrates to maritime stakeholders that the port provides ships with a safe and secure environment. This results in better operations and more efficient port management.