British warships are expected to patrol the Gulf of Guinea before the end of the year, according to UK Armed Forces Mark Lancaster, who is on a three-day visit to Ghana.
He said that the fleet would join forces with members of the regional bloc Ecowas to combat growing insecurity off the West African coast – considered one of the most dangerous stretches of water anywhere in the world.
His announcement comes in the wake of the recent kidnapping of 10 Turkish sailor off the coast of Nigeria.
Mr Lancaster told the BBC that the UK government was exploring other ways of collaborating with West African countries to address growing insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea.
“It’s in UK’s national interest that we continue to provide security, maritime security in this part of the world to ensure safe passage of ships, to fight for international trade to be able to navigate through this part of the world without undue interruption.”
During his visit, the minister went to the Ecowas maritime co-ordination centre, which receives support from the British government.
Last month, some Ecowas member states signed an agreement allowing them join forces to combat activities like piracy, the growing illicit trade in fuel and illegal fishing.
According to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), 73% of all sea kidnappings and 92% of hostage-takings occur in the region off Nigeria, Guinea, Togo, Benin and Cameroon.
Most of the attacks have been against ships involved in oil and gas transportation.