The Ghana Maritime Authority (GMA), regulator of the maritime industry, says it will soon acquire the power to seize and destroy wooden boats used for illegal fuel business.
The Director General of the GMA, Mr Thomas Kofi Alonsi, said the legal department had been instructed to go to court and obtain the necessary orders that would allow the regulator to lawfully seize and destroy these boats.
Mr Alonsi said this when he met with security chiefs at the Western Naval base. He expressed concern about what he said was an alarming proportion the illegal fuel trade had assumed along the coast in the Central and Western enclaves.
Disguised as fishing boats, these massive wooden vessels, with the storage capacity of tens of thousands of litres of fuel, propelled by twin-outboard motors, go to the high seas, mostly at night, where criminal oil tanker ships dock.
Tons of fuel is pumped from the tankers into the Dendeys (wooden boats) which sail to different beaches and discharge their content into waiting road fuel tankers on the blind side of tax and other regulatory authorities.
The state loses large amounts of revenue and regulators lose levies as a result of these illegal activities of fuel smuggling.
At the meeting between the GMA, the Head of Marine Police, DCOP Iddi Seidu, and the Western Naval Command, Commodore E.A. Kwafo, the Acting Flag Officer commanding at the Western Naval Command, painted a painfully bleak picture of risks posed by the Dendeys.
Commodore Kwafo said the owners of these boats, if not stopped, might become emboldened and might start using their boats to cart other illicit products such as weapons and drugs.
He praised the GMA for instituting night patrols which had led to the arrest and seizure of some ships and Dendeys engaged in illegal bunkering.
Mr Alonsi, who was accompanied by his two deputies, Messrs Daniel Appianin and Yaw Antwi Akosa, as well as the Head of Legal and Board Secretary, Mrs Patience Ella Diaba, commended the naval command and the Marine Police for detailing armed men to provide security for the night patrols.
He said it was fiercely urgent for the illegal fuel dealers to be reined in and put on a leash.
“The building of these boats is in violation of the GMA’s regulations because by law, they are required to obtain a permit from us to build such vessels. My officers here, however, tell me no one has ever applied for any such permit,” he said.
Mr Alonsi said beyond that, the boats were supposed to be registered and licensed to go to sea but none of the Dendeys was registered or licenced or even marked.
“This is not right,” he said.
The Head of the GMA at Takoradi, Captain William E. Thompson, explained that destroying the boats would achieve a number of things – make it unprofitable to engage in fuel smuggling, protect fuel consumers from substandard products and generate revenue for the state.
Source: Daily Guide Network