Sea Piracy Worries Maritime Expert, Tells RMU Member States to "Act Now"

A Liberian Maritime expert has implored member states of the Regional Maritime University (RMU), headquartered in Accra, Ghana, to form a common front against piracy at sea, especially the one taking place off the coast of Somalia.

Mr. Joseph Keller, general manager/vice president of Liberia Ship and Corporate Registry (LISCR), observed that piracy at sea poses one of the greatest threats to successful maritime activities in Africa and the world over. "Member states must act now to combat this growing menace at sea," said Mr. Keller.

He spoke when he delivered the keynote address for the ceremonial opening of the ongoing 9th Meeting of the Regional Maritime University (RMU) Board of Governors which officially commenced on December 5, 2011 at a local hotel in Paynesville City, outside Monrovia. The meeting concludes on December 8, 2011.

The ceremony in Paynesville City witnessed the transfer of chairmanship of the RMU from Mr. Bello Bouba Maigari of the Republic of Cameroun to Dr. Njogou Bah of The Gambia after completing his two years term.

The keynote speaker warned RMU Board members that if piracy at the horn of Africa (Somalia) is not curtailed, millions of Africans risk living in abject poverty due to the fact that most of the goods on the markets are transported by sea.

"Let me remind you that if piracy in our territorial waters and high seas continues, ship owners will definitely transfer their losses to the cost of goods being sold on our local markets; and that it is our suffering people that will pay more for those losses," he said.

The RMU Board of Governors from The Gambia, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Cameroun are meeting in Monrovia to strategize on how to further improve the RMU, and enhance regional maritime growth and development by improving the quality of education and other trainings being offered at the university.

Keller, a former Maritime Commissioner of Liberia, joined the maritime sector in 1973.

He is considered a maritime think-tank in Liberia because of his vast experience and articulation of the industry.

He called on RMU citizens to pursue education and discipline if they were to be successful in their bids for employment within the global maritime industry.

"You need trained seafarers, engineers, and captains, amongst many others in the industry. But you will not be successful and you would not get the needed jobs if you are not educated and disciplined," said the LISCR general manager.

He praised the leadership of the Liberia Maritime Authority for seeking employment for more Liberian seafarers, but warned that the seafarers needed to be more disciplined.

Keller regretted that despite Liberia being the second largest flagship nation, the country has only 60 seafarers employed on vessels; while hundreds of thousands of seafarers from Philippines, China, Russia, and other countries, are employed on those vessels.

Ghana's Minister of Transport, speaking through a proxy, agreed with Mr. Keller and cautioned that piracy on the high sea is worrying and must be tackled.

Earlier, Liberia Maritime Authority (LMA) Commissioner, Binyah C. Kesselly, commended his special guests and RMU board members for attending the meeting and expressed the hope that the Liberia Meeting of the RMU will provide sound bases upon which the university will move forward.

Mr. Kesselly, a US-trained business strategist and public administrator, also thanked member states of the RMU for supporting the recent election of Liberia as second vice chair of Committee (1), of the 27 Assembly of the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

He noted that Liberia's election to chair the prestigious IMO committee was a victory for RMU member countries and other African countries.

Speaking through a proxy, Mr. Bello Bouba Maigari, Cameroun's Minister of Transport and outgoing chairman of the RMU, said Liberia’s entry into the IMO Committee is a pride to not only the RMU, but to West and Central Africa.

He recounted how the RMU has produced, and is still producing, qualified students to steer the affairs of the regional maritime industry and the world over.

Maigari praised his colleagues on the board for their support and guidance during his tenure as chairman.

He disclosed that the government of Cameroun has already completed payment of its annual RMU dues for 2011 and 2012.

"We entreat all member states to make good their due payment so that we can better develop the university and build the capacity of young students," Maigari noted.

He commended the incoming Board Chair from The Gambia and called on other board members to lend him their supports in order for him to be successful.

In his intervention, RMU Board Chair and Gambia's Minister of State for Works, Construction &Infrastructure Dr. Njogou Bah, called for unity among African nations and said his inauguration as chair of RMU Board of Governors is a special moment for the people of The Gambia.

He said the RMU must be looked upon for innovative solutions amidst the global economic challenges.

"It is an honor and privilege to be given this huge and daunting task, but with the support of all of you, the RMU will be second to none," he said.

The US-trained public administrator however pointed out that the new transformation of the RMU cannot succeed without fund.

"We call on all countries to regularize their dues payment on time so that we can well create necessary environment for better clientele."

Dr. Bah congratulated Mr. Maigari for the positive and impressive records during his stewardship and assured him that the new leadership will build on his legacy.

He pledged Gambia's unflinching support and cooperation with member states of the RMU.

At the same time, Sierra Leone's Minister of Transport, Mr. Chidi Vandi Minah, speaking through his country's Ambassador to Liberia, Mrs. Marie Jilo-Barnett, has called for improvement in RMU's administrative and technical machineries in order for the institute to adequately respond to the economic needs of post-conflict economies within the region.

Mr. Vandi observed that the RMU is very critical to regional training and job creation for economic enhancement of the livelihood of the underprivileged citizens within the region.

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