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New Radar System Improves Sea Safety for Sao Tome and Principe
The Sao Tome and Principe Coast Guard has installed a new surface surveillance system, the Regional Maritime Awareness Capability (RMAC), on January 28.<br />
The Sao Tome and Principe Coast Guard has installed a new surface surveillance system, the Regional Maritime Awareness Capability (RMAC), on January 28.

The U.S. Navy-inspired coastal surveillance program uses an automatic identification system and ground-based radar and sensors to enhance awareness of maritime traffic. The project is coordinated by the U.S. Department of Defense and Department of State.

Sao Tome and Principe is the first African country to have the program installed and integrated into the Maritime Safety and Security Information System, a global database to track ships all across the world.

"RMAC is a good system that can help the Sao Tome and Principe people improve their search and rescue capability," said Lieutenant Hamilton Neto Nascimento de Sousa, executive officer with the Sao Tome and Principe Coast Guard. Sao Tome and Principe "has never had a coast guard in the past. When local fishermen went missing, a long time would pass before rescue personnel were notified."

That statistic has changed recently with the establishment of the nation's coast guard and the integration of the system. The process began when the Sao Tome and Principe Coast Guard donated several radar bouncer units to local villages and fishermen throughout the island. The radar bouncers are placed on the mast of small fishing vessels, allowing larger ocean vessels' radar scans to detect the smaller crafts, thus preventing collisions at sea.

The Sao Tome and Principe Coast Guard has four permanently assigned personnel to oversee the program; all have been trained by contracted technicians on installation, maintenance and trouble-shooting scenarios.

"While STP (Sao Tome and Principe) does not have a great deal of commercial traffic in the area, RMAC will greatly enhance STP's capability to increase support services for what traffic they do have, and in addition, RMAC will increase tracking capabilities of all ships within STP's maritime domain," said Brian Dickerson of Computer Science Corporation. "(The system) will also allow the STP Coast Guard to detect illegal fishing in their territorial waters."

The system assists Sao Tome and Principe authorities enforcing maritime governance and preventing illegal activities within the country's maritime domain, diminishing the potential for lost national revenue.

Sao Tome and Principe is the first African region to use the technology. Installation of the program is also planned for Nigeria.

Installation of the coastal surveillance system was coordinated in part by the African Partnership Station, a U.S. Navy program to enhance maritime safety and security in Africa in a comprehensive and collaborative manner, focusing first on the Gulf of Guinea. The mission responds to specific African requests for assistance, and is aligned with broad international community in a concerted interagency and multinational effort to promote maritime governance around Africa.

The goal of Africa Partnership Station is that West and Central African coastal nations become self-sufficient in maritime safety and security and are able to stop illegal activities, protect natural resources, and foster safety at sea, leading to greater prosperity and stability in the region.