News / Africa

Pirate Attacks Surge in Gulf of Guinea

Nigerian navy officers undergo military exercises aboard USS Nashville as US Navy trains partners from around Africa's Gulf of Guinea to help boost maritime security in a region plagued by piracy, drug smuggling and raids on oil facilities, at the Lagos H
Nigerian navy officers undergo military exercises aboard USS Nashville as US Navy trains partners from around Africa's Gulf of Guinea to help boost maritime security in a region plagued by piracy, drug smuggling and raids on oil facilities, at the Lagos H
Anne Look

Piracy attacks are escalating in the Gulf of Guinea, endangering the future of one of the world's emerging shipping hubs and highlighting the weak state of maritime security in West Africa.

The Gulf of Guinea stretches along a dozen West and Central African countries, including Nigeria and Angola, the continent's top oil producers.  

Though waters off the coast of Somalia remain the uncontested epicenter of global piracy, the Gulf of Guinea has reported an alarming spike in attacks this year, particularly off the coast of Benin.

Raymond Gilpin, the director of the Center for Sustainable Economies at the U.S. Institute of Peace, said, "It's clear that the gang or gangs involved in this know exactly what they are looking for - oil tankers that are either anchored or moored in some form. The intent is to take over the vessel, direct it to a safe location and offload its cargo."

Armed robbery at sea is not new to the Gulf of Guinea, nor is the illegal sale of oil stolen from its waters in West African and European ports. Over the past six months, however, analysts say the attacks have become more systematic and the criminals, more organized.

Naval authorities say evidence suggests the pirates are from Nigeria.

Gilpin said their method of attack, particularly their use of violence, resembles that of criminals in the Niger Delta. Ships that are taken over, he said, also are often diverted to waters near the Nigerian border.

The International Maritime Bureau said 15 attacks were reported off the coast of Benin in the first half of this year, up from zero last year.

Gilpin said increased security in Nigerian waters could be behind the spike.

"The Nigerian navy in collaboration with a number of international partners have done a lot to shore up security in and around the Delta region. Crime looks for the soft underbelly, the weak link," he said. "Here in neighboring Benin, much thought had not been given to systematic maritime security and so anchored vessels are a lot more vulnerable off the coast of Benin than they would be in Nigeria."

Gilpin said most of the attacks are happening between 10 kilometers and 30 kilometers off the coast, meaning you could watch some of them happening with a good pair of binoculars.

While the U.S. and other Western nations actively patrol the waters off Somalia in search of pirates, West African navies are left to mind the Gulf of Guinea on their own. Analysts say many lack even the most basic tools to confront criminal activity, like radar equipment and patrol boats.

Economists say attacks in the region could have serious financial implications, including a spike in global oil prices. International shipping companies could face higher insurance premiums or might simply avoid the trade route altogether. West African consumers would then see increased costs for imported goods like rice and electronics.

Attacks on ships in the Gulf of Guinea are consistently underreported, particularly off the coast of Nigeria.

Kwesi Aning, head of research for the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Center in Ghana, said every country has been hit.

"It is a much more widespread set of activities. They are trying to make us all think that piracy is about oil in the Gulf of Guinea," said Aning. "That is not true. It is also about narcotics. It's about small arms. It's about human trafficking. So some of us are looking it through our own lenses, what do we think as Africans that maritime security does for us."

Navies are all but nonexistent, he said, leaving overlapping criminal networks free to rob ships and move illicit goods through the gulf.

Analysts say piracy is a regional problem in need of a regional response, but so far there has been little progress. West African navies, they say, must become as proactive and transnational as the criminals they face.

You May Like

Photogallery Early Nigeria Results Show Buhari Leading; Tampering Concerns Mount

One local group monitoring polls is concerned politicians might use security agencies to 'fiddle with the election collation process' at state level More

UN: 7,300 Civilians Killed in Boko Haram Insurgency

A senior UN humanitarian official tells the United Nations Security Council 1,000 people have been killed this year More

Turkish President Warns Iran About Trying to Dominate Middle East

Warning comes amid growing concerns inside Turkey that it will be sucked into a sectarian conflict with its neighbor More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More