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

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal 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.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid