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

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership 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.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid