News / Africa

Shippers Raise Alarm Over Oil Piracy in Gulf of Guinea

Clandestine oil refineries such as this one shown near Bayelsa in a May 18, 2013 image, proliferate in Nigeria, the center of a wave of criminal activity that has cost Nigeria $12 billion in lost revenues and spread to high seas piracy of oil tankers thro
Clandestine oil refineries such as this one shown near Bayelsa in a May 18, 2013 image, proliferate in Nigeria, the center of a wave of criminal activity that has cost Nigeria $12 billion in lost revenues and spread to high seas piracy of oil tankers thro
David Arnold
The vast Gulf of Guinea which is nearly as big as the Gulf of Mexico is now one of the most dangerous bodies of water in the world, home to pirates that attack oil tankers and other cargo vessels at will, raising fears that shipping lanes that have existed for 500 years could be permanently disrupted.  
 
West African piracy centered on the Niger Delta has in recent years expanded from the coasts of Nigeria to the shorelines of many of the 11 West African countries that border the Gulf where pirates seize large oil tankers, siphon the product into smaller vessels, refine it in clandestine facilities and quickly sell it, fueling a regional oil black market. 
 
Oil-consuming nations are concerned because more than 30 percent of U.S. oil and 40 percent of Europe’s oil passes through the Gulf and is vulnerable to West African piracy.
 
The largest foreign investor in Nigeria’s booming oil industry, Royal Dutch Shell, says that oil pipeline theft on land, and piracy at sea means about 100,000 barrels of oil are stolen every day in that country, costing the Nigerian government an estimated $12 billion a year.
 
Nigerian pirates in the Gulf of Guinea
 
“The Gulf of Guinea’s problem is not a dramatic rise in the number of attacks,” said Delex Systems Inc. analyst James Bridger for the U.S. Naval Institute in Annapolis, Maryland. It is “the expansion of a criminal enterprise once restricted to Nigerian waters.” The wave of piracy has spread to Benin, Togo and Cote d’Ivoire. Within the past 30 months, 93 tankers have been attacked, and 30 were successfully hijacked. In their latest raid, pirates seized a Turkish tanker off the coast of Gabon.
 
x
The Niger Delta is “the epicenter” of Gulf piracy, according to a report by Dryad Maritime Services, a maritime security intelligence firm in Portsmouth, UK. “Kidnapping is an endemic industry embedded within Nigerian criminal culture with the threat permeating both the land and sea domains. Foreign nationals remain a primary target for this criminal enterprise, due to the high ransom payments that can be achieved,” said the report.

“West Africa has reached a tipping point, like East Africa and South East Asia before it,” according to Bridger in Annapolis.
 
Not much protection for tankers
 
Recent anti-piracy efforts so successful off Somalia’s coast have had only limited success in the Gulf of Guinea because shipping companies are prohibited from hiring foreign armed security and foreign naval powers cannot pursue pirates in West African territorial waters where most attacks take place.  
 
While most countries along the Gulf of Guinea have been unable to cope with the pirates there has been one exception; Benin. 
 
“Beninois and Nigerian navies had a successful operation co-operation called Operation Prosperity which brought down the number of piracy cases drastically,” said Adjoa Anyimuda, author of a Chatham House report on West Africa’s maritime piracy. Along their short coastline Benin recorded 20 successful and attempted attacks in 2011. In 2012 there were only two.
 
But the number of piracy attempts are underestimated, Anyimuda said. Many attacks go unreported because shippers think local authorities are not capable of doing anything about the piracy or they believe “some elements within local authorities may be culpable.”
 
Despite regional prohibitions, some shippers still try to arm their vessels. Nine months ago, 15 Russian sailors aboard the MV Myre Seadiver were arrested by Nigerian authorities for possession of weapons and live ammunition.
 
‘It’s not a naval problem …’
 
The International Crisis Group argues that the solution to West Africa’s piracy is not more navies but a comprehensive regional reform of police enforcement and court systems currently incapable of handling the piracy crime wave, said Mark Schneider, director of ICG operations in Washington, D.C.
 
“Corruption has so weakened those institutions to begin with,” said Schneider, “that there is a major rescue effort that must be taken in order for them to become a real ally to the business community and the shipping community.”
 
“Nigerian criminal syndicates, backed by high-level political and economic patrons, are exploiting this situation by targeting specific tankers for hi-jacking,” said Bridger, the Delex Systems analyst. Dryad suggests the pirates’ efficiency may be linked to professional outside supervision from organized crime syndicates in Eastern Europe or Asia. But Schneider said that so far the pirated crude is only being traded on the West African oil black market.
 
Without more international attention, the ICG reports, “Piracy and other organized crime will continue to plague the Gulf of Guinea, raise energy prices in the U.S. and other markets and lead to further de-stabilization in an already fragile part of the world.”

You May Like

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike in Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid