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

    US, Somalia Launch New Chapter in Relations

    US sends first ambassador to Somalia in 25 years; diplomatic presence and forces pulled out in 1993, after 18 US soldiers were killed when militiamen shot down military helicopter

    Brexit Vote Ripples Across South Asia

    Experts say exit is likely to have far-reaching economic, political and social implications for a region with deep historic ties to Britain

    Russian Military Tests Readiness With Snap Inspections

    Some observers see surprise drill as tit-for-tat response to NATO’s recent multinational military exercises in Baltic region

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Testing Bamboo as Building Materiali
    X
    June 27, 2016 9:06 PM
    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video New York Pride March A Celebration of Life, Mourning of Loss

    At this year’s march in New York marking the end of pride week, a record-breaking crowd of LGBT activists and allies marched down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, in what will be long remembered as a powerful display of solidarity and remembrance for the 49 victims killed two weeks ago in an Orlando gay nightclub.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapides’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora