Gulf of Guinea piracy ‘a growing concern’

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AFP

A Somali pirate is seen on a beach in the town of Hobyo. File picture: Roberto Schmidt

Cape Town - A British shipping industry think tank is urging international action against piracy along the west African coast in the Gulf of Guinea after a marked increase in violent attacks on ships in the area.

The UK Chamber of Shipping released a report last week on research it had done on the security situation in the Gulf of Guinea, specifically involving Nigeria.

According to the chamber:

- 62 acts of piracy and armed robbery in the Gulf of Guinea in 2012 and 51 last year were reported.

- Between 2002 and 2012, 45 seafarers were killed and 459 seafarers held hostage. Of these, 20 percent took place in international waters.

- Last year, 60 percent of attacks took place in Nigerian waters.

- Last year, 36 seafarers were kidnapped, and 13 ships were fired upon.

- The Gulf of Guinea represented 19 percent of all maritime attacks worldwide.

- The EU Institute for Security Studies estimates that only a third of attacks were reported.

- These figures were representative of a consistent level of criminality over the past 30 years and there was a trend of increased levels of violence within attacks.

Shipping industry sources in South Africa have revealed that the Gulf of Guinea is now considered a greater problem than the Somalian threat. This was because of the fact that the west African region attracted its own shipping traffic and marine services due to growing trade and oil industry involvement in the region. Somalia, on the other hand, held no commercial attraction and was just a littoral state situated on a busy sea route.

“The impact of the increased risk to seafarers due to the increasing levels of violence is most important; maritime crime has a very significant human impact,” the chamber said in a paper based on the research.

“The economies of the Gulf of Guinea countries have shown consistent and substantial growth in the last decade.

“In 2012, typical real terms GDP growth was 6.7 percent (Nigeria) and was as high as 15.2 percent (Sierra Leone).

“Despite these positive figures, the area remains economically developing, characterised by high birth rates, low life expectancies, rapidly expanding cities and high dependence on agriculture.

“Some of the area is claimed to suffer from the oil-resourced ‘paradox of plenty’: Nigeria may have the eighth-largest oil reserves in Opec, but two-thirds of its 160 million population live in poverty, and it has the largest number of children not in school in the world.

The chamber said Ghana was a “notable” exception. “(Its) oil resource has been complemented by developing democratic governance, tackling graft and acknowledging and addressing maritime security.

“Ghana is an example of how maritime security can be successful. Investors in Ghana provide directly to maritime security projects, and this public/private partnership has been seen to be another example of success.”

Cape Argus


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