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Here’s why West Africa is becoming the world’s piracy hotspot

West Africa is turning into the world’s piracy hotspot according to One Earth Futurewhich produces an annual State of Maritime Piracy report.

The newly released 2018 statistics show a decline in the number of incidents of hijacking, kidnapping and robberies in East Africa.

West Africa, on the other hand, recorded an alarmingly increase in pirate attacks from 54 incidents in 2015 to 112 in 2018.

Last year, there were several cases of hijacking for cargo theft, hijacking to ransom ship and crew, kidnap for ransom, and armed robberies on vessels as well as a combination of all of the above.

In total, there were 60 failed attacks, 18 kidnapping cases, 15 arm robberies, 9 robberies, 5 hijackings, 5 hijackings and kidnapping.

Most of these incidents were recorded in Brass (Bayelsa, Nigeria), Bonny (Rivers, Nigeria), Lagos state (Nigeria), Benin, Ghana, Congo, and Cameroon. 

The number of seafarers affected by piracy and armed robbery also went up last year. It increased from 1,726 in 2017 to 2,012, 15 percent.

These seafarers were exposed to violent piracy, robbery cases involving the use of guns, knives and machetes.

As a result of these incidents, the Gulf of Guinea has become the area most affected by piracy and maritime robbery worldwide in 2018.

“For the most part, Nigerian pirate groups are responsible for the attacks on vessels in the wider Gulf of Guinea. Nigerian pirate groups operate and find safe haven in the Niger Delta, with several kidnapped crew members being held in captivity in the delta in 2018. Crew from the Anuket Amber, Ark Tze, FWN Rapide, and the Pomerenia Sky, 20 among others, were held captive in the delta during 2018,” the report stated.

Overview of piracy attacks in West Africa (stateofpiracy2018)Overview of piracy attacks in West Africa (stateofpiracy2018)

Why West Africa is becoming the new piracy hotspot

The report cited several reasons for the increase in attacks on shipping on high seas. They are:

  • Poverty
  • Political instability
  • Lack of proper law enforcement
  • A lot of targets
  • Increase in “petro-piracy”, which is when vessels carrying oil and gas transportation are targeted. Nigeria’s rich oil and gas fields saw the most attacks in 2018.
  • The falling number of attacks elsewhere - The rates of piracy attacks has gone down in other notorious parts like the Somali coastline. This downward trend has helped West Africa become the world’s new piracy hotspot.

Total incidents of piracy and robbery by region (statista)Total incidents of piracy and robbery by region

The high rate of piracy attacks in West Africa is being fought with the Obangame Express, “an annual multinational exercise designed to strengthen maritime security and cooperation, information sharing, and maritime domain awareness in the Gulf of Guinea.”

There is also the newly approved Suppression of Piracy and other Maritime Offences Bill, which got President Muhammadu Buhari‘s assent on June 24, 2019.

Reacting to the president’s approval, Dakuku Peterside, Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) said, “This is not just a victory for NIMASA, but also for all the stakeholders in the Nigerian maritime community.

“We are determined to continue to deliver on our promise to investors and the international community to ensure an increasingly safer and more secure environment for profitable maritime business.”