Attacks by pirates against ships in the West African Gulf of Guinea have increased to the point of challenging regional military forces.
Last Saturday, Nigerian pirates kidnapped 15 sailors from a container ship from Turkey, resulting in the death of one of the crew members. Last year alone, pirates in the Gulf of Guinea kidnapped 130 seafarers in 22 incidents.
Gulf of Guinea hit by the so-called natural resource curse?
In developing countries, the so-called resource curse, or paradox of plenty, means that areas richer in minerals and fuels are less developed than in places where they are scarce. These irregularities result in the articulation of armed gangs, made up of men dedicated to obtaining money in a variety of illegal activities such as kidnapping, robbery, oil refining and piracy.
The region produces most of the country’s oil, yet this makes it a target of this paradox as it favors the proliferation of piracy, the accumulation of wealth in a minority sector, pollution and a high rate of unemployment throughout the country.
Another of the illicit activities they carry out is the kidnapping of the crew that operate the ships that sail in these latitudes. They usually take them to the creeks that meander through the swampy region.
The International Maritime Bureau has recorded a steady increase in these kidnappings in recent years, affecting everyone from fishermen to the international crew of oil titans. Pirates who once stole cargoes or extracted oil found that some companies would pay large sums of money to ransom kidnapped crew.
Last year’s oil price slump and Nigeria’s second recession in five years worsened unemployment and economic hardship increased.
Max Williams, chief compliance officer at security firm Africa Risk Compliance, said Saturday’s attack reflected even more risk.
Breaking into the citadel and killing a crew member is a serious escalation,” Williams said.
Williams added that attacks further out to sea (Saturday’s attack took place 200 nautical miles offshore) reflect a growing evolution in modus operandi as vessels further offshore are less likely to have naval protection.
How is the Trade affected?
The Gulf of Guinea is bordered by more than 20 countries. The waters are the key route for everything from steel to soft drinks in a region heavily dependent on imports and the main export route for oil, cocoa and other commodities.
Ships still ply this route at a very high cost. Jakob Larsen, head of security for shipping trade association BIMCO, explained that insurance costs are rising due to the attacks and that freight rates are more expensive as some vessels avoid the region, reducing the amount available to them.
Hijack and ransom insurance can also be worth shipping companies several million dollars a year, although most refuse to discuss specific details for fear that it could make covered vessels a target.
Such costs are generally passed on to consumers, and Larsen said there are also high indirect costs due to business and investment that are not realized.
In June 2013, 25 countries in the region developed the Code of Conduct concerning the Repression of Acts of Piracy, Armed Robbery against Ships and Illicit Maritime Activity in West and Central Africa this was developed was developed by the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Gulf of Guinea Commission (GGC), with the assistance of the IMO.
The Code was developed in accordance with the provisions of the United Nations Security Council resolutions number 2018 (2011) and 2039 (2012), which expressed the concern of this body generated by the threat that piracy and armed robbery at sea in the Gulf of Guinea represent for international navigation, security and economic development of the states in the region.
As we can see the regulatory mechanisms exist, for this reason there must be a joint effort between the international community and the countries linked to the gulf to considerably reduce the irregularities generated in this area.