Maritime piracy increases business costs in the Gulf of Guinea
THE 296,988-dwt tanker Nave Constellation was recently boarded off Nigeria by pirates, who drained the fully loaded ship of cargo and kidnapped its 19-man crew, reports Al Jazeera
THE 296,988-dwt tanker Nave Constellation was recently boarded off Nigeria by pirates, who drained the fully loaded ship of cargo and kidnapped its 19-man crew, reports Al Jazeera.
International Maritime Bureau (IMB) records show pirates kidnapped 27 crew members in the first half of 2019 alone, and one in four global piracy incidents in 2018 happened within Nigeria's territorial waters, according to international insurance carrier Allianz Global.
While attacks on supertankers are rare, piracy is so common in the Gulf of Guinea that, in its July report, the IMB described the passage as 'one of the most dangerous shipping routes in the world' and a 'world piracy hotspot'.
Yet, because it is such a crucial part of the regional economy, ships still sail its waters and assume the increasingly higher costs that come with the threat of maritime piracy.
Ninety per cent of trade to West Africa comes by sea, according to the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, so maritime security is a crucial factor in the region's economy.
The Gulf of Guinea covers 4,247square miles and stretches from Angola to Senegal. It is one of the world's most important shipping routes for both oil exports from the Niger Delta and consumer goods to and from Central and West Africa, but it is not very well guarded, a combination that creates ideal conditions for piracy.
'Congestion at Lagos ports and the lack of other options means that ships are spending a long time queuing, meaning there are a large amount of ships in a relatively small area to target,' said Chidi Nwaonu of UK-based security firm, Peccavi Consulting.
'Due to that and a lack of naval presence, there is the motive of high financial reward and comparatively low risk of detection or capture.'
In March, 33 countries came together to carry out maritime security training in the Gulf, and some attendees noted the need for more funding, cooperation and infrastructure.
Nigeria's navy has installed eight automated, camera-equipped surveillance towers in the waters just off its coast, in an effort to tackle a surge in pirate attacks. Under Nigeria's federal system, state governments only have a rudimentary capacity to address piracy and must depend on the federal government to police the waters.
'Nigeria doesn't have a plan to tackle this menace yet,' Cheta Nwanze, head of research at Lagos-based security and political analysis firm SBM Intelligence, told Al Jazeera.
Insurance is a huge cost. According to Oceans Beyond Piracy's analysis, the total cost of additional war risk area premiums incurred by ships transiting the Gulf was $18.5 million in 2017 alone, and 35 per cent of ships transiting the area also carried additional kidnap and ransom insurance totalling $20.7 million.
Insecurity is so rife in the region that global insurance firm Beazley now offers 'Gulf of Guinea Piracy Plus,' a bespoke insurance plan for maritime crew travelling through the area.