The UN Security Council has spoken out against piracy and armed robbery in the Gulf of Guinea, saying it badly affects economic development in the region and is a threat to commercial maritime routes.
Senior UN officials have called for a comprehensive regional framework to eradicate piracy and armed robbery in the Gulf of Guinea, with the Security Council stressing the importance of addressing underlying causes and strengthening justice systems and judicial co-operation in the region.
“The Security Council remains deeply concerned about the threat piracy and armed robbery at sea in the Gulf of Guinea pose to international navigation, the security and economic development of States in the region, to the safety and welfare of seafarers and other persons, as well as the safety of commercial maritime routes,” the 15-member body said in a presidential statement adopted this week.
At its meeting the Security Council heard from Tayé-Brook Zerihoun, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, who noted that while there has been a steady decline in the number of recorded incidents of piracy, armed robbery at sea and other illicit and illegal activities in the Gulf of Guinea over the past few years, insecurity at sea remained a source of concern.
In the first quarter of 2016, the International Maritime Bureau’s (IMB) Piracy Reporting Centre recorded six attacks and six attempted attacks in the Gulf of Guinea, apart from nine in Nigeria, one in Côte d’Ivoire, and two within the territorial waters of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zerihoun said.
“Ultimately, countering the current threats requires a combination of capacities in including qualitative improvements in the collection of intelligence; the sharing and improved analyses of intelligence; enhancement of the capacities – both infrastructure and training – of local enforcement agencies of the Gulf of Guinea countries; and the establishment of an effective customs and border control system throughout the sub-region,” he said.
He also pointed out it was important to avoid duplication of international capacity-building efforts as regards maritime safety and security in the Gulf of Guinea.
Zerihoun sees the African Union’s October extraordinary summit on maritime security and development on the continents as an opportunity for particularly countries in the Gulf of Guinea region to renew their commitment to jointly enhance the area’s maritime security architecture.
The Security Council said it recognised that regional peace and stability, the strengthening of State institutions, economic and social development, respect for human rights and the rule of law are all necessary to create conditions for the eradication of piracy and armed robbery at sea in the Gulf of Guinea.
On Monday the United States cautioned that piracy and maritime crime is on the rise in the Gulf of Guinea, noting that there have been 32 attacks off the Nigerian coast so far this year.
US Ambassador Michele Sison pointed out two attacks off Nigeria on 11 April that led to the apparent kidnapping of eight crew members. She told a UN Security Council meeting that “the economic consequences for the people of the region are devastating,” pointing to a report by the London think-tank Chatham House saying as much as 400,000 barrels of crude oil are stolen every day in the Gulf of Guinea, ABC News reports.
“By some estimates, Nigeria is losing about $1.5 billion a month due to piracy, armed robbery at sea, smuggling and fuel supply fraud,” Sison said.
She said ineffective government operations, weak rule of law and inadequate maritime law enforcement all contributed to the increase in piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, a major route for oil supplies shipped around the world.
Senegal’s UN Ambassador Fode Seck said “maritime crime in the Gulf of Guinea has broadened its scope and is no longer limited just to the oil sector,” but also robbery, illicit fishing and the trafficking of migrants, drugs, weapons, medication and toxic waste.
The UN Security Council this week also noted there was a danger of maritime criminals being linked to terror groups in west Africa and the Sahel.
Earlier this month, Dryad Maritime noted that the rates of maritime kidnaping, ransom and sabotage surged in the Gulf of Guinea in the first quarter of this year. Somali piracy continues to be broadly contained with no confirmed attacks on large merchant vessels since January 2014, despite some commentators’ views that the pirates continue to ‘probe,’ according to Dryad Maritime.
“14 commercial vessels were attacked off Rivers and Bayelsa States, with eight raids classified as ‘unsuccessful’ due to evasive manoeuvring or the crew’s evasion of capture by retreating to their ship’s citadel. In six of these incidents, 23 crew-members were kidnapped for ransom, which is proving a far more effective business plan for PAGs [pirate action groups] than hijacking product tankers for cargo (instances of which have fallen dramatically in the last 18 months), despite one unsuccessful attempt which was thwarted by Nigerian forces in February,” Dryad noted in its first quarterly report of 2016.
“Their captors have released the majority of kidnapped crew, but five mariners from support vessel MV Smit Lingga on 26 February, along now with the five abducted on 26 March from MT Sampatiki, remain in captivity,” Dryad said. The five Smit Lingga crew were released on 16 March and six Turkish crew abducted on 11 April from MT Puli were released on 25 April.
According to Millen, “The first three months of 2016 have visibly demonstrated the dynamic nature of maritime crime and how effective action to combat it can turn the tide in favour of the good guys. There are some welcome causes for optimism in certain regions, notably the Indian Ocean where Somali piracy remains broadly contained, and in Southeast Asia where we have seen a remarkable turnaround in a little over six months to deliver our lowest first quarter figures in a decade. In other areas, such as the Gulf of Guinea, the picture is a less positive one, with kidnap of crew for ransom rampant off the Niger Delta.”
In South East Asia there has been a 50% drop in reported maritime crime compared to the same period in 2015. Similarly, the end of the first quarter of 2016 represents the longest period without attacks on merchant vessels underway or at anchor within the Singapore Strait since the first quarter of 2013, according to Dryad figures.